“With access to such a large selection of pieces, shopping online for art can be overwhelming,” says Elizabeth Brown, CEO of Sotheby’s Home, an online consignment platform for pre-owned pieces. “But if you know what to look for, shopping for art online can give you access to a variety of styles and genres.”
So, whether you are a seasoned collector or a first-time buyer looking to start an affordable collection, find everything you need to know to shop for art online like a pro below.
1. Plan ahead. Before you can begin browsing for art online, Brown says the first step is to figure out what exactly you are looking for. “Take a look through your home and identify where you want to have art and what kind of art you’d like to have there,” she says. “Do you love colors and modern prints? Are you looking for a specific size? Do you have dreams of a gallery wall? By zeroing in on what exactly you want, you’ll be able to better focus your hunt.”
2. Set a budget. Implementing a budget beforehand will not just ensure you stay focused while online art shopping, it will help narrow your search, too. “Art comes in all shapes, sizes and price points,” says Brown. “Start by look[ing] for a small, affordable piece that you really love and then grow your collection from there.”
3. Research prices. If you do not want to overpay for art, Brown says you are going to have to do your homework. “Getting a good deal on art is all about understanding the condition and history of a piece before you buy it,” says Brown. “Do your research so you have an understanding of what kinds of prices comparable pieces go for to avoid an upcharge.”
4. Experiment with different styles. When it comes to a well-curated art collection, Brown says the more styles, the merrier. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match artworks from different mediums, artistic styles and time periods,” she says. “Whether you pair vintage black-and-white photos with a colorful modern print, or forge a gallery wall with an assortment of paintings, print, and photographs, a variety of art gives character and depth to any space.” Need inspiration? Start with a mood board — browse through Pinterest or an Instagram hashtag of your choosing to find just what you are looking for.
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5. Forget the frame. If you are eyeing a piece of already-framed art, Brown says not to get too hung up the frame itself, especially if you are not feeling it. “Remember you can always get a piece of art reframed to fit your aesthetic,” she says. “If you love the artwork, but the frame isn’t your taste, don’t rule it out at first and work to find a frame that better suits your style.”
6. Stay tuned for sales. Brown says to keep your eyes peeled for art sales. “Stay up-to-date on sales and other offers your favorite art sites have offered by signing up for email updates and following them on Instagram,” Brown says.
7. Shipping matters. “The cost of shipping art is determined based on factors such as the size of the item being shipped, special shipping requirements (e.g. custom crating) and the distance,” says Brown. Whether you are selling or buying art, stick with sites that offer a comprehensive service including pick-up and delivery to make your experience as seamless as possible. And do not forget to account for shipping costs when determining your budget.
8. Quality control. To ensure you are getting your hands on quality art, Brown suggests visiting brick-and-mortar spaces with pieces by the same artist for more insight. “In addition to shopping at trustworthy sites, we recommend visiting design showrooms and well-regarded vintage shops in your area that will be able to provide you with in-depth information on the history, quality and condition of the artwork,” Brown says.
9. Be open-minded. Sometimes, the best pieces of art are the ones we were not specifically searching for. “As you’re browsing for art online, take note of pieces that speak to you even if you’re not sure where they’ll live,” says Brown. “Unexpected artwork can make a great impact in your space, especially if they contrast with the color scheme and furniture you already have in there.”
10. Know where to shop. Ask any seasoned art collector and they will tell you the same: Shopping at a reputable site is key when sourcing art online. “Only shop at trustworthy sites, i.e. reputable ones with recognizable names, vetted customer reviews, and easy-to-navigate customer service platforms, to ensure you are getting the correct information about the artwork,” says Brown. “For example, every piece of artwork at Sotheby’s Home has been carefully examined and its features verified. Knowing that the details of the art are accurate will make securing a quality piece for your collection much easier.”
Here are five reliable sites we recommend for online art shopping:
- Sotheby’s Home: For a vast selection of one-of-a-kind art pieces, look no further than this user-friendly, consignment-style marketplace — that also happens to be a sister site to the esteemed auction house, Sotheby’s.
- ArtStar: If you are a fan of limited edition contemporary art, ArtStar offers a highly curated selection of fine art prints, each of which is exclusive to the site (and cannot be found in other galleries).
- Tappan Collective: Founded in 2012 with a mission to nurture emerging artists by connecting them to seasoned collectors, the Tappan Collective offers everything from $50 limited-edition prints to original oil paintings that will set you back thousands.
- Minted: Consider Minted your one-stop-shop for affordable art. Beloved by budding collectors and art aficionados alike, the site sells prints, photography and drawings sourced from independent artists worldwide — starting at just $21 a pop.
- Artfinder: Looking for an online marketplace that sells original art in a range of price points? Artfinder offers more 200,000 pieces on its site, ranging from paintings to sculpture to digital art from artists across the globe, with prices starting at just $25.
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