3rd December 2018 Art Advice & How To's

Top 3 Mistakes to avoid as a first time art buyer

mistakes to avoid as a first time art buyer - paintings $$$

All in all, buying art should be an enjoyable experience! Follow your instincts and keep in mind these simple tips and you’ll soon find the perfect new addition to your home!

By Daniel Lee-Jacobs I 6 minute read

Impressionism, expressionism, abstract expressionism – it can sound like a foreign language to the un-initiated.

If you’re looking to buy original art for your home, it can feel like an endeavour into the unknown! You might feel like you’re breaking into a club you don’t belong in. Visiting galleries you may feel obliged to peer deeply at artworks with your best ‘contemplative’ face, whilst in fact rapidly searching for the price tag!

Well, don’t fear you’re not alone.

Buying your first piece of original art should be an exciting milestone, but many people associate it with feelings of apprehension or trepidation.

But having just a few basic things in mind can make the process a whole lot easier and less nerve-wracking!

At its heart, buying art should always be about finding something that you love, that you connect with and that makes you stop and stare. Beyond that basic premise it’s more about the practicalities! And that’s where mistakes can be made…

So with this in mind, here’s three typical mistakes you can avoid as a savvy first time art buyer!

Browsing abstract art

Image Credit: New Dawn Paper

1) Ignoring the placement...

One typical mistake that many people make is going on the hunt for a piece without a space in mind.

Buying an artwork before considering the placement can lead to heartbreak… Picture the scene. You think you’ve found the perfect painting. You’ve seen it in the gallery, it looks perfect, so vibrant and full of colour.

But alas when you take it home, it’s too small! It looks lonely on that big open expanse of wall. The colours don’t compliment your lounge and clash. The piece simply looks out of place with your existing décor.

Considering the placement of an artwork beforehand avoids disappointment in two ways. First it helps with the actual search (in practical terms) and secondly it helps ensure the final result is truly show-stopping! Here’s a few rules of thumb to consider.

Landscape Painting by Phil Tyler. Photography by Haymarket Press.


If you’re starting with a blank wall you should look to cover about 1/3 of it to prevent it feeling bare. Whether that’s with art or other objects this provides sufficient visual interest whilst allowing it to feel uncluttered. (Obviously having sideboards or tables against the wall will have an effect).

For example, if you have a 2.5m high wall which is 4m wide, then that provides a surface area of 10m2. Dividing this by 3 gives us an area to fill with artwork of approx. 3.3m2. This could be filled with two large 1m x 1.6m paintings or perhaps three 1.1m2 prints or photographs to give a symmetrical but sophisticated look.

Photo Credit: Brook Contemporary


If you’re buying any form of wall art, when it comes to hanging make sure to place your piece at eye level – a typical mistake to make is to hang paintings or prints too high. The centre of the artwork should be at approx. 1.5m high.

If your artwork has wire or string on the reverse of the frame for hanging – make sure to account for the string tension when placing your picture hooks!

You’ll need to work out where the piece should be placed before testing how the picture would hang from the taught string – this determines where the hook should be fixed.

Matching with décor:

There’s no need to look for artwork which matches your cushion covers, but you should keep an eye out for hues, textures and materials which match your décor. E.g. Light wooden frames to match light natural tables or cool blues and earthy browns to match sandy or textured sofas. Check out our guides to ‘Choosing a Frame’ and ‘Matching to 3 Styles’ for more inspiration.

Photo Credit: Ourthemes

2) Overlooking the artist...

It can be easy to focus on the piece in front of us and whether we like it or not, but it’s also important to take into consideration a number of wider factors about the artist themselves.

Certain signals or signs indicate the calibre and maturity of the artist and give an insight into their artistic ability. Whilst this shouldn’t prevent you from ‘liking what you like’ it should have a bearing on the price you should pay for their work.


An artist who has was accepted into and studied at one of the major art schools will have been selected on the basis of their early potential and will have received an artistic education from some of the best tutors and artists in the industry.

Just as Oxford and Cambridge command a level of respect in the academic world, various Art Schools also have a certain degree of ‘caché’. The likes of Glasgow School of Art or The Slade School of Fine Art have an illustrious alumnus which includes the likes of David Shrigley, Simon Starling, Douglas Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread and Gwen John - just to name a few. However, it is worth a mention that some of the most famous artists come from smaller Art Schools, such as Manchester School of Art's very own L.S. Lowry.

David Shrigley 'Really Good' Photo Credit: ITV

Exhibition History / Prizes:

Whilst the School the artist has attended will have influenced their training, obviously education isn’t everything!

The attention an artist receives from the public and institutions in terms of being invited to present solo exhibitions or in winning various competitions - such as The Turner Prize, is a much stronger indicator of artistic talent.

The list of exhibitions and the locations of where they took place will directly indicate the wider response to the artist and hence dictate what price their work commands. Being shortlisted or winning various prizes will give an indication of the calibre of the artist in relation to others in their field.

Again, the point here is not to say you should go for artists with extensive exhibition history – it’s simply important to note that this directly influences the prices you ought to be paying!

Photo Credit: LondonLive


Finally, although it can be impressive for an artist to show skill across a wide range of subject matter and mediums, often the most celebrated artists are those who did one thing and did it extremely well.

Francis Bacon was celebrated for his self-portraits, Jackson Pollock for his paint splattered canvases, Yves Klein for painting everything blue.

The saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ tends to apply. A consistent portfolio is the sign of a more mature artist who is honing their craft and their unique style.

3) Not trusting your instincts...

It can be tempting to think as a new buyer that you should make a safe bet and go for something which is ‘agreeable’ or ‘popular’.

This might be because someone says the artists’ work sells well or that it’s likely that the work will go up in value. Whilst all these statements might well be true, it’s you who will have to live with the work for years to come!

I find that people often fail to trust their own taste when it comes to art. They buy into hype and choose something which other people deem great rather than they themselves think.

Usually we buy art for the long-term so it makes sense to choose something that YOU are going to enjoy looking at almost every day, not someone else!

What’s important to remember is that you’re open to having your own interpretations and opinions and ultimately you shouldn’t feel awkward about what you’re willing to spend! Art is highly subjective and although there are art experts and advisors, you shouldn’t feel embarrassed of your taste.

Photo Credit: Jayadra

When you really fall for something you’ll get a gut feeling which will keep drawing you back to the work. And when you do find that perfect piece, don’t hesitate! If you’re buying an original or even limited editions they aren’t going to be around forever!

If price is something that’s holding you back then consider a bit of haggling. There is usually room for negotiation but try to be respectful.

Another alternative is spreading the cost of the piece across a period of time. Some galleries will offer finance schemes which will allow you to pay for the work in a series of instalments.

Other galleries might also be involved in UK wide Buy Art Scheme which offers 0% interest loans to cover the cost of an artwork up to a value of £25,000 and gives buyers 10 months to pay it off in equal instalments.


At the end of the day, look for something you love, make sure you're paying a fair price and just keep a few simple practicalities in the back of your mind. You’ll soon have the perfect new addition to your home!

Click here if you'd like to the ArtsHaus team about helping you with your search free of charge!

Title Photo Credit: Wall Street International Magazine