2 February 2012

The art of buying art...

I am a gallerist...I own an art gallery, a bricks and mortar art gallery in Muskoka. I love what I do, I love my gallery and the artists I represent and my clients. Recently I have been a party to a couple of discussions surrounding original art from different perspectives, one from the perspective of the artist seeking representation and another from the perspective of the client. I want to address the client end of things here, but if you are an artist interested in learning how to best approach a gallery, feel free to email me, or comment below.

The client end of things was spurred by a post on the marion house book, where Emma was introducing her readers to Art Bomb an online daily art auction site, you can read her post here.  In her post Emma spoke with an artist who is selling his work through this site. Francisco Gomez had this to say "As an artist he realizes that buying art from a gallery setting can be an intimidating experience".  This single comment is the reason for this post.

Borrowed Book and One Orange by Laurie Wonfor Nolan

I am not an artist. I am a designer with what I like to think of as a good eye. My husband and I spend a lot of time and effort curating a solid cohesive collection of work that we know will appeal to our clientele and in so doing be saleable and benefit the artists we represent. Above and beyond that, our role is to facilitate the purchase of art. Sometimes that means discussing at length an artist his background or her inspiration for the work. Sometimes it means sitting back and letting the client come to terms with a piece, being available, but essentially leaving them alone. And then there are times that my role is to make the client feel comfortable in the gallery with the art, and how they feel about it. I am sure you have heard it many times before, but art is subjective. It has no boundaries but only those that are held in the eye of the beholder, be it the creator or the viewer. Art is meant to evoke a reaction, visceral sometimes, emotional at others. It can make one feel alive, frenetic, or calm and serene. What piece evokes these feelings in one may not in another. Some artists will say to me 'tell me what sells and I'll paint it', I repeatedly tell them it does not work that way. An original work of art needs to be a piece of the artists soul.

Red House Glimmer of Sun by Kate Grigg
There are many different kinds of art buyers. Some will walk into the gallery and react to a painting and buy it on the spot, others will react, but need to let it simmer. Often they will walk away and return several times before they decide to purchase. Some walk away and if they cannot stop thinking about a piece they will be back to purchase. Sometimes this can be within hours or days, other times it is months. Then there are people that buy art for it's value, as an investment, for them it is about the artist and the probability of their work rising in value. Yet there are others who are buying art to match a room, a particular colour scheme, shape, shape, size or style.

Endurance by Scott McKay of Strongarm Forge

There is no right or wrong way to view, to feel or to buy art. It is always my recommendation that one buy original art where their budget will allow, but not all budgets allow.

My point in all of this is to say that if a client feels intimidated by an art gallery they are not in the right gallery. The same is true for the artist, if you are being represented by a gallery that you feel is intimidating to the client, then you are not in the right place. 

Farmland I by Michael Scott

It is my hope that no one ever feels intimidated in my space, to me when you walk in my doors you are walking into my living room.

How and where do you buy art? Do you like the comfort of your home and buy online, or are you as affected by the texture and presence of a piece and prefer to see it in person before you buy?


  1. This is such an excellent post! I'm sure as a gallery owner you reacted just as I would have, especially when you try to make the experience as casual and pleasant as possible.
    I agree that if you feel intimidated in a gallery, it is not for you - I visit a lot of galleries and unfortunately many galleries are intimidating. Somehow there's a feeling of superiority by those working in a gallery, much like you might experience in a high-end designer boutique and you feel judged from the moment you step through the door {as though they are trying to gauge whether or not you're just a browser or if you could actually afford anything to buy.}
    I've been in your lovely gallery and it is SO welcoming - I wish all galleries could be that way.

  2. This is a great article!

    I like art interiors because you can see everything and it's price online before you need to go into the gallery. Zero intimidation

    I thought I'd be intimidated by the AGO's gallery.... But I loved it! If I only had more money and more walls!


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