Every collector should know proper care standards for their collection type. Prints and drawings are vulnerable to things that other types aren’t. Each genre of art is vulnerable to different things and it’s important for collectors to understand what those vulnerabilities are. ~ Margaret Holben

Traditional Paintings

Most traditional art pieces are dated from 1860 and earlier. Traditional paintings show a more realistic style and subject matter. Portraits and religious works are very common among traditional paintings. Traditional paintings are generally accurate representations of the subjects painted, and they often document historical time periods before the advent of photography.

Modern & Contemporary Paintings

From the mid to late 19th through 20th century, the Impressionist movement took painting away from traditional methods and into what we now call modern art. Originating in Paris, Impressionism is known for thin brush strokes, outdoor scenery, and vibrant colors focusing on light.

In addition to Impressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Cubism, Geometric Abstraction, Surrealism, and Pop-Art are other modern styles. Modernism ends around 1960, with Contemporary Art rising after World War II and including current artists often working in experimental styles.

How to Buy Paintings

Collecting art is a more distinguished activity than simply buying art. Many people buy art when they find something they love, or a piece they think will look nice in their home. However, collecting art is a more skilled, thought-out process.

A great collector has a style, or a set of preferences, that influences their collection and makes it meaningful to them. Knowing your own personal preferences will also make looking and buying art easier for you. Collectors are free to buy whatever catches their eye, but keeping to certain styles for your collection will help narrow down your options. As you learn more about art over time, you will be able to select paintings not only because you like them, but because you also know the significance of the piece for the artists, how the piece fits in with your collection and any historical importance.

Where to Buy

Both traditional and modern paintings can be found in galleries, websites, auctions and art fairs. Do some research online to find the paintings that fit your preferences and find out the best places to buy them. Your budget will also determine the types of pieces and galleries from where you can purchase works of art.

Distinguishing Originals from Prints

Depending on your budget and what catches your eye, purchasing original paintings instead of prints will make your collection more personal and increase its monetary value. Originals are generally better quality and, if properly maintained, hold up longer than prints.



Because many artist start their works with sketches, drawings can be an intimate way to look into an artist’s brainstorming and creative process. Drawings are also widely available from a variety of artists, and they are popular throughout many cultures, making them easy to find and add to any art collection.

Drawings can be an opportunity to buy a piece by a well known artist at a lower price point. Prices can range greatly, but drawings tend to be less expensive than paintings or more elaborately rendered objects.


Prints are works on paper created as multiple iterations using a transfer process. Prints are made using ink, paper, and the matrix—a tool used to put the image on the paper. Imagine the matrix is to printer as a paintbrush is to painter. A matrix is used in a variety of prints, including woodcut, etching, lithography, and screen printing.

Fine Photography

Fine art photography is gaining popularity among collectors, which is often more reasonably priced than other paintings and works on paper. Art photography involves the creative use of a camera (and sometimes without a camera) and various manipulations to light-sensitive media—digital sensors, film, photo paper, emulsions and image transfers. A well-executed photographic print expresses emotion, often telling a story or conveying a certain concept.

What to consider when buying works on paper


The condition of a piece should be as pristine as possible, and it will determine the overall value and longevity of an art piece. Older pieces will naturally show aging, but the piece’s value will continue to increase with more time, especially the longer it stays in pristine condition.

When purchasing works on paper, request a condition report and talk with art advisors, conservators and restorers for their opinion on the condition of a piece.

Authenticity & Rarity

An original artist signature is the first clue to authenticity, especially when it matches other works signed by the artist. For pieces without a signature, work with a specialist who can look at the piece and help evaluate its authenticity before you buy.

Most original prints on paper should show their original deckled edges—edges that are uncut and reveal the uneven texture of the paper. These edges will indicate whether a piece is an original or a printed copy.


Sculptures give a unique depth to spaces & add diversity to your collection. If you are looking to add sculptures into your collection, first become familiar with the different types of three-dimensional objects, materials used and specifics to buying them.

Types of Sculpture

Full-Round: Full-round pieces are sculptures that are freestanding, designed to be seen from all sides. They can come in static forms, not designed to visualize any sort of movement. An example static piece is a bronze casting of a building. Full-round sculptures can also be dynamic forms, which display something with movement, a ballerina, for instance.

