How to buy art?

Deptford Foundry
11 months ago

Looking for a new piece of art for your home or wanting to start an art collection? Nichole Herbert Wood from Second Floor Studios and Arts shares her advice ahead of hosting a Painting Open at our Deptford Foundry neighbouring venue, no format Gallery…

If you already own a piece of original art I am sure you know how much pleasure can be derived to know you have something with you each day, in your environment that is unique and handmade. If you have owned it for some time I am sure you have also experienced how your relationship with the piece changes over time.

If you feel you don’t know much about art then walking into an art gallery can be daunting, however it doesn’t have to be. Ultimately all that matters is whether you like the piece and that should always be your primary instinct to trust.

I am sure you will have heard the mantra: ‘Buy from living artists, the dead ones don’t need the money.’

Buying art broadly falls into 3 approaches:

  • You just like the piece, it ‘speaks to you’ and you impulsively buy
  • You have decorated a room and you are looking for a piece to bring the room together or fit within your scheme. This is interior or decorative buying.
  • Buying a named/known artist that you follow, and you want to invest in the artist (remember…that are still alive)

Impulse Buying

This is all down to the individual however a few points to consider:

  • Perhaps think about budget. Is the piece a price point that you can easily afford? If not ask if the artist will take an installment plan, many do but you lose the instant gratification of taking the piece home as an installment plans means you can only take the piece home when you have made the last payment
  • You can reserve work for at least 24 hours so take that time to really think about the piece, where it will hang, do you still like it as much the following day?
  • Does the piece make you feel happier, lighter, richer? Does it simply make you smile? Trust your instincts!
  • Finally, technically is it well made? This I accept is a little more knowledge based, but basic desk research can help here or perhaps a family member or friend can provide you with some advice


Decorative Art

Let’s be honest the art world hates to reduce the act of buying art to the consideration of ‘will it look good over my sofa?’. However, over half the art purchases made consider our interiors and homes and we want something that will compliment them. There are some considerations to think about when buying decorative art: 

  • How colour niche are you taking the purchase? Yellow has been huge the last two years, but it is already at an end as an accent colour. If you are buying a high colour piece because you have always loved the colour then go ahead but if you are buying an accent colour piece that is on trend, try not to spend too much as you are likely to want to change the piece in a couple of years
  • If you are buying a piece to bring interest to a room then texture in the art piece is always good to look for – this could be a collage approach, elements of 3D, use of multiple materials or simply heavy use of the medium so you can see how it has been applied – such as use of brush strokes or pallet knife marks.
  • Size – are you going to buy smaller pieces and group them together or are you going to buy a large statement piece? Large original pieces of work, that are competently made are going to be at a price considered as an investment.
  • Be bold. Contrast is always interesting and if you buy a piece that is less on trend and more because it is something you really like then it will last longer in your home.



There are lots of ways to get to know artists, many have their own studios and they will have Open Studios at least once a year. These are free events and all the artists in the building invite the public to see their work.

If you make attending Open Studios an annual event you can watch the artist grow and progress - seeing the direction they take with their work. Without a doubt you will discover artists who become your favourites and you may reach a point when you get to know their work and choose to buy a piece. Buying direct from the artist, without any gallery fees is also the most economically savvy way of buying an original piece.

Watching an artist and their career is really rewarding and fascinating. It is an indulgence too, but if you are genuinely interested in art, it’s fun.

Overall, start small, enjoy the work, reap the joy of original art ownership and when you are ready, buy again.


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Second Flood Studios and Arts’ Painting Open has 60 artists exhibiting over 110 pieces of work, all of the pieces are small scale and there will be a wide range of techniques, colours and approaches from artists at varying stages of their careers. Nichole’s five pieces to watch come from artists Sasha Bowles; Sarah Gilman; playpaint; Mimei Thompson and Marion Jones, and will be displayed throughout the exhibition


The exhibition previews 7th December and is open on 8th- 10th December and 14th-17th December at the no format Gallery in Deptford (SE8 5JB).


If you want to quietly consider the work and chat over any of the pieces pop by the no format Gallery and Nichole or Matthew will be happy to chat over the exhibition.


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