How to Start an Affordable Art Collection

Recently completed painting of flamingos

The message over the past few decades has been that the art market is open for business – and that everyone can be a collector. A stunning art collection doesn’t have to be worth millions – art is an intensely personal thing, and affordable art is available for every taste.

When we think of art collectors, we often think of an exclusive world of the super-rich. Visions of masterpieces selling for millions at Sothebys, or international art fairs in exotic cities where prices start at five figures can put art lovers off the idea of collecting original art.

The world of art can feel closed off, snooty and inaccessible. However, wealth is not the motivation behind the creation of most art, and art does not exist simply to be investments for the rich and famous.

The message over the past few decades has been that the art market is open for business – and that everyone can be a collector. A stunning art collection doesn’t have to be worth millions – art is an intensely personal thing, and affordable art is available for every taste.

As ecommerce rises and online platforms for artists to market themselves grow, more avenues are opening for the average art fan to become an art collector.

Tips on how to become an art collector...

Study art

Taste can be purely intuitive, but it can also be formed after reading about the art we see. Learning the stories of artists, movements, eras and subjects, we start to spot pieces we feel close to. This helps mould a taste in art and leads to easily spotting pieces to fall in love with in a packed affordable art marketplace.

Start small

This isn’t always the case, but when it comes to art, smaller usually means cheaper. When browsing affordable art, look for smaller pieces that appeal to you to build the rest of your collection on.

A great place to ‘start small’ is the postcard auction hosted by the Royal College of Art in London. (external link)

Past contributors have included David Bailey, Grayson Perry and Jarvis Cocker. You may also end up investing in early art work by the big name artists of the future – you simply can’t lose!

Go Local

If you’re based anywhere that isn’t London or a major international city, art may feel inaccessible. The truth is that art markets and initiatives in London have money behind them and are marketed extensively. However, if you hunt locally, you will find bargains. Looking online is a good start – search on social media for local artists, and look in local art shops and galleries, who will happily guide you to other galleries in your area. Getting a good feel for your local scene is a great basis for building a collection, and you will be supporting artists you have a connection to.

Brilliant resources for affordable art

Affordable Art Fair

Started in 1999, the Affordable Art Fair has become a global phenomenon, with branches ranging from New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Stockholm. The London fair in Battersea has grown into a huge event, with plenty of high quality work on offer for under £500. The mass appeal of the affordable art fair is reflected in the fact that it has attracted 1.6 million people – incredible figures in the relatively small art world.

Society6

This website sells great original prints for a snip. Artists curated by Society6 tend to veer on the quirkier side of art, with art featuring familiar celebrities, animals and pop culture imagery. The site has also launched a wall tapestry section, and often has free shipping promotions.

Etsy

The home of the handmade online is also a treasure trove for original art. Because of the popularity of the site, you may have to surf through a lot of rough before hitting the diamonds, but many reputable and talented artists use the platform to sell limited prints and original artwork. Etsy isn’t curated, but it’s packed with gems at affordable prices.  

Rise Art

Original art, prints and photography is available on this wide ranging and brilliantly curated site. All art is under £1,000, with many pieces available for under £100. Rise Art is also unique in that it offers a rental service. If you are not sure about a piece, simply rent it and see how it looks in your home. If you want to keep it, you can then buy it, with the money you spent on renting going towards the final price.

Tiny Showcase

If you are overwhelmed by the choice of art online, Tiny Showcase needs to be in your bookmarks. The site releases one piece of art once a week. The run of each (always delightful) piece is limited, and a percentage of the profit goes to charity.

20 x 200

This wonderful site sells high quality, curated prints ranging from $24 to $10,000, with a focus on the more affordable end of the scale. Work by artists all over the world is showcased by this New York based initiative.