7 Guidelines to considering art in a gallery

This blog is a guide designed to help you when buying or viewing art. It can be very confusing when you go into a gallery, there are so many things to choose from and so many different types of art. How do we make head or tail from it all and whittle down our choices to that special one which will be the talk of our collection? 


1. The first thing I do when I view a collection of work is to walk around all of it and view each piece independently. As I go around the gallery I make a mental note of the pieces that have captured my attention. These will be revisited once I have seen everything. When I've finished my tour of the gallery, I step back and view it as one large collective, once I've done this  I make my way back to the pieces of interest and I read whatever information there is on the artist or the work. 


2. When you have your preferred pieces earmarked you need to view them properly, this can be done in a viewing room or on a separate wall - if you ask the consultant I'm sure they'll oblige. The human eye and brain are funny things, they don't work how you expect. The eye takes in all the information in your field of vision, but the brain doesn't process all of it, it works much like an internet browser where if you visit a website many times the browser retains a lot of the information and uses that to load the page quicker and save your internet bandwidth. Your brain does the same and holds onto information that will be used again, this is how sleight of hand and magic tricks can escape our notice and leave us wondering how they have been done. By moving the artwork onto a new wall with new surroundings, we can view it unobtruded and without the noise of other images, this allows your brain to reset and see the piece again for the first time. 


3. Singling out your favourite one, two, or three pieces, you will want to experience them in different ways. To do this you can alternate between moving closer and seeing the quality of the printing or painting or using distance to appreciate it as the artist intended. By getting close you can see every line and mark the artist has made, by stepping back and putting space between you and the painting you see the overall vision that the artist had for this work. These are two different worlds and you need to step into both of them to appreciate all of the qualities in the work. 


4. What is it that speaks to you as a collector? is it colour, shape, style, composition, presentation? This is something you should figure out, knowing why you like something can be a very interesting exercise in self-discovery. Sometimes people who live a complicated life prefer simpler works of art, more abstract with strong colours which reflect their personalities. In 20 years of art dealing, I can honestly say that most people choose artwork that resonates with them in some way. That personal connection is a major driving force in choosing the right art for you. 


5. I look at every aspect of an artist when I buy their work. I need to know that they have a good history, they were taught at a good school like the Slade, Royal Academy, or St Martins College, or any of the fantastic Universities we have in this country. Some have higher status than others in the art world, and that is due to their difficult entrance criteria and this again should be considered, although it's never a deal breaker. What shows have they had? Where were these shows? Who is collecting their works? These are all questions for the art consultant, if they can't answer them or find out for you then you should re-think buying from them. 


6. At this point we like the painting, we like the colours, medium, image, and we know about the artist (because we asked). So now we need to know about the piece in particular. If it's brand new from the artist and the gallery are a main dealer for them, then you need not worry about provenance. If however the painting has some age with it and the gallery hasn't had it from new then you need to know where it came from. Ask to look at the back of the painting. Check for gallery labels, notes, signatures, titles, or any other strange marks that may have been left by the artist. 


7. You now have everything you need to make a deal with the consultant. You have to remember that the art world is a busy place and there are always new or old buyers looking to start or add to their collection. If you dawdle then you run the risk of losing the painting to someone else. I have heard hundreds and thousands of stories over the years of the ones that got away. That Lowry Oil they could have bought for £90 in the 1960's. I even have stories like that myself. I always tell people you never regret the pieces you buy, only the pieces you don't. 


At this point you may have noticed I've omitted the medium of the art and that is because it really doesn't matter, some people proudly exclaim that they only collect original works of art and not prints. With the most expensive print ever being sold for £5.5 million and works consistently being added to national collections, the 20th Century saw the humble print become serious art, even the biggest collectors in the world have prints in their collections. So with these 7 points that I've laid out above, you should be able to confidently go into art galleries and narrow down the pieces you want to add to your collection. Never be afraid to ask the tough questions to a dealer, if they know what they're doing they'll have the answers for you, or if you're looking for more in-depth information they will find it out for you. 


When you get your art home the next challenge will be hanging it, but we'll go into that in more detail in the future.


Images are not our own and are from various sources - links supplied.
All opinions are my own and not De Lacey Fine Art's or any other company or body.
Copyright - G Farmer 2019