20 March, 2014

The Affordable Art Fair: How to buy your first piece of art!

20 March, 2014

We all know that art works can sell for millions of dollars (The Balloon Dog – Orange, by Jeff Koons was sold for a crazy $58.4 million!), so as an art lover, it can be a little disheartening. If you’ve just moved into a new place, or if you fancy sprucing up your apartment with something special, then you’re in luck – Hong Kong’s Affordable Art Fair is back with thousands of prints, paintings, sculptures and photography at (you guessed it) an affordable price! We’re talking between $1,000 and $100,000 (with 75% below $75,000)… so you’re sure to find something to suit your budget. Even if you don’t find the perfect piece, there’s plenty going on besides the art, with workshops, seminars, food and drinks galore. Not to be missed!

If you’re keen to start a little art collection, but you don’t really know where to begin, we’ve asked our former That Girl, the wonderful Emma French, to give us some key tips on how to start buying art!


759ac5547bf0d59aeacfb886a2a42791Image sourced via Pinterest

Find out what you like.
This sounds remedial, but ‘what I like’ is often quite a hard thing to define, especially when you are first starting out. Make yourself an arty Pinterest board and just start dropping in paintings, drawings, photos, screen prints, sculptures, embroidery – whatever it is that grabs you, and soon you’ll have your own digital salon hang. You might start seeing common threads throughout the works that can help you define your taste, but if you don’t, that’s OK too… what you like is an extension of who you are and sometimes thats an eclectic and unpredictable beast.


9d1e29d0f845f01fdd80f8d3def53543Image sourced via Pinterest

Decide WHY you are starting a collection.
If you are buying to learn more about art then you should cast a wide net – see a lot and read a lot, there a lot of talks you can go to as well. If you are buying for investment, then you need to learn about the market, give yourself a pretend budget, decide what you would buy with it and see how your pretend investments do before you actually reach for your wallet. If you are buying for decoration, then you need to think about how and where a work will sit in your home and know the limitations of where you live.

Click away from facebook.
Sorry to be Captain Obvious but: the internet is a good place to start looking at art.

For sheer volume www.saatchiart.com is hard beat. The amount of art can be overwhelming and frankly, off putting, but they have handy curated selections and you can view works by price too. They visit graduate shows and sign up brand new young artists like my talented colleague Loren Stuart whose haunting self portraits were shot directly onto photographic paper on minute-long exposures.


In terms of blogs, I like www.thejealouscurator.com, and the works she posts are sometimes surprisingly affordable! I found the work above (by Alberto Seveso) here, and it can be purchased here for just 50 Euros. Or you can snap up original works and prints by Leah Gibson or Hollie Chastain for as little as USD $20 on Etsy (check out our Etsy guide here!).

Know a little.
This is a good start: anything that comes in multiple prints tends to be cheaper than a one-off work, so prints are great place to start buying art. A limited edition print means that only a certain number of these works will ever be made – the lower the print run, the rarer and therefore more expensive the works tend to be. Sometimes, the later in the print run you are buying the more expensive the works become. If you see ‘AP’ that means its an Artist Proof and you will often be charged a premium for this. The term ‘artist proof’ harks back to traditional print making processes when the artist would take an impression of the plate they were working on, it now just really refers to the artist’s prints that aren’t included in the count of a limited edition. If the artist is selling an AP it indicates a sell-out limited edition run, you’re buying the very last of those works available.

Note: artists are sometimes quite cheeky with the number of APs they keep, it can be 20 or more so keep an eye out for that if it is important to you. Also other artists are pretty loose with their definition of ‘limited’ – I’m looking at you Damian Hirst! An edition of 5,000 is basically just a poster, and when you are charging over GBP2,000 a pop, that’s practically printing your own money.

296980_255945067762621_7079008_nSuck it up and go to some galleries.
Galleries are intimidating places, FACT. But the small and mid sized galleries are actually very friendly places, especially on opening nights and a lot of the time they will have works in a wide range of prices from the same artist so even if you can’t afford the star piece of the show, they may have a print or a small work on paper that is in your budget. Zelie Walker from Christies once gave me a great piece of advice – she looks for pieces where there is something about the craftsmanship or the process that is admirable or interesting because while your taste might change, you’ll always appreciate that about the work… and that’s what lasts, not whether it matches your sofa.

tumblr_n1lbcsjJ0U1s6nnswo1_500Buy local.
Hong Kong is a cultural wasteland no more! The more you support the art scene here, the more vibrant it will become. Go out to Fotan and see the artists in their studios, they may have small works or drawings that they will sell you, or check out Above Second (which has just moved down to First Street in Sai Ying Pun). They sell prints and have work available by local artists such as Cara To, whose works starts at around $4,000.

Play nice.
If an artist is represented by a gallery then you need to go through that gallery for sales and not go direct to the artist. There’s a lot of work and expense that goes into putting on an exhibition so it is bad form (and bad juju) to cut the gallery out. Also don’t be the weird lady that carries an empty water bottle and slowly fills it with the free wine on opening night – we see you weird lady. True story.

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 5.17.03 PMArt in unusual places.
Keep your eyes peeled because galleries aren’t the only places you can find art. It’s good to keep tabs on small pop-up venues (like Time and Space) where unrepresented artists put on their own shows. If you like street art, then look out for for Secret Walls, the street art battle which will be returning to HK later this year. Also look out for Marlon Ge who arranges great pop-ups once in a while (drop him a line to get on his mailing list). The super stylish Moustache duo have recently made a feature-wall in their Aberdeen Street shop, which will have a regularly changing display of art for sale (see the image above). They are currently showing James Dingan’s illustrations which start at just $800! Down the road at Square Street, Sheung Wan’s other most stylish duo are selling photographic works by locally based photographer Luke Casey, who still shoots on film and also sells direct from his website.

4d6aa68d31f1e9baabcb559b67ca365eImage sourced via Pinterest

Don’t underestimate framing.
Think of frames like eyebrows, although they aren’t the focal point the right ones make all the difference in the world. A good frame can make a cheap piece of art look expensive and a bad frame can make an expensive piece of art look cheap. As tempting as it is to go to IKEA and get a bunch of frames and fill them yourself, you’ll outgrow those very quickly.

543062_170310423093118_1226440177_nArt fairs.
The Affordable Art Fair is here and if you haven’t been, you should, as it does exactly what it says on the tin! This year they have even curated a special under $10,000 wall for buyers on a budget. At The Cat Street Gallery booth look out for gorgeous paper cut works by James Gordon (below right) and cool manga collage works by HK based artist Charles Munka (below left), all under $10,000. I’m also excited to check out Gallery KooOdd One Out  (their illustrative works start at only $650!) and Eyestorm.

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emmafrenchsigTop image sourced via Pinterest
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