arts

The non-millionaire's guide to buying art

Updated 29th June 2015
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The non-millionaire's guide to buying art
Written by By Kate Bryan, Special to CNN
Kate Bryan is Fair Director of Art15, London's global art fair, which runs from 21 to 23 May at Olympia in Kensington. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
There is no doubt the art world can be intimidating. I wish this wasn't the case.
I meet people all the time that say they love art but qualify it with "I don't know anything about it though" in embarrassed tones.
By contrast, we would never talk about a book, play or concert we loved and bracket it with a caution we knew nothing about literature or music. Everyone is absolutely entitled and capable of discovering art and letting it illuminate their world.
Here's how to get the most out of your time, money and energy no matter where you are on your personal art journey.
Art15 fair director Kate Bryan.
Art15 fair director Kate Bryan. Credit: Courtesy Art15

Do your homework

It takes time to cultivate a sense of your personal taste. Whether you like bright abstract painting, somber etchings or surreal photography, it's important that you don't cut your choices off before you have even started.
Every major city is an incredible hub for art -- institutionally whether it's the Museum of Modern Art or the Tate, or even on the street where you might discover a Banksy.
Art fairs are great because you get a huge amount of ideas and content in one place. Don't be shy - ask questions and seek the advice a few different consultants, advisers or dealers.

Buy what you love

It's not an exact science: pay attention to how art makes you feel. People often say artworks stimulate adrenalin when we like them -- a quicker pulse, a sensation to act fast and share your discovery - watch out for that excited feeling when your passion is ignited.
Of course, it's always good to think intelligently when buying (for example, what has the artist done before and who else is collecting the work and writing about it?). However, you can't know for sure that your work will increase in value. If you love looking at it on your wall everyday, that is value enough for now.

Know your limits

You absolutely don't need to be a millionaire to buy artworks.
At Art15 the exhibitors -- who represent 500 artists from over 60 countries -- have artworks that start from £500 and go all the way up to over one million pounds.
This means that whether you are an art collector with an established private collection or someone who has never visited an art fair, there is something for everyone.

Think big and broad

Art works aren't just paintings!
The art world encompasses sculpture, design, photography, installation, mixed media and everything in between.
My tastes are diverse. On the one hand I love conceptual work by artists such as Miriam Elia, who creates witty editions with Jealous Gallery, but I also crave the luscious textural paintings by Zhu Jinshi at Pearl Lam Galleries. It's exciting to think about how sculpture might fit in, so I'll be visiting the sculpture specialist William Benington Gallery.

Know where to look

Yes, galleries are commercial enterprises but the best ones are absolutely fundamental to the creative process. They work closely with their artists to provide financial, promotional and even emotional support.
Look out for passionate art dealers who know the work inside and out and work closely with their artists. They will be a key part of that artist's future credibility and longevity.
And avoid those that talk in terms more akin to transactions and products.