Relief: Relief sculptures use a technique to sculpt something onto a two dimensional surface, with

the imaging extending outward from the surface. The depth of these levels are defined as low reliefs and high reliefs. The low relief pieces are carved with shallow depth into the surface, making the image nearly flat to the surface. High reliefs pieces have deep carvings, making the image protrude further from the surface.

Frontal: These types of sculptures are meant only to be seen from one side: the front. Generally, the other side will be flat in order to hang on a wall.

Landscape: These large-scale sculptures are designed in coordination with an outside space. The space may be inspiration for the sculpture’s design or the artist may design the sculpture with the intent of it being used within a garden or landscape.

Materials Used

Materials are diverse in sculptural artworks. As a collector, the look, price and home of the sculpture are all considerations when buying a sculpture. The following items include some of the most common materials used to create sculptures.

Stone: Can include natural stone, or semiprecious stones like jade and onyx.

Metal: Bronze, copper, and aluminum are common metals used for sculptures. Metals are casted, taking them from a liquid form and molded into a solid.

Glass: Glass sculptures can be made by casting the liquid glass into molds, carving with precision or blown and heat sculpted.

Ceramic: Ceramics are made from shaped clay fired in a kiln. Many collectors have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between fine art ceramics and pottery. The difference is generally functionality. In most cases, pottery is made to be more functional than decorative.

Wood: Carving sculptures out of wood is a popular technique used around the world. Many artists paint on wood sculptures or add other decorative elements.

How to Buy Sculptures

First things first, know your preferences, research authenticity, understand long-term, archival storage, and gather provenance for any piece you consider. Look into the different types mentioned above, find what stands out to you and see if it fits in with your collection. Ask for certificates of authenticity to confirm the true value of your piece.

When you find a piece that keeps your attention, do as much research as possible. Continually learning about artists and their work is key to elevating your collection.

Finally, the place your sculpture will live should influence your decision to buy a piece. Sculpture Grounds recommends keeping the mindset to measure twice and buy once, because sculptures will generally take up more space than other artwork. In most cases, you will not be able to return a piece because it failed to fit where you imagined. Double-check that the space is large enough and any support structures are strong enough to mounted or display on a table.

Landscape art, for instance, should be able to acclimate to its environment. You’ll need to consider weather conditions and maintenance for long-term exposure to the elements.

Maintenance and Preservation

Care for your sculpture may be very specific. Ask detailed questions before you buy a piece to learn how to care for it and if any damages can be repaired after you purchase it.

Things to consider:

Installation requirements, Weight and structural supports, Changes to exposed materials over time

Frequency of cleanings, Damage caused by animals

Start noticing pieces you enjoy, and start researching three-dimensional works that you think fit with your collection.


“Consumers crave experience over objects—a commission satisfies both needs. When someone sees my work, but has an idea—they will often opt for a commission,” says artist Jason Borbay

A successful commission requires collaboration between both the artist and collector.

Follow these do’s and don’ts for commissioning a custom artwork.

Ask questions and communicate your desires clearly. First, inquire to see if the artist is taking commissions, and ask if he or she accepts the type of work you would like to commission. Ask about the process, prices, and timeline.

Share with the artist what specifically intrigues you about their work and how

you see it working with your vision. Next, ask yourself these three questions.

(i)Is the work as good as the non-commissioned work?

(ii)How many commissions has the artist created?

(iii)Can the artist clearly articulate the process, from start-to-finish?

Assume that every artist will want to accept your request or wait until work has

started to discuss important details.

Artists may turn down requests for a number of reasons: they don’t take com-

missions, they’ve had bad experiences in the past, they are currently working on

another commission, or they may feel your project is not a good fit. When important details are discussed up front, the artist can respond quickly and negotiate something that can work for both of you.

Provide the artist with as many details about the piece as possible. They will need to know what materials you desire and any special processes or techniques that might be involved. Do anything that gives the artist visual references, such as images you find inspiring, other pieces from the artist’s portfolio, or an example from which to work.

Where are you planning to install the final piece? Provide photographs and descriptions about the overall style so the artist can understand how this piece with fits with your aesthetic.

