For new collectors and those just beginning to explore the world of art and artists, much about the art world can seem like a mystery -- opaque, aloof, and exclusive. This can certainly be the case in some circles, but like anything so broad and diverse as a term like “art,” the experience of appreciating and collecting art can vary wildly. Even commercial art galleries, the most obvious choice, are a spectrum: of artistic philosophy or vision, style, subject matter, and of course, price. For those with a newfound craving for artistic stimulation looking to immerse themselves in the world of art - the kind of art they can bring home, not just what's exhibited at museums - there are a variety of places to begin their hunt, each offering an experience as unique and diverse as the art itself.
Begin your adventure of discovery by browsing online dealers, galleries and websites
A variety of digital platforms have cropped up in recent years to help make it easier to discover, buy and sell art online. Saatchi Art is particularly well known for providing a single, searchable platform and community - with curators and art advisory services for guidance and structure - to discover a range of art and artists at a variety of price points. Spend some time viewing and reading about art online, then observing what you respond to.
Up your odds of falling in love at fairs, group shows and art events
Any event in which a group of artists show their work together gives you greater odds of seeing something you'll enjoy. This kind of event can range from the ultra-tony, high-end Art Basel fairs to scrappy group shows organized and bootstrapped by the artists themselves. To find out about these shows, seek out local art nonprofits, artist-run collectives, and art fairs coming to your city -- then follow them on social media or via their email lists.
Get personalized, informed guidance via art galleries and art dealers
Galleries and dealers provide a service as much as a physical good or retail space: curating work around a certain philosophy or aesthetic vision; educating the community about art in a macro sense; and helping individual collectors identify and articulate what kind of art they are most drawn to. Finding a gallery whose mission you connect with aesthetically and philosophically is as important for collectors as it is for artists seeking representation.
You must physically go to art galleries and experience the space to understand this accurately. The opening night of a new exhibition is often a paradox; with the crowds and bustle of the evening, it's typically the worst environment to experience art. However, most galleries will coordinate their opening nights with other nearby galleries, giving you the opportunity to see a lot of art in one evening. And many do make an evening of it, taking advantage of the complimentary wine (and often, hors d'oeuvres) as they hop from gallery to gallery. Even though you may begin your journey of art-seeking online, seeing art in person is the best way to learn more about art. There is simply no substitute for standing in front of a piece and soaking it in, letting it slowly unfold and reveal itself. Take time with the art, ask honest questions, and stay open-minded.
Get on the email lists of galleries that look interesting to you to find out about openings and new exhibitions. To find galleries in your city, in addition to searching the usual places online (Google, Facebook), you can also check out the local gallery or art dealers' association for a full list of galleries (for example, in Dallas this is called the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas, or CADD).
Galleries, if they’re good, work hard on behalf of their artists to sell their work. They allow their artists to reach new audiences, they validate an artists' work by virtue of representing them commercially, and they provide a venue and exhibition space for work in a format that is sales-centric. And opening and running a gallery is no easy feat -- it is certainly no safe bet financially. With high overhead costs and unpredictable sales, many gallerists struggle just as much as their artists. Those who become gallerists or curators do so out of a passion for art, and follow their calling as bravely as any artist. For these reasons, it is standard practice for galleries to retain 50% of the price of any work of art sold. Many new art enthusiasts are surprised to first learn this, but a worthwhile gallery earns every cent.
This model, however, can sometimes make it difficult to price work in a way that is accessible to a wide range of collectors and also economically viable for either the artist or the gallery. Everyone’s familiar with the auction houses and the seemingly unlimited prices they can often command for well-known works of art. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s not uncommon for emerging artists whose work takes a long time to make to sell a piece and then wind up getting paid something that, when calculated hourly, is lower than minimum wage. Time spent is not necessarily a valid yardstick by which to measure the worth of art, but the dilemma is still clear.
Dive deeper by buying directly from an artist's studio (or online store).
This is why many prefer to buy work directly from artists. No middleman means every cent of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, and artists can set prices that accurately reflect the value of the work and are accessible financially to a broad range of potential collectors. This direct, one-to-one exchange can also foster deeper, more meaningful relationships between artists and collectors. This has certainly been the case for me. Interacting directly with the people who fall in love with my work is hands-down one of the best parts of being an artist.
The catch, though, is obvious: researching and learning about new artists can be time consuming and difficult, especially for new art enthusiasts and collectors. This is compounded by the fact that art-making is quite different from marketing (or at least it should be!), and many artists struggle with the latter, which can make it more difficult to discover their work. The rise of social media, however, is rapidly diminishing this gap.
It's now easier than ever to discover the work of new artists online. Many artists promote their work on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook and Twitter, among other platforms. Instagram is arguably the most popular social channel for the art world, but I also occasionally turn to Pinterest to discover new work, and Facebook is valuable for learning about new art-related events in my community. Start by searching for keywords that describe the style, medium or subject matter of the kind of art you think you like. For example, as a painter working with a form of realism and the human figure in oil, I might tag my art on Instagram with terms like #contemporaryrealism, #figurepainting, and #oiloncanvas. And if you’d like to discover the artists in your own community, you can also search Instagram for hashtags that include your city name. For example, as an artist currently based in Dallas, I sometimes tag my work-in-progress photos with #dallasart, #dallasartist, or #dfwart or #dfwartist.
Almost every artist actively selling their work has a website these days, and more and more are selling their work through custom online stores by sites like BigCartel and Squarespace. However, many artists are still accustomed to thinking about the website as a pure portfolio, with no e-commerce function, or they may prefer to keep their prices close to their vest (or have galleries through which the work must be sold in certain geographic areas). If you discover an exciting new artist whose work truly speaks to you, but you don’t see prices on their website or an easy way to buy their work online, don’t be discouraged! Instead, simply reach out via the contact form on their website or the email address they provide. Even if no sale eventually takes place, I promise it’ll still be the most exciting email they’ll receive all day (and may even make their week or month).
For a long time, I also subscribed to this idea of the website as only a portfolio (probably an idea I picked up in art school), even though I sell my work independently, via my website and word of mouth! Eventually, I found it overly time-consuming to constantly update and send out a PDF listing my available work and pricing every time someone asked. So, I finally launched a store on meganvangroll.com. Now collectors always know which originals and prints are available and at what price. Many artists describe this approach, even if the transaction takes place online, as “selling directly from the studio.” In fact, if the artist is local to you, you can often visit their studio. There is nothing artists love more than to interact with their patrons in as intimate a setting as the place where they make the work you’re both so passionate about.
However you choose to discover art, approach your search with confident curiosity and an open mind.
The art world is notorious for a certain perceived aloofness. The most important thing for new art enthusiasts and collectors to remember is not to be intimidated. You will be warmly welcomed into the fold. You are quite likely to find art you can’t live without (and that you can afford!) if you look long and often enough.
I’m also launching an email newsletter soon for my inner circle of collectors and supporters, with updates every few weeks or so about new work, my process, inspiration, and methods, and other updates from my studio. If you’d like these updates, you can join right here: