How To: Buying Art Online

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 4.39.56 PMEverything is available online anymore. Cars, flatware, TVs, homes – you name it and it’s likely just a quick Google search away. But there are some items that can be more tricky to purchase site unseen than others; specifically, fine art.

Because tastes in fine art can vary so greatly from one person to the next, judging whether or not an advertised piece will be a perfect fit for you can be tough through a laptop screen. Save yourself some heartache and hassle by going through the checklist below before locking in that purchase.

See Things Clearly
Most preview images that you’ll see in an online auction aren’t going to be high resolution. Screen size, color settings, the age of your monitor – all of these variables can greatly affect the way a photo looks on a computer or mobile device. Be sure that the artist or website has a high resolution image available so that you can see as much detail as possible before you even begin to discuss pricing.

Avoid “No Returns” Sellers
Not every purchase is going to work out. There are any number of reasons that you might need to return a piece of fine art, and you would hope that the artist would be willing to accommodate those rare instances. Unless you’re 100% sure that the item you’re considering will be a perfect fit you’ll want to discuss the possibility of returns, and who would be responsible for any of the charges associated with that return.

Measure Twice, Buy Once
Do you know how big the wall is that you’re looking to cover? Will there be enough clearance between the top of your sculpture and the ceiling? Measure any display area carefully before you even begin to browse. For framed pieces consider making a simple paper mock-up roughly the same size as the painting and put it on the wall to get a sense of what you’re getting into.

Buy From Reputable Vendors
Anyone can slap together an online ad, so be sure that you’re purchasing and bidding on a reputable and secure site like Artnet.com. Consider making a call to any phone number that’s listed, or sending an email to given customer service addresses. If you’re unable to get a response from a real person it may be time to look for another vendor.

Regardless of what you decide, information will always be your best friend. The more that you can learn about a specific vendor, artist or individual piece the better you’ll be able to negotiate to a price that’s fair for both you and the artist.

For more information about buying and selling fine art online see our posts about protecting against fine art fraud, how to properly shipped framed art and how to work with commissioned artists.

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