Donald Anthony




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A beginner’s guide to buying fine art without necessarily spending a packet


There is gratification in an acquisition, a fact we perhaps don’t need to tell you. Whether it is clothes, watches or cars, collections are a source of pride, a projection of the self. Nowhere is this more the case than when it comes to art. There are as many motives to amass art as there are art collections. The Medicis, Mr Leonardo Da Vinci and Mr Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart all amassed impressive bodies of work as part of a drive to foster a creative society. Later, collectors such as Mr Paul Durand-Ruel bought the Impressionists’ work to make sure they could survive.


Owning a piece of art should give you a rush of happiness. Art is a hobby driven by feeling, so the right piece will not only lift your home, it will make you happy. Committing to just one piece of art can feel overwhelming for the entry-level collector. However, if you think of it as part of a body of work, it sets you free. Collections are broad, so you can buy that print and later balance it with an oil painting, or trade them both in for a bronze. Even the most rich collections started small, so take a breath and let our experts guide you.

Don't Be. Become.

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Donald Anthony




Largely the most frequent error is to rush. Frequently, people who start developing a collection quickly and within a few years, they are already selling the first thing they purchased, once they are sure in their taste.


The majority of galleries allow clients to loan paintings and try them for size at home. You should be buying at a relaxed level with a complete view of what you want to attain. So, it’s vital to see if you like it before committing.


If you are purchasing as an investor, you will have to live with the painting. It should spark more pleasure than looking at your bank balance. The central motive should be desiring that piece. You want something that incites a response in you.


Don’t buy a work of art if you’re going to wonder about its financial value every time you look at it. The art market is the biggest unregulated market in the world. There is no such thing as a sure thing.





Buy with your heart, but think intelligently. This means viewing across diverse disciplines. The best collections are broad and if you look outside paintings you could get a bargain. A Picasso painting might cost millions, but you can buy Picasso ceramics for £1,000.


Prints continue to be the art world’s best-kept secret. Important works can be acquired for under £10,000. David Hockney and Joan Miró are popular at the moment.


If you are set on a hit name, look for minor works. A drawing is a wonderful place to begin because you can see the beginning of a larger, more significant work.


You will be up against unbending competition; bigger names are more fashionable with advisors to collectors.


If you want to spend a smaller amount, look for their contemporaries, whose styles are similar but they didn’t rise as high in art history. The Belgian artist Emile Claus is like Monet, but half the price. If you love Surrealism, look abroad. Czech Surrealism gives you more for your money.


Once you have the work, galleries will recommend ways to present it.


Donald Anthony
Donald Anthony




Go to as numerous auctions, private galleries and art fairs as you can. There’s always a wide range at auctions because it hasn’t been curated by one person, so you get to see a decent mix. If you are searching online, websites such as, and are more dependable and have wonderful selections. Sotheby’s stages many online sales, where prices start at £100. It also holds special sales of contemporary art, curated by leading figures in other industries, where estimations start at about £300.


Make friends with gallerists. Once they understand what you like they can mention items and keep people in the loop.


Donald Anthony




Origin is key. At auction houses and art fairs, everything should have been examined by specialists. Look for a catalogue resumé or, with dead artists, the list of their estate. Be careful about buying on the internet. You will often hear from people who think they have found a bargain on eBay and it turns out to be forged.


The contemporary art market is healthy but you want to make sure the artist you are buying is solid and doesn’t vanish. If you are buying artists who have been well researched, it’s safe. Most respectable auction houses and galleries who sell blue-chip artists will provide pages of provenance, the last five years of auction prices estimate coming up. If they are mid-career or emerging, they will show the number of years they have sold and at which level.


If you are purchasing photographs, confirm how many editions have been produced to see how rare they are. Messrs Wolfgang Tillmans and Richard Learoyd are sought currently sought after.


Donald Anthony




Don’t take the first price you are given. There is always a discussion to be had with gallerists at fairs. They are open to backing collectors. Check a database such as the Blouin Art Sales Index to see what comparable works cost. If you have your heart set on something but need support, schemes like the Art Council’s Own Art offers interest-free loans up to £25,000 for buying art.


If you don’t get the first piece you bid for, you are arriving in a hazardous territory. When you lose out at an auction, there’s a real want to get the next piece you bid for, so don’t get too carried away if you can’t afford it.


Going over the price limit doesn’t mean you’re being ripped off, though. The guides are just that. If they say £5,000 to £8,000 and you go over, it doesn’t mean you have paid too much.


Just make sure everyone is on side. They want clients to come back and build collections but don’t want them to get in trouble with wives or husbands and be banned, so it must be thought through.


It doesn’t have to be forever. Collections are fluid. It’s all right if your taste shifts. You can sell things on in a few years, and get rid of things to buy other items that work with the mix.


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Donald Anthony

I M A G E 

Lefty Kasdaglis

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