Be vague and don’t expect the artist to know exactly what you will like. Even if you feel like you connect well with the artist, and they seem to understand, have the artist repeat back how they interpret your instructions and examples. Don’t be shy about asking questions.

Prepare and sign a contract. You should have a contract in place between you and the artists before work begins. It should include price with all applicable expenses and payment terms associated with creating the piece.

In addition, the contract should also include a timeline to mark when certain aspects will be completed and what to expect during the approval process. This timeline should include specific completion dates and a description of the expected progress at those times. Keeping dates on the calendar will help you follow along and check in with the artist at appropriate stages during production.

Finally, the contract will explain what rights you and the artist have for using the work.

Once the contract is approved, many artists require at least fifty-percent deposit up front to get started.

Assume that terms, price, and timelines will work themselves out or develop along the way. The contract keeps the process as professional as possible by setting clear expectations for the entire project.

Communicate and have fun while working on a commissioned piece. Keep in touch with the artist to follow along on progress, making sure the project is delivered on time. Double-check to see if they need anything from you—more reference images, materials or time. By communicating any concerns clearly, you and the artist can put doubts aside and be excited about the project.

Lose contact with the artist. Do not wait until the piece is nearly finished before you check in. If the artist is on the wrong track, big revisions could be expensive, time-consuming and compromise your relationship with the artist. Communicating often is part of the process—artists should expect you to reach out frequently, and you should always check in if things have gone quiet.


Buying art online can be fast and convenient, and with the right questions and considerations in mind, you can easily grow your art collection with online purchases.

Challenge: Can’t See the Piece in Person

The Hiscox Online Art Trade Report noted that 71% of buyers made a purchase based on the online image alone.

Inspecting an art piece in person is a valid concern when evaluating an artwork’s value and quality. Internet shopping, however, limits this in-person interaction, and this challenge can influence what you buy. If you are like many collectors looking to start acquiring artwork online, you might not be sure if the image online is a true representation of what you will get in person.

How can you feel confident knowing that the artwork you see online is exactly what you will receive?

The solution: Research on the artist or seller, and find all the places online you can find this artist’s work. If you are not buying from a reputable art gallery, check out the seller’s history and reviews. Social media can be a helpful tool to find collector groups and discover new artists that sell their work online.

Reach out to people directly. The more people you can ask, the easier the research can verify online artworks, artists, and the sellers. Ask sellers for a condition report and any provenance documentation.

Challenge: Unsure of Authenticity

Making a purchase only to find out the artwork is a fake, or the website was a fraud, is a fear that keeps many art collectors from purchasing online. As a buyer, one of your top concerns is getting what you pay for. As a collector, having legitimate pieces is imperative to your collection.

The solution: Contact the seller and ask for a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). The certificate should originate and be signed by the artist, a publisher, an established dealer, or an acknowledged expert on the artist. Do not trust a COA without this an original signature.

Challenge: The Website Lacks of Information on the Piece

When shopping for art online, information can be challenging to find on the pieces you want. Provenance for the artwork in your collection establishes its valuation and authenticity. Keep in mind that this information is essential if you ever try to sell any artwork and when estate planning.

Not sure what provenance is?

The solution: Ask the seller about information they have that documents the artist and the piece’s history. If they can’t give you what you need, do your own research. This is one advantage online shopping has—you can do your own searches on the artists and their work.

As your collection grows, an inventory management tool, like an Artwork Archive account, keeps provenance and documents organized and protected. Working with cloud-based digital collections keeps your originals stored safely off-site and prevents wear-and-tear for future generations.

Challenge: Vague Logistics and Insurance

Seventy-one percent of collectors in the Hiscox study also wish there was more information online about shipping, handling and insurance for the pieces they purchase. What happens if the piece gets damaged during shipping? What does insurance cover if the piece arrives damaged?

The solution: Before you buy, look into the website’s shipping and packaging methods and cost. Ask the seller about their return policy and insurance, especially if it is not clearly stated online. Review the return policy in case the piece you receive does not match the online image.

The Bottom Line

As online art sales continue to grow, and more than 91% of galleries actively use social media to promote artists. It is increasingly evident that art is being consumed outside of traditional brick-and-mortar spaces. Just ask artist Chris Labroy, who told Hiscox:

It’s difficult to see how one can exist without a digital presence. That’s how important it is to my career.