I don’t know much about art … and I don’t know what I like!

So you’re thinking about buying a work of art? Good! Maybe even thinking about entering the world of collecting? Even better! There are a few books and internet articles (and this Buyer’s Guide!) to help you get started. Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the one point they make over and over is “Buy what you love.”

But what if you don’t know what it is that you “love”? This is a real phenomenon. I’ve encountered it with some of my own buyers. It can be difficult to articulate what you want from a piece of art, especially when money is involved.

My answer for the true beginner is not to overthink things. In fact, you might consider taking a step back and asking not “what you love,” just “what you like.”

Let’s use music as an example. You hear a song and you like it enough to buy it. What informs your decision? At this point, are you thinking about the musician’s esoteric techniques? How the song fits into the scope of music history? Whether your purchase will be a good investment?

Probably not. It’s far more likely that you heard a hook or a groove that you can’t get out of your head and want to hear again. That’s how it all starts.

In fact, that’s probably how all aesthetic experiences start. So really, buying visual art shouldn’t be that different.

You like an abstract painting just because of its brilliant arrangement of colors? Good! You like a realist drawing because it reminds you of where you grew up? Good! You like a sculpture because it would fill the space on your mantelpiece just so? Good! Take it from there.

There are lots of reasons to buy artwork. Your gut reaction is as valid as any of them. Even if you only buy one piece, you’ve made a decision that can open further opportunities and lead to great personal satisfaction. So go for it!


story by ABG editor,  J. Harlan Ritchey