How To Buy Art On A Budget

So, you’ve finally resolved that the cracking, peeling walls of your sharehouse bedroom aren’t quite doing it for you and are, in fact, making you a little depressed. You’ve decided that a pretty or thought provoking image could do a lot to stave off the existential dread that descends when you realise how much you’ve been paying for said wall.

But hang on: isn’t art for the rich? And a completely unrealistic purchase for a poor student who spends a third of their salary on rent?

It certainly is not. It dramatically increases your quality of life. The installation of artwork in psychiatric hospitals in the UK has had immense benefits on the patients. Good art can transform your outlook.

But having an artful eye on a Kmart budget is not easy. You’re in that uneasy area between being better than a quote in that calligraphy font you see all over Instagram but having way too few dollars or sense for an original work by a reputable artist.

So how do you straddle that middle area? Of course, we got you:

#1 Figure out what you like

The author of A Poor Collector’s Guide To Buying Great Art suggests that the best way to procure great art on a budget is to be obsessed with it. Stay on top of trends, artists, galleries, auctions all the live long day.

For the purposes of this article, I firmly disagree. Who has time for all of that? Retired people, that’s who. The rest of us have full time jobs and just want a beautiful wall decoration to make our home feel like home when we get there at the end of the day. As long as you’re getting familiar with the colours, themes and textures that really excite you, that’s all you need.

The best way to do this? We’d suggest to start by thinking about the you-ness you’ve already cultivated. You probably don’t realise it, but it’s there. The guys over at Print Gallery offer this advice when it comes to figuring out your artistic style: “How you dress, style your hair, or decorate your home are all reflections of your personal style and preferences. All of the skills you’ve acquired in presenting to the world your most authentic self can also apply when purchasing art.”

Find your personal style in the art that you buy and soon, whether the art costs $100 or $2000, as long as it’s vibing your style, it’s going to make you feel something.

#2 Make social media your curator

Instagram is a great way to keep on top of contemporary and emerging artists from around the world. While a lot of Instagram’s big name artists have the big name price tags attached, there’s a host of smaller ones that sell stuff you can afford. Mostly it’s just a useful way to keep abreast of the look, feel and style that you’re after in your particular art.

Some very cool artists to follow include Paul Fuentes, Frances Cannon, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Ashley Armitage, 13th witness, Manjitt Happ and Takashi Murakami. There’s also curated feeds of art that you can look through to hone your appreciation: Avante Art and Rated: Modern Art are a good starting point.

Scrolling through your feed and seeing thoughtful, inspiring art every day will help you hone that discerning eye. Take special note of what makes you pause. Or in this case, what makes you stop scrolling.

#3 Be savvy about where you look

One of the best things that happened to Australian art collection is the advent of Art Pharmacy. Displaying a stunning collection of paintings and prints online at affordable prices has made the whole art collection business a lot more achievable for regular youths like us. Better yet, all the artists are Australian too. We strongly suggest giving it a gander.

If browsing through a more international selection of artists appeals to you, there’s also Zatista, which has an entire section of works under the AU$500 mark.

But if those prices are still too high (which, fair), there are always other options. We’re not snobby about wall art here and buying prints from places like Society6 and Etsy still supports growing artists. They’ll also be wide-ranging and unique enough to satisfy your personal style. Another hot tip is to buy your print in a standard size so you can find a cheap frame at your local department store.

Otherwise: have a look at Gumtree. One persons trash, remember? Scroll, scroll and scroll some more and you could find a seriously exceptional print or painting someone’s getting rid of that would look perfect in your home. Just a cursory glance in the Sydney region popped up lots of Australian landscape oil paintings and vintage photographs for around $20.

#4 It’s okay not to be a curator yet

You don’t have the budget for a stunning, gallery-worthy collection. And that is okay for now. As long as you stay within your means, purchase work that makes you feel challenged and inspired, you’ve succeeded.

Besides, the earlier you begin experimenting with art selection, the better your judgement will be when you actually have the dosh to spend.

Happy hunting!

Josephine is a writer from western Sydney who likes to blatantly lie on her bios. She played the youngest sister in 80s sitcom Family Ties and looks fantastic running with a backpack on.

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