Frequently asked questions on art, buying and selling art, collecting and investing in art

Following are some of the art questions we have come across. We thought the answers should give a first insight, so we deliberately kept them short.

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Why should one buy art at all?
No-one “should” buy art. However, if you love looking, using your mind and learning, then art can be a very rewarding interest – and you might end up “having to” buy art. Great art will expose you to new worlds and ideas and widen your horizon.

However, buy art only when you have done your homework thoroughly. Never buy art just because it is touted as a “sure investment”, this is a sure way to disappointment.

Isn’t art a pursuit just for the wealthy?
No. We believe that anyone with an interest can own original works of art by renowned artists if they really want.
“Big” money doesn’t necessarily buy good art, and even just “small” money can provide you with an artwork that will hold its value (unlike your new car for instance…). It is all in the know-how – as in knowing what art and artists you like, the budgeting, careful planning and seeking impartial advice, and then buying from the right sources when the time is right.

What is original art?
Any work that the artist has put the main ideas towards and has been predominantly involved in the execution, eg. an oil painting, a watercolour, a drawing. Original limited edition prints are defined by the printing techniques used to create the image. There are four main techniques:

  • lithographs,
  • screenprints,
  • intaglio prints, eg. etchings or engravings,
  • relief prints, eg. woodblock or linocut prints

Limited edition prints are hand signed by the artist, titled and numbered, usually not more than 50 or a 100, called the edition, plus some artist’s proofs (written A/P on the print) and possibly printer’s proofs (P/P). After print production, the image-bearing medium is destroyed, so that no more works can be printed, thus limiting the edition.

Limited edition prints are a comparatively affordable way of acquiring a work by one of the great artists. The numbering does not influence the value.

What do I need to do to start an art collection?

  • Learn about art and the artist
  • Think about your collecting guidelines, eg. works of a particular period or area, of a certain artist, of a subject matter or the technique, eg works on paper
  • Set yourself a budget
  • Buy what you like
  • Buy an established or promising artist’s work
  • Buy from a reputable source
  • Get professional, independent advice
  • Be prepared to “make mistakes” and for the fact that your taste will change

If you would like a sounding board, then see what our art advisory service could do to give you a head start in the art world.

What is provenance?
Provenance is French, meaning the source or origin where an artwork comes from. With valuable works, it is vital to know the provenance or history of ownership, in order to prove its authenticity. Documents such as purchase receipts and certificates from reputable sources as well as expert reports are the main ways of establishing the provenance.

When you buy a work, it is therefore very important to keep all related documents, even all labels on the back of the artwork.

Does it matter how big an artwork is?
Yes, it does: smaller works by the one and same artist cost less, as do his works on paper. It is a good idea to compare prices of works in various techniques by the same artist, you might find that you prefer works on paper to oils on canvas…

Is it safe to buy art on ebay?
Maybe, if you know what you are looking at and know the seller. But bear in mind: buyer beware – the seller might not be knowledgeable about art and techniques himself. And true bargains are usually recognised only by experienced buyers.

It is a lot wiser to buy certainly your first works where you actually can see and examine them and where you know the vendor, e.g. a recognised gallery or a reputable fine art auction house. That way, you also have recourse, if ever you should need it.

How do I sell an artwork?
This very much depends on the artist and the type of work. With every work or collection, you’ll need to establish what the market value is and research which would be the best market for that work, both geographically and the method of sale, eg. private treaty, through a gallery or at a fine art auction. It is a good idea to seek impartial advice from an independent art consultant who knows the art market well.

How do I look after my artwork?
In general, artworks don’t like direct sunlight, humidity and heat. Works on paper are a lot more delicate than oil paintings and should not be exposed to direct sunlight, hung on outside walls nor close to heated surfaces, eg fireplaces, to keep them in good condition.

How do I frame an artwork?
Valuable artworks need to be framed accordingly, the best is conservation framing, where only acid-free materials are used, and in case of works on paper, UV-resistant glass. The glass must not touch the artwork, otherwise there can be humidity gathering on the surface, which in turn will lead to foxing, unsightly brown spots on the paper. And these can only be removed by a professional restorer.

The choice of frame very much depends on the artwork itself, as it should enhance the artwork, not just match the furniture. Trust a good professional framer’s advice on that one.