This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s nice to think you might pick up a painting at the Sunday market and years later discover you had the next Picasso’s first masterpiece. But don’t count on it. And, if you’re looking at your art as an investment, you should do a lot more homework than what this or any other brief article can provide you.

But you can take a few cues from the investor types by approaching the purchase of art in a business like manner:

– define what you like
– learn how to describe it
– locate galleries, individual artists, art fairs, auctions, and online sellers that specialize in your desired genres
– Don’t be intimidated by the gallery environment. Ask any silly question you want. They are there to sell the artist’s work.
– If the price is significant and the artist is representing a bio and previous work, do some research to confirm.
– Negotiate. There can be some “give” in the stated price of art.
– If the piece has any apparent damage, learn how this can affect the value.
– If the work is from a notable artist, request a Certificate of Authenticity.

But what about the living room you so badly want to embellish with a great artwork. It’s OK to approach your art search from that perspective. Few of us have the luxury to build a house around a special work of art. So, your starting point may be size restrictions. Determine the minimum and maximum dimensions your space can accommodate.

Art Galleries are the most common, and perhaps the most reliable source for finding value in art. The typical gallery supports a cadre of hand selected artists whose work they believe in. They continue to show their works year over year. This can sometimes be your best assurance of sustained value as this sort of relationship provides the best incentive for the artist to maintain their pricing.

Another form of gallery operation is where space is rented to the artist. That the artist can apparently sustain themselves and pay the rent says something, but with the more typical gallery as described above, the owner is educated in the arts, acts as the initial curator, and can be relied upon as a good defense against making bad purchase decisions. There are great galleries in both categories, but best to get to know your galleries.

Many people enjoy the thrill of buying art at auction. This is a good venue if you know the artist and the work. However, unlike a gallery, you don’t have the time to study, even take it home and try it, before bidding.

Art you love does not necessarily have to come from an established artist. Today’s digital cameras can generate the required quality for large format prints. Take some wonderful photos, have prints made, and frame them well (with matting!) Certain art your children make as they grow up can be priceless and beautiful. It often again just requires a proper frame to work.

Check out art schools in your area for their occasional art shows. You can find wonderful artwork from talented students.

If you’re seriously shopping for art, look at a lot of art. Make a point to visit galleries wherever you happen to be travelling. Keep notes and take quick photos of works you like. Bookmark your favorite art sites online. Whether this ends with a purchase or as a means of defining and discussing what you like, you will surely feel more confident in your art selections.

Author of Art for Art’s Sake is Michael Samsel of