Start an art collection on any budget
By Hollie Deese, USA TODAY Home magazine April 7, 2013
You don’t need to spend a bundle to display beautiful, inspiring works of art in your home
The first piece of art Sharon Reaves ever bought was by an emerging artist and cost $300, which was a lot of money for Reaves in 1999. But she had just moved from North Carolina to San Francisco and connected with the subject matter immediately.
“I saw this girl and what looked like a mountain in the background and a city in the foreground, and it was just so magical for me,” she says of the work by Jander Fonseca de Lacerda. “It was like he knew what I felt. So I think for me, part of collecting is piecing together moments and experiences that I don’t know how to express myself.”
Now a consultant and gallery owner, Reaves owns a few more works from that artist—along with about 150 others. She sticks to buying from artists on the verge with a price threshold of $1,000—”if it goes over that amount, I look at the longevity of the artist.”
Knowing which artists do have staying power can be incredibly intimidating for buyers on any level. But original art can be bought online for as little as $50—framed and ready to hang.
“Don’t devalue something just because it is priced at less than what you think ‘good’ art should be priced at,” says Ginger Porcella, founder of Big Deal Arts Advisory in New York. “I always tell people that if you really like it, buy it, whether it is $50 or $500.”
While prints can be purchased from big chains like Urban Outfitters, Target and Walmart, as well as hundreds of other online retailers, original artwork that’s affordable is also available online.
Chrissy Crawford is the founder of ArtStar.com and its child-focused counterpart, LittleCollector.com, which partners with artists to offer a curated selection of artwork from around the world. Affordable, limited-edition, signed and numbered prints range from $50 to $750.
“I used to be a private art advisor, so I helped people with big budgets acquire pieces of art, but I found that all my friends wanted contemporary art, too,” Crawford says. “They didn’t want posters, and they didn’t want Ikea wall décor. They wanted art but they either couldn’t afford gallery work or were completely overwhelmed by the whole buying experience.”
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Most of Crawford’s artists have masters of fine arts degrees and are somewhat established in the art world or are thought to be the next up-and-coming stars.
The site features two-minute documentaries on all of the artists. “Collectors can really understand the work and connect with the artists and just be very educated on what they are purchasing,” Crawford says. Plus, the artwork comes ready to hang.
Concerns about what qualifies as “good” art can scare new buyers away from original works by new artists, so ordering prints of well-known, more established artists is a good way to get your feet wet.
“I really love paintings and mixed media, but for someone who is starting out, printmaking and photography is a wonderful way to have original art that a lot of the time is more affordable because it is in multiples,” Reaves says.
Crawford agrees prints are a great place to start—the lower the price at the beginning, the better. “Your taste is going to change, you are experimenting, you are learning,” she says. “Don’t spend your entire budget on one piece from the get-go.”
Of course, no matter what you buy, just be sure it is something you love. That’s something collectors and curators all agree on.
5 Sites to Try
Offers limited-edition fine-art prints from well-established artists. $75 or less to $2,000 and above.