When it comes to buying art for your home or business, here are some rules to get started: 

 1. Buy art you love.

 

I bought the piece above for a variety of reasons–it is visually interesting with its casual and spontaneous tone, the colors are fresh, light and lovely (they don’t translate well in the photo–especially with the glare, sorry), it was created by an artist who is a force in the local art nonprofit scene, and it came beautifully matted with a hand-built frame.

Maybe this means it makes you think. You like the colors. You respect the artist. It reminds you of someone or some place you love. Art is generally a very illiquid asset; unless you have a high level of comfort navigating the art market, don’t buy it for investment purposes. Buy it because it moves you somehow.

 

  1. Keep a paper trail. 

Start a file on your art–keep the artist’s or gallery’s business card and a receipt for your purchase in it. Add receipts for framing, brochures from gallery shows the artist is in, news articles about him/her, notes you have exchanged, etc. This paper trail helps establish the “provenance” or history of ownership of your art. This comes in handy if you opt to sell or donate it down the road.

 

  1. Make sure it is signed—or otherwise documented.

Although artists signing their artwork is a relatively modern phenomenon in art history (dating back to the Renaissance), it is now commonplace and often expected, as it helps with identification and serves as testimony to the original, hand-created nature of the art. If you have a choice between signed and unsigned work by an artist—go for the signed. The location of the signature (back, front, along the wrapped canvas, etc.) isn’t as important as its presence somewhere. If the artist deliberately chooses not to sign an artwork, respect his/her decision. Ask for a letter of authenticity instead.

 

  1. Take care of it.

Display it somewhere out of direct sunlight and unusual humidity or dryness (if it is in the sunlight, get it under UV protected glass). Unless you’re striving for museum standards, most art is comfortable with the same indoor climate as we are—68-75 degrees, humidity in the 40-55% range. Also, be sure it is accounted for in the personal property coverage of your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. If something happens to it, you want to be able to replace it with another piece of original art—not a poster from Amazon.

When it is time to update values for insurance or you think your art is a candidate for donation to a museum, call for an appraisal.