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Buy what you like? — Blue Heron Fine Art Blog

Buy what you like?

by Jim Puzinas on May 5, 2009

I usually hate generalities, especially when it comes to something as subjective as art. Invariably, though, all dealers have been asked by new collectors as to how to go about starting a collection of fine art. Collectors don’t want to make a mistake, and dealers would like to sell a painting. Without giving away any trade secrets, most collectors do make  mistakes, but learn from them, and most dealers manage to sell paintings, but hope to establish repeat clients for future sales.

I have written a framework below for new collectors not only to help minimize their mistakes, but also to put this whole art collecting thing in perspective.  If you are not having fun, then you are trying too hard. Try not to overanalyze every acquistion but let some of my general guidelines help steer you to a right decision that works both for you, your home and your budget.


Jim Puzinas exhibiting at the Boston International Fine Art Show

Jim Puzinas while exhibiting at the Boston International Fine Art Show Photo credit: Antiques and The Arts Weekly

Buy What You Like

All art collectors have heard the phrase “Buy What You Like” when asking for advice while considering an art purchase. This is a good starting point since many collectors naturally gravitate toward things that seem familiar to them.

For some people, just figuring out “what they like” takes time.  Although it may be an oversimplification to assume people already know what they like, many don’t. One of the best ways to determine what type of art interests you, is to increase your exposure to it. By attending exhibitions at museums, visiting local galleries, or just by reading art specific magazines, like American Art Review you will have a better idea of what type of art to pursue.

But is it enough to just say “buy what you like”?  Yes, but, there is a caveat.

Mainly, there is a big difference between decorative art and fine art. This difference comes down to price and potential resale values. Decorative art is mainly decorative, and was produced by an unknown artist or an artist that is relatively unknown. These paintings generally are much less expensive to purchase from the outset, but rarely have any resale value after you take your painting home.  Fine art on the other hand, involves paintings that are signed authentic works by listed artists.  Records exist in many forms for a listed artist ranging from biographical data, to exhibition records, to the artist’s formal art training.  A deep marketplace for values exists for each listed artist, with resale values determined by supply and demand, as well as condition and subjectively, quality. Although it is hard to consider the investment merits of a painting along with your passion for buying it in the first place, you should be aware of the type of art you are buying.

When purchasing art a few other questions merit consideration.

What are your artwork needs? Are you buying art to decorate your home, or are you creating a specific collection? And perhaps more importantly, what is your budget?

If you are decorating your home and have a limited budget, a decorative painting may work for you.  Alternatively, if you plan on spending more than a few thousand dollars, I would suggest establishing a relationship with one or several reputable dealers who offer the type of fine art that interests you.  You will open a dialogue that may begin to address some of your needs. Most dealers are patient, and enjoy educating new collectors about their offerings. A good dealer will be able to offer advice regarding that perfect painting, and when it becomes available, you will feel comfortable in your decision.

Buying original artwork should be a fun and pleasant experience. Armed with your new knowledge, go ahead and “buy what you like”.


Audrey Chernoff May 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Very good advice. I know two people, one being my brother who spent thousands on art that turned out to be fradulent. In my brother’s case it was fake Salvador Dali art that became a class action suit. So, even if you love the art, do your homework.

admin May 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Thanks Audrey! You bring up another good point, namely that reputable dealers will stand behind the art they sell as originally represented. If it turns out to be fraudulent, the dealer involved should be willing to return the clients money.

Jessicatrob May 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Wow! Thank you! I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site? Of course, I will add backlink?

ArianaWoda May 13, 2009 at 11:57 am

I like your post. Good stuff. Keep them coming :)

Ann Tracy May 13, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Of course being an artist myself, I always advise those starting a collection to buy directly from the artist. Thanks for listing your blog on linked-in…. hope you get a chance to see y blog… http://anntracy.blogspot.com/

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