How to buy art online – Best tips for 2021
You’ve browsed around and found that perfect piece of art that you just know is the one. How do you buy it safely, knowing that what you see is what you’ll get?
If you haven’t bought art online before, or are relatively new to it, there are many things to consider. First off, don’t worry – thousands of pieces are being sold to happy customers every day. With a bit of guidance you might even fall in love with just how easy it is! We’ll walk you through the key things you should know when shopping for art online.
- Is it safe to buy art online?
- Find a reputable gallery
- Dig into the details of the art (and the artist)
- Confirm shipping and return policies
- Your art’s arrived! Now what?
Is it safe to buy art online?
Yes! Especially if you’ve read up on how to prevent getting scammed when shopping for art, because as with any online shopping, it pays to do your research. If you’ve chosen a trustworthy gallery, especially one with a guarantee on the artwork (more on that in the next step), there will be less of a chance that the sale goes south.
It’s really not much different than buying anything else online, but the question, “Is it safe to buy art online” seems to come up quite a bit, anyway. Maybe it’s because of the potentially expensive nature of the art; the fact that fakes have and do exist; or the risk of making a relatively large investment without first seeing the product in person. All those are valid concerns, and with a little prep work and common sense you can put those worries to rest, hopefully.
You can always use an escrow service
If you want to be extra careful, you can use an escrow service. An art escrow service essentially just holds your money until you’ve received and reviewed the art. Once you approve, your money goes to the artist. If you decide against keeping it due to damage, inaccurate representation of the art itself, or similar, you can return it for a refund (of course, check with the artist, escrow service and online gallery for specifics first).
For this article we’re going to focus on less expensive art that you can buy online without using a potentially costly escrow service.
Find a reputable gallery
Do a simple web search for “Buy art online” and you’ll find pages upon pages of platforms offering art for sale. So how do you choose a good one?
Read reviews (with a grain of salt)
While online reviews are useful, make sure to actually pick a number of them at random to really read carefully. Watch out for reviews that seem one-sided, whether for the positive or negative. If the purchases and people can be verified, even better, but still, reviews are only a part of your assessment, as often times they can be fake.
Also, and it might go without saying, but your friends, family, or your social network online, may offer up good advice that you can probably trust more than a stranger’s. Let them know you’re in the market and ask them where they’ve shopped online for art.
Understand the site’s shipping and refund policies
Many online galleries offer 14 or 30-day guarantees, meaning you pay, receive the art, then, upon delivery, have up to the allotted time to return the artwork for a full refund.
Remember, though, that most of the time you’ll be paying for the shipping both at the point of sale and for returns, so you’ll only want to fall back on the guaranteed return policy as a last resort.
Make sure you can speak with someone
Have questions about how the art is packaged? What recourse you have if it’s damaged? How long it will take to ship?
Any reasonable question you have should be answered before you go ahead with your purchase, so look for a site that has an easy-to-find contact link, both for the site itself and the artist you’re thinking about buying from. You don’t want to step into a sale without being completely confident that you’re dealing with both a legitimate website and artist.
Dig into the details of the art (and the artist)
You’ve found your gallery, you’ve found your art. Now it’s time to look a little deeper. At this point, you should:
Zoom in to get a closer look
Lots of art sites (Foundmyself included) have a zoom feature that lets you examine, up close, the art in detail. If the site just shows a small image without the ability to look up close, you may want to contact the artist and/or the website for a closer look. If the artist doesn’t want to share a high-resolution version for fear of it being duplicated, maybe they can send a portion of the work. If they can’t provide a more detailed version full stop, then use your best judgement. Personally, I’d like to see the visual details before committing to a purchase.
Double-check the dimensions
It doesn’t hurt to contact the artist before-hand to make sure that the size that’s listed is the actual size of the piece. Some sites have apps that let you view the art on your wall with augmented reality, giving you a decent idea of how the art might look displayed. Otherwise you can always get out some measuring tape and use it to position a proxy for the piece (a cardboard cutout, a penciled outline, etc.) to see how it will look in your space.
Original or copy?
Make sure that you know whether you’re getting the original or some facsimile. If you’re getting a print, is it limited edition?
Also, ask the artist if they provide a certificate of authenticity, and if they do, make sure it’s witnessed and signed by a reputable dealer or agent that can verify it if needed.
Research the artist
Head on down to your local Google and type in the artist’s name to find where else they’ve posted work online. With some basic research, you should be able to see if the artist has received reviews on other sites, where else they’re selling, etc. Contact them directly before a sale, as well, to iron out any details and settle any questions you may have.
Confirm shipping and return policies
The online art gallery, or the artist if you’re buying directly, should have a clear shipping and return policy.
When you buy art online, you also want to ensure that the art is packaged securely, and that the shipment itself is insured if necessary.
Your art’s arrived! Now what?
After you carefully open the package, take a close look at the condition of the artwork. Of course, if there’s any damage, or it’s not what you expected, you might need to contact the gallery or artist and let them know. This is where your knowledge of the return policy and guarantee (or lack thereof) comes in handy.
Most likely your art is in great shape, and you can display and enjoy it! Don’t forget to leave the website and/or artist an honest review, too, if you have the time. It can help inform other buyers down the road.
Hopefully now you’re bit more comfortable buying art online. Have a good experience? A bad one? Some tips we missed? Leave them in the comment section below.