Frequently Asked Art Questions: FAAQs
"Collectors should buy from their hearts–what they love, not what decorators or salespeople say." - Diane Waterhouse
How do you buy art?
We give buyers the advice of "buy what you love." You don't need an art degree to visit a gallery or to purchase art - just like you don't need to know how to build a combustion engine when you go to purchase a car.
Do you have to be rich to buy art?
No, you do not. There is a lot of art that is very affordable and, if it’s in a higher price range you can usually do a payment plan or lease. Some of our clients set aside a little money each month, much like planning for a trip, and use that money to buy a piece of original art. Or, they buy art as birthday presents, anniversary gifts or for special occasions. We know of one client who bought a painting of flowers for his wife and told her “Now you can never say I don’t buy you flowers.”
What do the red or blue dots mean?
The red dot beside a piece of artwork means it has been sold. A blue dot means it’s been reserved, but not necessarily sold yet. With a blue or ‘hold’ dot, you still might have a chance to purchase the piece, so tell the gallery owner you’re interested if the other person doesn’t buy it.
What if we take art home and we don’t like it?
Most commercial galleries can arrange for you to ‘test drive’ the art. They can install it for you in your home, you live with it for a week or so and then decide if you like it and want to buy it—or try another piece of art. Ask the gallery if they have this option available.
Can we do a monthly payment plan to buy art?
Most commercial galleries do have payment plans and some have leasing plans as well. If you are interested in a work, talk to the gallery staff or take a look at their website before you visit to see what their policies are.
Should I buy art as an investment?
Our gallery owners recommend that you buy what you love. Yes, some people do buy art as an investment, absolutely, but remember the piece is going to be in your home or your office for a long time so it’s a good idea to really enjoy it. The gallery owners can tell you about the artist and where they are in their career and about their art practice and pricing — all things that affect pricing. It’s good to know if the artist is an emerging, mid-career or a senior artist with exposure nationally or internationally.
How is the art priced?
Well, there are a few ways to describe this, one is using economic terms; high demand and a small supply creates a price. Art is unique because there is a limited supply at any given time. Price is also determined by an artist’s exhibition history, sales history, career level, and size of artwork. Also, know that the price is consistent across Canada, US and the world. You won’t find a certain artist’s work for more or less if it’s in Regina, Calgary or New York.
Visit any of our galleries and, if you’d like, sign up for an email list of exhibition openings, gallery news, etc. The owners are approachable and knowledgeable about the artists they represent. They're not the stuffy/fake accent gallery owners you see in movies. We promise. Ask any question you'd like and they'll gladly answer it or get the answer for you. Our gallery owners got into the business of selling art because they love it. And they want you to love it, too. They have already curated the art for you and built a relationship with the artists.
Know that when you buy art from a SaskGalleries’ member gallery, the artist is a professional (they create art for a living and have a consistent art practice) and they receive fair payment for the work from the gallery.
Here are some more short articles we've collected over the years as advice and background how to buy art and to answer some Frequently Asked Art Questions (FAAQs):
More Frequently Asked Art Questions
Buying: Do You Need An Art Degree? | Commercial Art Gallery vs. Museum Art Gallery | Selecting Art a Commercial Gallery
Caring: Frameworks | Hanging and Installing Art | Lighten Up
Miscellany: Monogamy and Art | Prints vs Reproductions | The Red Dot | Why Saskatchewan Artists Are So Darn Good | Aesthetics as a Function | Monet or Nothing
One of the fallacies about collecting art is that you need to be able to talk Artspeak in order to go into a commercial gallery. "Oh, wow, I really love how the magenta breaks up the negative space." (Whatever!) It's untrue. You don't need to have a degree in fine arts in order to buy original art. All you need to do is go to commercial galleries, see lots of art, find out what you like and buy what you love. If there is a term you don't understand, just ask the gallery owner what it means. If they answer in a way that feels comfortable and welcoming to you, it's a good place.
The term, from the French verb gicler (pronounced "gee-CLAY") meaning "to squirt or spray", refers to the process of reproducing original art on canvas, or any kind of media, using high-end ink-jet printing with archival ink. Giclées are often high quality; however, as a buyer, it's good to know exactly what you're purchasing. Because the original art is being reproduced digitally, the number of pieces made can be limitless, at almost any size (large formats included), at any quantity and at anytime. Giclées can vary in price from $100 to several hundreds of dollars or more. With anything over $200, be sure you know exactly what you are buying. A good guideline is; if it's a well-known artist, and the price is quite low, there's a good chance it's a giclée.
