It’s no secret that sometimes, arriving at an art fair can feel a bit overwhelming. When embarking on a day at the Affordable Art Fair, visitors are met with a space positively packed with 1000s of photographs, paintings, sculptures, limited edition prints and even installations at each fair. With such an amazing array of art under one roof, it’s no surprise that some guests don’t quite know where to start when they walk through our doors, hoping to start their collection.
And that’s where we come in. We want to make buying art as easy, happy and relaxed as it should be - which is why fair founder Will Ramsay started the Affordable Art Fair in the first place. He wanted to create a welcoming environment through which to fall in love with art; and as a result, our fairs are designed to break down the barriers between collectors, gallerists and artists, helping our visitors to embark on their very own collectors’ journey. Whilst we know that buying art is an emotional and intuitive experience, we’ve always encouraged our visitors to get chatting to exhibitors at the fair, face-to-face, to help them on this journey.
If you don’t fancy yourself an art-world aficionado, starting a conversation can be easier said than done. So, we’ve pulled together a few questions to help get the ball rolling and the conversation flowing:
SEVEN QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN COLLECTING ART
1. What is the medium?
This question might seem painfully simple - but there’s no such thing as a wrong question at an Affordable Art Fair – plus sometimes it isn’t immediately apparent! Finding out a little more about the materials used to make an artwork can help you understand the process behind it, whilst learning more about the artist and their creative ethos.
Mediums can often surprise you, adding to the intrigue of a particular piece and making it a more exciting object to collect. An artwork which appears to be a photograph might actually be an incredibly realistic painting, or perhaps what looks like a quirky abstract print could actually be a zoomed in photograph close up.
2. Can you tell me about this artist?
The wonderful thing about the art world is how small a community it really is - and with the Affordable Art Fair celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, we’ve been part of that community for a while! As a result, gallerists and artists really get to know one another. Many gallerists who exhibit with us have been working with their artists for years - or for newer galleries, have quickly built up strong relationship with their expanding roster of creative talent.
Our gallerists really know their stuff, so get chatting to them about the artist you’re interested in. They’ll be able to tell you about the artist’s background, creative practice and the work themselves. With many artists working on the stands - and plenty of our exhibitors also being artists themselves, it’s also worth asking if the artist is at the fair - you never know, you might be in luck and get to meet them!
3. What inspired the work?
Discussing an artist’s inspiration and hearing more about the backstory of a piece of art is a great way to look at a work closer, getting to know it a little better before making that big decision. An artwork is rarely just what it seems, and most have a fascinating story behind them, that will bring it to life.
The exhibitor might have an anecdote up their sleeve about what inspired the artist, and you might find you have common values or approaches to their artist themselves. These discussions all help understand a work’s style and medium better too - perhaps helping you fall in love that little bit more! Many gallerists will have additional information such as artist biographies on their stand, so you can take something away with you to mull over if you’re still undecided.
4. Is the artist popular?
It’s important not to be shy when buying a piece of art. Remember, our exhibitors are selling artwork on a daily basis, so they’ll be used to all manner of questions from mediums to inspiration to more pertinent enquiries about the art market and building a collection. And whilst many collectors choose an artwork because they’ve fallen head over heels, others are looking to make an investment for the future. Getting to know more about the commercial success of an artist and having a conversation about whether the work has proved popular in the past means you’ll really have a sense of the artist’s trajectory, helping to decide whether the piece is right for you. However, this question always comes with a piece of advice – our top tip is always to buy from the heart, this way if the artwork value increases over the time it is an added bonus, if not so what? You love it!
5. Where and how would you hang this piece?
Don’t forget that gallerists are also expert art installers and hangers and will have plenty of advice about what type of interior a work might go with, what sort of style it might complement and how they’d hang the work themselves. Questions like these are important as they help you visualise the piece within your own home.
This is the fun part - so if you’re feeling unsure, have a chat about the room you’re planning to hang the work in and what might surround the piece of art (bringing a photo is also really handy). The gallerist might have a bright idea or be able to share stories about how another client hung or installed a similar piece. For tricky to hang pieces, make sure you get some advice about hanging so your piece doesn’t sit around collecting dust for too long once it comes home!
6. Can I pay in instalments?
It’s well worth asking the gallerist a few practical questions - and if your budget is a little tight, never feel like you can’t discuss the price of the work. You never know, the gallerist might have a slightly smaller piece by the same artist tucked away which fits your budget better. Or, they may be part of a scheme like Own Art, which means you can spread the cost over monthly or quarterly instalments. Other practical questions to consider might be about shipping and delivery or whether the work comes with a certificate of authenticity.
7. What’s next?
Finally, for budding collectors, there’s always that vital question to ask as you leave us - when’s the next fair?! Join the gallery’s mailing list and make sure you’re on ours too, where you’ll receive all sorts of arty updates and offers. The gallery can keep you in the loop about any exhibitions they’re having that relates to your interests as well, meaning you can join them for openings or special events they might be hosting.
We hope that these 7 quick questions have helped you feel confident when chatting to our family of galleries – don’t forget, they’re a friendly bunch and have a ton of experience in helping art-lovers like yourself select and install that perfect piece.
Featured art from first to last:
Paul Coventry Brown, Divided, 2016, 20 x 30 x 2 cm, Oil, £995, Tallantyre Gallery
Jack Tanner, Above the Clouds, 2016, 96 x 96 x 7 cm, £3750, Fflow Gallery
Miguela Vallinas Prieto, Ceci n'est pas votre oeil derriere une loupe, 2017, 70 x 50 x 0.1 cm, C-Type, £790, My Life in Art