Where to start when buying art - learn top tips from trade experts at The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia

Running from 20th to 27th June, The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia is a key event in the global art and antiques calendar, attracting visitors from across the globe. Known for its diverse offering, the Fair will feature 160 of the world’s leading art, antiques and contemporary dealers at Olympia London.

Loved by collectors, interior designers and those looking for exceptional pieces, the event showcases the finest array of art and antiques including furniture, alongside jewellery and collectables. From antiquity to the present day, every item is individually vetted by a team of independent experts – enabling visitors to buy with confidence.

Art enthusiasts will discover an impressive range of paintings from Modern British and contemporary to Old Masters as well as 18th and 19th century art, prints and posters. Those with a keen eye for jewellery will find thousands works including pieces from distinguished designers such as Cartier, Boucheron, Vacheron Constantin and Tiffany.

Buying your first piece of valuable art for your home is a hugely exciting moment.  Often it’s a big investment and searching for that one statement piece to start your artistic journey can be intimidating.  Should you buy the big names?  What style should you look for?  And where do you buy from?

Here are some top tips to provide the starter art collector with all they need as they begin their journey.

Buy what you love

John Robertson, art dealer says: “Buy with your heart.  The pain of parting with your money must be totally subsumed by the pleasure of ownership”. 

Accept that mistakes can be made in art, just as in love, but embrace it.  It can be a journey of a lifestyle as you learn, become braver and expand your horizons.  I’ve bought and sold thousands of pictures during my 50 years in the trade yet still feel I’ve barely scratched the surface”.   

It’s an endlessly rewarding journey of detection, embracing patronage, fashion and power.

Charles Plante, art dealer agrees: “Always buy a work of art which you love!”


Research, research, research

Jamie Anderson from Waterhouse and Dodd says: “The golden rules are to firstly read and research; visit auctions and art fairs and follow up with visits to galleries. Supplement these visits with trips to museums and open exhibitions like the summer shows at the RA and through all these trips, get a handle on where your taste lies.” 

Tanya Baxter from Tanya Baxter Contemporary adds: “Learn the art of buying – trust your eye as well as your due diligence and research.  You will live with these works for a long time.”
“Learn about the art market yourself by attending exhibitions, museums, lectures and talks and of course, read up on the internet.”

Mary Claire Boyd, Fair Director at The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia adds:
Works with documented provenance represent a savvy purchase. Artists who have works in public collections or  have had one man shows with top galleries and museums will forever be in good stead – as will members of the RA. Buy from a 'vetted' fair like Olympia, (where every piece is checked by experts before opening) if you possibly can to ensure authenticity.”

Discover what you like

Anderson says: “You should find an artist or style and period you like. Make use of books and magazines and online sites like Artsy and Artnet and research in more depth, then set a budget which is affordable and comfortable. Take your time making an individual purchase and carefully consider each acquisition.”

Baxter adds: “Buy with your heart but think wisely. Look at all mediums, different periods and movements. Much like shares in the stock market, don’t overexpose yourself to one particular artist or genre.”

Boyd says: “The best way to know if you like a piece is to physically see it before making a big investment.  This is where the fairs that take place in the UK prove so successful as it gives dealers who may not have a shop or gallery the opportunity to meet with new buyers and show their stock directly rather than just over the internet.  Similarly, buyers enjoy the opportunity to meet dealers who specialise in their preferred artists and genres as it gives them the chance to build lasting relationships with them.”


Buy from established dealers

Baxter believes: “Even the most prolific and prestigious collections started small, so take your time and seek advice from the experts.  Work with a gallery or dealer you trust who has years of experience in the art market and a good reputation.

Plante says: “Buy from specialist dealers who are often experts in their respective fields and can guide you best in their area.”

Robertson adds: “Reputable dealers will be happy to answer all your questions. Don’t begrudge them a profit as they are doing all the work.”


Think outside the box

Baxter says: “If you are buying a big name or a blue chip artist, remember it’s possible to start with drawings.  Just look at the value of Hockney’s drawings today!”


Discover the history of a piece

Baxter highlights the importance of knowing the history of a piece of art: “Provenance is one of the key factors. Check out the paper trail or the history of the work of art – where it has been catalogued and sold at auction, any restoration or if it has been ‘bought in’ unsold at auction. Check authenticity with other experts.”


Don’t rely on art purely as an investment

Anderson says: “If you are concerned about investment potential and resale opportunities, you should seek independent advice. Beware any dealer or gallery that guarantees an investment return and be aware that art ordinarily is a relatively illiquid asset. You should buy an artwork because you love it and find it fascinating, not necessarily because you think it will increase in value. If in doubt, get a second opinion!”

Of course the pieces of art you are buying are valuable assets. Baxter says: “Like all other assets, keep records, photographs and insure the value of the artwork at home and work.

Even if you intend to sell the artwork later, enjoy the work whilst you have it.  So many buyers place works in storage which is devastating for the artist’s posterity and indeed a pity that you don’t feast your eyes on your work of art.”

Boyd says: “When investing in art, it’s very important to remember that it’s the collection of works that are worth more than the sum of the individual. So, if you create an excellent relationship with a dealer they will help you build your collection.”

Visit The Art & Antique Fair Olympia: www.olympia-art-antiques.com