The term raku means enjoyment or ease. First developed in Japan in the 1500's, Raku is a firing technique for ceramics. After drying, the object is bisque-fired (a special process designed to make the clay porous). Then special raku glazes are applied one at a time before the work is fired. For the raku firing, the work is in an electric or gas kiln for a short time and removed when the glaze surface has melted. The work is removed while hot (980-1000 degrees Celsius/1800-1900 degrees Fahrenheit) and placed in combustible material, such as shavings and shredded paper. The combustibles start on fire and the piece is covered quickly with a metal lid. To try to keep burning, the fire pulls the oxygen from the glazes, which lifts the metallic elements to the surface and stains the exposed clay surface with carbon. It is this oxygen deprivation process that gives the beautiful metallic lustres and the inky black quality to the unglazed areas.
When you go into a car dealership to buy a car, do you think you need to know exactly what a carburetor is or how a combustion engine works or even what style the exhaust system is? No. But you buy it because you like it, because it's in the right price range you were looking for and because of the way it makes you feel when you drive it and look at it. The same goes with art. You don't need to study art history to buy art. You don't need to know if the artist was in his or her "blue period" to purchase the work. You just need to follow your heart. Follow your soul. And buy what you love.
What makes a commercial gallery different from a public or museum gallery? (Besides the donation box.) Commercial galleries are owned and operated by knowledgeable art buyers who sell art to the public. Each commercial gallery's collection reflects the passion and tastes of the gallery owner. Each owner not only screens the artists but each artwork they carry for your benefit, focusing on key pieces that are of value and worthy of your attention and investment. They have an eye for what people like to buy and they help to connect art lovers and artists. In a museum or public gallery, you can enjoy art from a variety of artists and periods, brought together by curators. With SaskGalleries’ galleries, you can look, dream and actually take something home with you ("Look, it followed me home, can I keep it?")
The biggest piece of advice members of SaskGalleries have about buying art is — buy what you love. The next piece of advice is three-fold: visit, visit and visit. Visit as many different commercial galleries in person as you can. Visit their websites first, if you want, to see if you like any of the art or artists they represent. Commercial galleries represent a variety of different artists and styles, so you can choose from a wide selection of work to figure out what fits your taste the best.
When you visit a commercial art gallery, you benefit from the experience of a gallery owner to help you choose art for your home, office or for a gift. Rely on their knowledge and expertise, they are happy to answer any questions you might have ("What's Dadaism?" See, that wasn't so hard, now was it?) Visit friends whom you know collect art and talk with them about how they buy their art. Another approach you can take if you're thinking about a piece, is to try it out on approval. Many galleries will let you ‘test drive’ art for a little while to see if you like it. Essentially, selecting art should be a fun process that results in a piece of art that speaks to you and gives you joy every time you look at it.
Often the term ‘print’ is used interchangeably with the term ‘reproduction’, but they are not the same thing. A ‘print’ refers to an image transferred from a block or plate coated by a wet-media, such as ink, and then pressed onto a flat surface, such as paper or fabric. The artist then numbers and signs each piece. The fragility of the block or plate often limits the number of prints the artist can make.
A ‘reproduction’ is an unlimited photomechanical copy of an image. Typically a photograph is taken of an image, which is then reproduced using a commercial printing press. One way to check is to examine the image with a good magnifying glass. A regular and repeating pattern of dots is a standard way of identifying a ‘reproduction’. There you have it.
How you frame your art is just as important as the artwork itself. Custom frame shops can assist you with selecting the right frame to accent and protect your artwork. Oil paintings rely on canvas or a wood panel for support so don't put them under glass as they need to "breathe". For these artworks, you might consider a ‘floater’ frame profile which creates a special box (placed behind the canvas) that covers the side edges without touching the front surface of the canvas. An ‘exhibition’ frame works much the same way but is attached directly to the sides of the canvas rather than ‘floating’. All paperworks, on the other hand, such as watercolours, pastels, ink, charcoal and pencil drawings should be protected behind glass with either a mat border or a spacer. The mat or spacer keeps the art away from the glass, so if moisture gets in, your art won't stick to the glass. Also, depending on the type of pigments and paper used, the artwork can release various gases over time so maintaining a space between the surface of the work and the glass is important. Custom framers can provide you with a range of glass options to protect your paperworks from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and reduce or control the reflection that regular glass will have. Because you've spent the time carefully choosing your art, make sure your framer uses the right materials (such as acid-free mats) to keep your art looking as beautiful as the day you took it home.
