If I wanted to buy a painting or sculpture at a reasonable price where would I start? I suppose I could visit a gallery or buy on the internet. There is nothing wrong in doing this, the selection on the internet is vast. You can can see websites devoted to all artwork, with both artists and galleries exhibiting their wares. Likewise, a gallery visit can unearth some great art, particularly with limited edition prints. But is that always the way you should buy art? What about the art fair?
The writer Alan Bennett once said:
“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought unique and particular to you.”
Bennett makes a good point, but not only just for reading. I personally feel paintings and drawings are similar, our emotional response to a painting is why we might buy it. We are often looking for images, colours, designs and subjects that chime with what we like or what we feel. Sometimes a painting can take us back to our childhood, for example a landscape or even sporting or musical icon. Price is a factor, but often we’ll pay a little more for something we like. For me Bennett’s quote holds firm for buying art, it can be emotional.
So can the internet help here? Of course it can, but it operates as a more functional commercial transaction with art. You may read some information on the artist to give you a feel on the artist’s inspiration. But the interaction is obviously at “arm’s length”, and you don’t see the art “in the flesh”. You cannot have the full picture of what drives and inspires the artist on every painting. My view is that the internet is a great way to introduce artists to the buying public. Instagram is a good example of broadening the artist’s network and admirers. On the way the artist may sell some paintings, but there are no guarantees.
Galleries will offer a good compromise on the remoteness of the internet. A good gallery who knows the artist well will know what makes the artist tick. They will be able to provide the buyer with some information on background, inspiration and techniques used. This all helps with the decision on buying, with the bonus of being able to see artwork first hand. But there is something missing in all this interaction – yes that’s right, the artist!
But do you need the artist present in the commercial transaction of buying art? Probably not. If you like a painting for whatever reason, you don’t need the artist present to talk you through why you should buy it. However, in this age of click to buy/Amazon next day delivery maybe things are changing. Whether it’s the artisan, ethical marketplace or craft beers there is a move towards authenticity. More people want to know the origins of what they are buying. This is where the growing number of art fairs fit in.
An art fair is open to the public, a sort of visual emporium with numerous artists displaying their work. Why art fairs are important is that this ‘authenticity’ is on show. In some cases you can see artists working on painting demonstrations, a great way of seeing art in action. Not only can you see the artwork, but you can find out what is the inspiration behind a painting. You can find about the art techniques used and why an artist works in a certain way. Also, so many artists have an interesting story as to how they became an artist as well!
I recommend whether you’re an art buyer or a budding artist looking to exhibit, start with smaller satellite art fairs. There are a huge number running throughout the country. I have visited some of them in preparation for exhibiting my own work. Here are some links to some popular art fairs: