6 Ways to Start An Art Collection Without Breaking the Bank

by Ginger on June 3, 2011

in The Artist's Wife

So you’re at that stage in life where you want to start getting “real” art for your walls, instead of the Monet poster you got when you were in college. Or you’ve found an artist you LOVE and you really, really want to have a piece of theirs. Whatever the reason, you are interested in buying art–but you worry that you don’t have the funds to make it happen.

Well, after 11 years with my artist husband, I’ve found that there are sometimes ways around the money issue involved with buying art. And I thought I’d share some of those with you today. Let me put the caveat that not all of these work with all artists or galleries–you really have to do your homework and figure out how each individual artist or gallery operates, but these are some of the ways that we’ve begun to fill our art collection.

  1. Buy direct from the artist.You see an artist you love at a local gallery. It’s WONDERFUL if you can buy from the gallery–this helps the artist further their career by helping the gallery see them as a profitable part of their business, and helps a local gallery stay in business. But sometimes, I know, gallery prices are out of a budget. So if you like an artist’s overall STYLE and not a specific piece, you can sometimes go direct to them and see if they have any other pieces that aren’t being shown at any galleries that are for sale. Those pieces can occasionally be at a slightly lower price point because gallery commissions aren’t being included. Additionally, many artists have their own online or Etsy stores where you can buy directly. You might find an artist that does sales, or special offers if you buy direct. It’s worth checking!
  2. Haggle with the gallery. A little known fact–some galleries will work with a buyer a little on the price. ESPECIALLY if you’re looking at buying more than one piece or if you’re a regular buyer. Now, we’re not talking massive discounts, but you might see a 5%-10% reduction. This is probably less true of very very high end galleries, but it’s something that is worth asking if you’re serious about buying.
  3. Buy prints. Many artists these days are doing prints, either through a gallery or on their own. Prints are a wonderful way to get your foot in the door of collecting art! They will likely be signed and numbered by the artist (if they’re fine art prints), at a significantly reduced price from the original. For example, my husband just did prints of a piece where the original is priced at $750…and the prints are priced at $50. You still get the beauty of the work, in a different format, at a lower price. Good prints will be on high quality paper, and printed with professional level printing. If you find an artist you like, look on their website or their store site (if they have one) to see if prints are available. If you can’t find any listed, it never hurts to contact the artist to see if they have any prints available. 
  4. Start small. I know. You want a big piece to take up ALL that white space on your wall. But, like most things, bigger pieces of art tend to cost more. Smaller pieces can be the perfect way to start a collection without spending crazy amounts of money. The additional bonus of buying smaller works? You can buy more of various artists to see what really works in your home and with your personality!
  5. Trade with other buyers. Maybe you have a piece or a print that you don’t want anymore, or you want another artist instead. There are buyers out there that will do trades. There are even forums and websites devoted to doing art trades. This can be a way to keep your art collection up to date with your current tastes even if you don’t have the cash to buy all new. (As with all things, please do your due diligence here. Don’t trade if you think something is off about the other party, or if you have any doubts about the validity of what they’re trading, etc.).
  6. Barter with the artist. This is truly going to be a case by case by case basis. BUT. There are artists that will barter work for services or goods, especially if it’s things that might not be an artist’s strong suit. Say, for example, you’re a tax professional. Maybe you’d be willing to do an artist’s taxes in exchange for a piece. Or you’re a web developer and you’d be willing to do an artist’s website for a piece. Those types of barters CAN be successful. Now, my caveat here is: only offer what you’re willing to part with, and understand that an artist is going to do the same. You don’t want to come out of the deal feeling like either of you lost.

Creating an art collection is a fun way to express your personal style (no more mass market posters!), support the arts and help small businesses. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank!

Keiko June 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Here from SITS31DBBB – what a great list post! My husband and I have struggled with collecting art – we have wanted to for a very long time now and now that we own our house, we have the wall space to do it. We got very lucky and had two of our wedding guests create pieces of art for us as gifts (1 a huge watercolor painting of one of our engagement photos, the other a handmade stained glass menorah). These are some really great tips, esp. trying to haggle with the gallery. There’s a piece I’ve been eying for WEEKS now that is just a bit out of reasonable budget; didn’t think haggling was even an option. Great post & nice work on the Day 2 assignment 🙂

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I was shocked when I saw how many galleries are willing to haggle a little. Not all, but definitively more than I thought! Try it, it never hurts to ask!

T-Byrd June 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Im here from SITS31DBBB too!

I also like you list, when i thought of an art collection i immediately thought of what i did… which was to piece together my own stuff. example, I did it with mass produced prints that cost almost nothing and spliced them into a frame collage.

I dont have any ‘real’ art but these are great tips for when i move towards that

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Creating your own work is a great way to go too! I’m just not crafty/patient enough 🙂

T-Byrd June 11, 2011 at 10:13 am

the art i have if less crafty than people think. I plan on blogging about how I created it soon. When I do I will link back here so people can find great ideas if they dont want to create it.

New York Cliche June 3, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I so wish I was at this point in my life! I just got home from a day at the MET as well (the Mcqueen exhibit was breath-taking), I’m in a particularly artsy mood. I’ll try to keep these in mind for a couple years down the road!

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:23 pm

You know, that McQueen exhibit was the one thing I wish I had seen during my trip to NY. Talk about inspiring!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks June 4, 2011 at 8:50 am

When I bought my first condo, I committed to buying “real art” every year (to slowly retire my framed poster collection). I think art can be defined in many ways. I’ve bought art from galleries. I’ve bought art online from Etsy (great place to find a range of price points). I’ve framed important documents in ways to display the item as art. I’ve gotten favorite photos printed on canvas. And I’ve even put my own, novice paintbrush to canvas. I consider my collection a work in progress … but, it’s a great way to make a house a home!

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I think something that people forget is that it takes a while to do anything for your home–most people don’t go out and buy an entire house worth of decorations and furnishings in one go, so why would an art collection be different? It’s gonna take time!

But there are so many ways to go about it, it’s so worth it!

Nicole Rivera June 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm

This is a great list. I am not ready for it yet, but at least I can start planning. I want to go over it with my husband so we can look into which artists we may want to look to in the future.

Thanks for sharing!!

Bibi June 8, 2011 at 9:11 am

Great tips….

It also helps if you know an artist or even better a starting artist,lol.

I love buying art from street artists in Europe. So many beautiful paintings ready to be frame.


Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

You’re absolutely right–if you can catch artists in the early days of their career, you can get great work at a lower price (and, as a bonus, you can become known to the artist as someone who buys their work, which can help you stay on the top of their minds as their career progresses!).

Kristl Story June 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

The Budget Diet girl loves these tips…I actually love any money saving tips! stumbled!

Amy ~ Eat. Live. Laugh. Shop. June 9, 2011 at 4:05 pm

This is actually quite helpful. We are buying a large piece for my husband’s office. He wants to bargain and I thought we’d be so gauche! ; )

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

It all depends on the gallery (or artist, if you’re buying direct), but there are ways to make it happen! I was shocked the first time I saw it happen, but I see it more than I thought possible, so I figure it never hurts to try!

Ann @ CreativeBoomer June 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm

One other way is to look locally. As an artist, my friends and I are always looking for places to have a show like a local restaurant or the village hall. Stop and take a look when you see pieces of art hanging on the wall in a local business. The art may just be for sale at a very reasonable price.

Ginger June 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Local businesses (especially coffee shops and small bistro type places, though also the occasional bar!) are another great tip. That’s where my husband actually got his start!

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama June 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Thank you for this advice! We are definitely following some of it already.

Stumbled 🙂

Dr. Julie-Ann aka The Modern Retro Woman June 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Great list! I’ve been with my artist husband for 30 years and have seen all of these tips in action.

Your list is somewhat 2D-centric so I thought I’d throw this out there…my husband is a sculptor and has many “old” pieces in storage. These are pieces that, for whatever reason, just did not sell (sculptures are harder to sell than paintings because they take up space and usually can’t be hung on a wall AND they can be rather pricey). Since most galleries will only keep a piece for so long and they don’t want old pieces that didn’t sell in other markets, many artists will sell their “dead stock” for dirt cheap just to try and recoup some of their investment.

Visiting from SITSGirls and Stumbled 🙂

Teralyn June 25, 2011 at 7:47 am


I linked back to you today in my Sat DIY post:


CM January 31, 2013 at 8:00 am

Thanks for this post! Found you through pseudostoops.

MonetExperts March 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

It’s also important to protect your investment!! Having your artwork authenticated by professionals is an incredibly important step if you want to be successful in the art market. If you need any help on this please visit http://www.monetexperts.com. Have a great day!

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Liz Saito September 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I love #4 “Start Small”. I’ve been collecting timeless art pieces like hand blown glass figurines that are beautiful and flawless, it really looks good in my home (countertop tables, center table, aquariums, shelves, etc). I found really great animal figures in http://www.glasslilies.com. I also give them as gifts!

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