When it comes to hanging art, you may be a pro at it or maybe you're not regardless, here are some tips from SaskGalleries owners on how to hang your art. To start, you need a tape measure, level and small, round, coloured stickers (they're easier to see than a pencil mark on your wall). We suggest using proper hanging hardware (rather than the ol' nail on the wall approach, it's not always dependable) and good hardware on the back of the painting to make sure your beautiful art is secure. Next, it's a good idea to hang paintings on a centre line (or eye level), which is approximately 56" to 58" inches from the floor to the centre of the painting. If you are not sure about your placement, cut out a piece of paper the same size as the artwork and hang it to see how it looks. Or you could skip all these steps and have the gallery where you bought your piece from come and hang the art for you. (They're usually more than happy to do so.)
We all love bright, sunny light. But it can be really damaging for the art in your home. Direct sunlight or other harsh lighting can fade paintings and prints. When you purchase your art, talk with the gallery owner. Let them know where you are planning on placing your art. They can tell you how to protect and display it. Here are some easy tips to remember. Hang your paintings away from direct sunlight. Use low-wattage incandescent lighting for your paintings or, if you have fluorescent lights that can’t be changed, use UV filters or sleeves or use UV glass on the art. And avoid using "picture lights" that attach to the top of the frame, they can damage the art by causing localized heating.
Should you be monogamous to one artist and their work or should you be a real swinger and collect many artists? In art collecting, you can be at either end of the spectrum or somewhere in between, whatever you like. Some buyers prefer to collect one artist only and enjoy watching how their style changes over the years, while others collect a wide variety of work from a wide variety of artists. There is no right or wrong. It's about buying what you love. It's about turning a corner in your home or business and seeing a piece of art and being taken away from the ten things you have on your mind to a place that's soul-stirringly beautiful. So, in summary, if you find yourself monogamous to one artist, and for some reason another artist catches your eye, it's okay to look -- you're not cheating. Not at all.
When you see a red dot next to a piece of artwork in a retail gallery, that means the piece has been sold. Galleries do this as a courtesy so you don't fall in love with a piece only to find out later it's been sold. To the artists involved, it means an appreciation of their work and what it means to both themselves and the buyer. To the gallery owner, it is an expression that the hard work and expense of mounting a show has been worthwhile and meaningful. That's why SaskGalleries chose the red dot as our logo. It is an indication of our goals as professional galleries to present and sell the work of our artists, to educate the public on that work and to conduct our business in an ethical manner.
Some say it's our long winters (they give artists more time for making great art). Some say it's the light, how it changes, slants and plays with our surroundings. But perhaps it's because the cost of living here is easier on the pocketbook. Or maybe it's because we don't have to add long commute times to our day (artist studios are mere minutes away instead of eight subway stops). And some say it's because the Saskatchewan Arts Board (est. 1948) supports many artists as they hone their craft. Regardless, all agree that Saskatchewan artists are as diverse as our landscape. From Cypress Hills to Great Sand Hills and from the still blue deep of Thomson Lake to the untouched land in the Grasslands National Park, the land reflects the people. Textile artists, sculptors, painters, pottery artisans, poets, writers, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and so many others. Let's face it, we just make really, really good artists here.
Sometimes customers ask, "How do I use this sculpture, it doesn't have a function?" Beautiful art pieces that bring you joy when you look upon them serve an aesthetic function: they nourish your soul, they connect you with beauty. This is something we all need. (It's the life equivalent of stopping and smelling the roses.) Furthermore, personally chosen art is a way for you to add your signature to a space. When you surround yourself with unique objects, you will find yourself and your guests responding to them. Move your art around and try it under different lighting. At various times and seasons you will respond in new ways and see it differently. It's just another element of what art brings to your quality of life. Because a room and a home become that much more intimate when the personal art of the owner is placed in it.
Yes, a Monet costs a kajillion dollars. But did you know that you don't need to buy a big-name artist in order for your heart to skip a beat (or two) when you look at a piece of art? There are many local artists who are doing intriguing and exciting work that's affordable (and stunning). This is in addition to established artists whose work is already in demand nationally and internationally. You'd be surprised at the choice and wide range of prices available to you for buying original art. (Heck, you can even buy art on a payment plan, just like you would furniture or electronics.) Essentially, if the piece speaks to you, if you smile when you walk by it, if it makes your soul giggle, then it's a Monet to you.