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How To Buy Your First Piece of Fine Art

Frank Rose, Hecho A Mano Courtsey Paris Mancini and Julian Fox

As third in the nation’s art market behind NYC and Los Angeles in terms volume of art available and amount of sales, Santa Fe, New Mexico is the “it” locale for a variety of unique murals, sculptures, and more. There are 250 art galleries in the city, with approximately 100 of them located on the famous Canyon Road alone. The art featured in the galleries on Canyon Road are exquisite, unique…and expensive. “Galleries haven’t really done a lot to dismiss that notion that you have to be rich to buy art. Art galleries really promote that,” says Santa Fe-based Hecho a Mano gallerist, Frank Rose. Acknowledging that “expensive” is largely contingent on your earnings and budget, how can one go about finding a quality piece of art within range? Furthermore, why does art even matter in the world of investing?

Art has become such a hot commodity as a source of wealth for Millennial buyers particularly because of its’ new accessibility. “While the number of auction records is clearly growing, half of the artworks sold on the secondary market in the West fetch less than $1,000. And while such a small budget allows access to a large number of works on paper (drawings, prints, photographs), it can also acquire small gems in the sculpture and painting medium,” states Artprice.com

Acquiring art as a means to not only flaunt your earnings, but also please the eye is nothing new. According to 2018 data from Bank of America’s US Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth report, “Aesthetic value continues to be the primary reason for collecting across age groups, but younger collectors tend to be more financially driven. In fact, a third of Millennial collectors see art as a key component to be leveraged to build greater wealth, which is twice as much as other collectors.” The report even goes on to show that 72 percent of Millennials now incorporate art into their wealth structuring and planning. 

Buying Art Online

Many young collectors are not hitting brick and mortar galleries that their grandparents or parents once visited to purchase their collection of fine art. That’s where online art galleries and e-auctions play an important role. NYC-based artist and curator Calli Moore founded See You Next Thursday (SYNT), a weekly Instagram-based art auction featuring the creative works of burgeoning artists, to cater to digitally inclined buyers. 

Moore, who acquired her Master of Fine Arts at American University in D.C. in 2016, understands both sides of the challenge of being a creative as both an artist and peer to fellow creators. She comments, “After visiting several of my peers’ studios during my first two years of living in NYC, it became very apparent to me that they were not moving a lot of work in their studio. All of my peers are on the precipice of a flourishing art career and a lot of collectors are interested in their work, but they are not yet represented by a gallery.  Being a very social person in this industry and knowing a lot of people in all sectors, I thought I would try taking it upon myself to help make the connections between artist and collector.” Thus, SYNT was born. 

All featured work is submitted to SYNT for auction at a starting bid price of $100. To participate, collectors bid in the comments field of the artwork post beginning on a Thursday evening and closing on a Sunday. In recent auctions, such as with the case of “1 large tree and two pink trees” created by artist Daisy Dodd-Noble, received a final bid of $1000. 

“It was kind of a no-brainer,”  Moore says. “Instagram is the number one social media platform and tool artists use to share their work and connect with others.”  SYNT’s key demographic is young collectors, including first-time art buyers. Nevertheless, since launch the auction has garnered the attention of seasoned collectors who have developed an interest in collecting emerging art. 

How to Purchase Fine Art on a Budget

Moore states, “It is extremely hard for Millennials to budget for art in our current political climate, especially for those who live in unaffordable cities like New York. It’s almost impossible to keep a savings account let alone buy artwork for your walls.” It’s kind of hard to justify purchasing a beautifully painted mural when you are barely breaking four digits (or less) in your rainy-day fund. Rose, the Santa Fe-based gallerist quoted at the outset, mentions that buyers on a budget should consider the artist’s medium. He adds, “Printmaking is a really great way to work with artists at affordable price point because it’s a very technical form, but yet they work in editions so the prices can usually be a bit more accessible. So, if an artist is using one wood block, they can make 100 pieces out of that wood block. So, it makes it a lot easier to acquire.” 

“There are more and more galleries and platforms popping up around the city (New York) and world that sell emerging artwork at affordable price points. A lot of these platforms are artist-run, which is a good indicator that these people have an eye for the future of the art world,” Moore says. “In addition to collecting from my platform, See You Next Thursday, a few others I think are phenomenal are Drawer NYC, where you can buy works on paper at affordable prices, and Public Swim, a new noteworthy gallery also showing and selling work at affordable price points, located in Chinatown.”

Furthermore, with the arrival of e-commerce payment plan companies such as Klarna and Afterpay, it behooves art galleries to offer affordable options to build an art collection. “If you fall in love with a piece in a gallery that’s slightly out of reach in the moment, ask the gallery if they can work with you. Often galleries will offer to break up the payments over time, sometimes up to a year, even,” says renowned art consultant Amie Tullius, “Generally, they will understand when you’ve fallen in love with a piece and will try to make it possible for you collect it.” 

Art’s Real Value

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from procuring your art collection isn’t even something tangible with a dollar attachment. Tullius adds, “Don’t worry about if the piece you want will be ‘worth something’ someday. Hopefully your art will bring you value that you will experience for years to come. If you get lucky, maybe the piece will end up being worth more money than you bought it for down the road— but if you’re really lucky the piece will be so personally meaningful to you by then that it would break your heart to part with it.” In fact, Rose captures the attainment of art succinctly, “In our world right now, there is so much that is mass manufactured. Not to knock it or anything, but to have an object in your hand or home that was made by hand with their love in it, it just enriches our lives. I want as much as possible for the things I interact with to be artisan made. Since humans existed, they’ve had this drive to create things and it’s important to support artists that make that work – creators get recognition and support; and we bring that work into our own lives.”

Header Image: Courtesy of Calli Moore, Daisy Dodd-Noble, “1 large tree and 2 pink trees” Oil on canvas, 31 x 25 inches

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