We all know that you can buy anything online, these days. The art industry has been gaining ground, in this virtual setting, to the pleasure of young and dynamic buyers, located around the world. However, the rules can be quite different when you select an artwork on internet. Since you don’t have it in front of you, you need to more research before you make your decision.

Here is a quick 5-steps guide to buying art online.

What has changed in the World of Art?

It would have been hard to imagine acquiring a work of art, without having seen it in front of us, only a little more than a decade or so ago. What can possibly have changed so much, that there is now a fully grown industry that proposes to buy art online, anywhere you are located in the world? The first answer to this question is simply: The buyers. The Millennials have come into the market, as more websites were making artworks available online, and they started to acquire pieces, quickly turning into collectors. 

But this is not the only element that has changed, which enabled the growth of the online industry. Like all other stores, art galleries in Los Angeles, around America and all over the world, had to be shut down, during the lockdown periods, due to the sanitary crisis. That also helped the rapid growth of online sales of various works of art. Once people experienced the pleasure of shopping from their living room couch, it was too late to turn around, for many. If you combine this to the fact that the rise of e-commerce platforms has literally changed the way people shop, over the last ten years, you come to a full understanding of how the world of art has changed, and why it translated into a growth of sales of artworks, online. Let’s now take a closer look at the five steps a buyer needs to go through, when acquiring art over the internet.

First Step: Define Your Need

If you are going to buy a work of art, it is certainly to place it somewhere inside your house, or at work, so that it is visible to you, your family, friends, and/or colleagues. Defining where it is bound to go, is the first step of the process. This will help you choose, in many different ways. First, the room itself, and the furniture that is currently filling it, will inspire you. It can lead you to choose a certain genre of painting, or it can help select the main colours found in it. If you are simply placing a painting on a wall, because you like it, without taking anything else in account, you probably will find yourself reducing the qualities of the artwork you bought.

The second thing that you will have to keep in mind, as you prepare to look for your next acquisition online, is the size it should be. There are elements in the room, that should guide you. First of all, its total size and also the length of the wall where it will be positioned. Secondly, is it supposed to steal the show (take over the space) or is it a subtle addition you are looking to make? This will definitely change your search criteria, and you will make sure to buy the right art online, for the location it is meant to live in, for the next few years.

Second Step: Find the Right Platform

This might be the hardest part, as it will require a lot of time from you, so that you can verify various elements about the platform where you are looking to buy art. First, you need to make sure that the reseller is known in the industry. The person (company) between you and the artist is of ultimate importance. You will build a relation of trust with him, in the long term, but when it starts, you still need to know that he will deliver the artwork, as promised. If he pretends to be able to sell you the painting, but he wasn’t given the permission to do so, the transaction could rapidly become complicated – to say the least. 

Once you have chosen the work that you are thinking of acquiring, do a quick research on the artist and the painting in question, to make sure that no one else is trying to sell the same one. If it is so, take the time to get in contact with the other seller and ask if the person has exclusivity or if the painter simply resells through various parties. The more research you can do, regarding the platform, the higher the chances you will be satisfied in your future relationship, once you start buying from them. Don’t forget to check the payment conditions, and the level of security offered on the transactions. That is also something you could regret later on, if you didn’t take the time to read all you can find on the payment page.

Third Step: Do a Research on the Artist

Once you feel confident about the reseller, start looking into the artworks that are made available on the website. You can decide to look through the genre, but also roam by artists, as well as through the kind of artwork you would prefer (painting, sculpture, photographs, drawings, etc.). Once you have found a few pieces that you particularly enjoy, it is time to start learning more about the artists, who are hiding behind the artworks. 

That is more difficult to do online. When you buy from a physical gallery, you may get to encounter the artist and talk with him/her. Buying art should also be about the meaning that can be found inside it. Although some pieces bleed through to you, others may need more indications about the subject, the point of view, and the general sentiment meant by the artist, when he worked on it. Search everything you can find about his work history. Pinpoint when the artwork was done in his career and what it meant at the time. Not only will it inspire you to buy the artwork, but it will also provide you with a story to tell visitors, which is equally important.

Fourth Step: Ask for High-resolution Images

Not being able to look at a work of art, a few inches away from our eyes is certainly the weakest point when buying art online. That said, the quantity that is made available greatly compensates for that weakness. That is, if you are able to get high-resolution images from the work of art you are looking to buy. Sometimes, you may find them directly on the website. You should be able to click on them and increase the picture, as you would do with a magnifying glass. 

Don’t hesitate to call the gallery, so that they can send you better images than the one they provide publicly. You can also take that opportunity to ask all the questions you may have accumulated by now, on the work and the artist. Don’t stop yourself there, though. Ask about the platform as well: How long as it been online? How many artworks do you sell monthly? What is your return policy if you are not satisfied… These are all things that you shouldn’t be afraid to mention, when you have a director on the line, to answer your queries.

Fifth Step: Look into Shipping & Insurance

Buying art can sometimes be quite expensive. Shipping becomes a delicate issue, which also implies insurance. You don’t want to find yourself having paid a sum of money, only for it to be lost in a warehouse fire, or a road incident that would see it thorn apart. If you don’t have the right insurance, it definitely can happen. You have to look at the shipping supplier that the platform is using, before you buy the artwork. There are companies that specialize in moving work of arts around the world. They know exactly what it takes to protect them, and normally, to ensure them as well.

Although we briefly touched upon the subject in the fourth point, the return policy is one of the main important elements that needs to be looked at. Buying online, may not always provide you with a return clause. Is that something you are willing to risk? It way very well be, if you know the work and the artist. 

Does it make Sense to buy Art Online?

The answer is clearly “yes.” Shopping art online is something many collectors would have love to have had the possibility, a few decades ago. In their time, they had to travel to the city where the artist was exhibiting and choose, once there, which of his work he wanted to buy. And so, collectors choices were a lot more limited than today. Simply in terms of artists, you can make amazing discoveries online, even if they are lesser known. Art is meant to be enjoyed; not just because it is popular. Follow your instincts and shop artworks by worldwide artists, now that you have the possibility to do so.