What do I need to know about buying art?
April 17, 2012 8:25 PM   Subscribe

How do I buy art from a gallery?

There's a piece of art I'm interested in that's about to be displayed in a local gallery. As someone who's rarely ventured into galleries (they're kind of intimidating!), I have no clue how the process of actually buying a piece works and basically want to avoid some kind of art-buying faux pas. Here are a few questions that come to mind:

From related AskMes, it seems that I can reasonably expect to extract a 20% discount off the list price. Does anyone know if this holds true in this market, NYC/west Chelsea? Does paying cash have any effect?

I'll probably check the piece out during the opening reception. Is that an appropriate time to ask about buying the piece or are receptions strictly for drinking free wine?

I'm guessing I'd have to wait till the (couple of week long) show is over before I could actually take home the piece. Is this correct? If the piece is framed, will the frame come with it? Should I expect any kind of documentation to come with it?

Is there anything else I might be missing? Thanks!
posted by rmannion to Shopping (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
it seems that I can reasonably expect to extract a 20% discount off the list price
Maybe, it depends on how well the artist's work has sold in the past. It doesn't hurt to ask.
Is that an appropriate time to ask about buying the piece
Sure, let the gallery staff know you're interested, but maybe come back to negotiate later. Definitely take the time to meet the artist.

Yes you'll probably have to wait to take the piece home until the show is over. Yes the frame comes with the piece. You'll probably receive a certificate of some kind with the piece.

Enjoy your art!
posted by entropyiswinning at 8:47 PM on April 17, 2012

-In my experience the opening reception is when the most art gets sold, and definitely an appropriate time to commit to buying the piece
-Price is usually negotiable, but depends on the artist and gallery
-The frame is usually included in the price
-You should wait until the show is over to take it home
posted by 2ghouls at 8:50 PM on April 17, 2012

All you have to do is tell the receptionist/owner which piece you want and pay. Sometimes the frame used in the show costs extra.
posted by brujita at 10:36 PM on April 17, 2012

If the artist is in high demand, the piece may have already sold before the show opens, and new buyers may be put on a waiting list. In my experience the discount is 10% but start at 20 and negotiate.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 5:22 AM on April 18, 2012

If you aren't afraid to lose the piece to another buyer, coming in on the closing day is a good time for negotiating prices. I agree that galleries are too precious and make the buying process awkward. As soon as they know you're interested in buying, not another artist trying to submit work or a free wine troll, the staff will likely brighten up right away.
posted by mrsjohnson at 5:46 AM on April 18, 2012

I buy regularly from galleries and agree that for a popular artist you may find its sold before the doors even open on the first night. If i plan to purchase something from an upcoming show I'd call the gallery to enquire on the day before its hung or that morning to express interest in the work and discuss prices.

Definitely the aim for gallery and artist on opening night is to sell as much work as possible. Exchanging art for money is easier when the audience are nicely inebriated. If there are already sales pre-opening it's better for gallery/artist as it increases chances of more sales on that night.

You'll get the painting after that show. If its framed it will be sold like that. You can expect an invoice from the gallery. If its an unsigned work I would demand an original artist certificate of authenticity but that's only happened once with a photographer who refused to sign (he thought it degraded the work)
posted by Under the Sea at 6:19 AM on April 18, 2012

If it is something you really want, go in the day it opens—don't wait for opening night. I also wanted to urge you to please remember that the gallery is already getting at least a 20% commission (typically) of the listed price, and counting framing costs and admission fees, sometimes the artist's profit is not so great. So although you could try to negotiate, it's great to pay artists the asking price :)
posted by Eicats at 8:19 AM on April 18, 2012

Thanks, everyone!
posted by rmannion at 3:05 PM on April 18, 2012

Sorry forgot to mention that if your buying prints / photi from a series then framing is usually optional and at a higher cost.
posted by Under the Sea at 10:02 PM on April 19, 2012

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