Collecting Art on a Budget in 2022

 Collecting Art on a Budget

abstract cover image for collecting art on a budget blog
Collecting Art on a Budget...

Every artist was once unknown until the point they earned the badge we call, discovered. Of course, some never do quite reach the heady heights of discovery no matter how hard they work for it, and that’s a real shame because the world is really missing out on some great art by ignoring the small businesses run by the many independent creatives who are not only contributing so much to the arts but supporting local economies too.

So, you want to collect art on a budget?

If you are thinking about becoming an art collector on a level that’s a little more than just a casual buyer, it’s often said that you will need a keen eye, a budget that you are able to stretch on demand, ideally a few spare walls and an expectation that once you step on to the art collecting path the bug for collecting is likely to bite you very hard. It’s at this point that the budget will have to stretch even more.

From experience, that advice is probably good advice. You can become hooked on collecting and spend an insane amount of money feeding your newfound passion, but collecting art doesn’t have to break the bank. If you don’t mind missing out on hanging a genuine Matisse on your wall, there are much more affordable ways to collect great art on a budget that most people can probably afford, even when economies shrink. That’s the real joy of art, there’s something literally for everyone to enjoy.

circuit abstract artwork by Mark Taylor
Circuit - One of my most recent releases and one of the most challenging abstracts I have ever created!

I am a big believer in making art accessible to everyone. Art isn’t something that should only ever be enjoyed by the world’s most affluent people, it should be enjoyed, cherished, and celebrated by anyone and everyone who wants to either produce it, collect it, or support the arts in general.

So, this week we will be looking at some of the options you have to not only build up a great collection on a budget but also make sure that what you are collecting is way more unique than you might find if you were purchasing mass-produced prints from the big box stores or even original works from one of the many mega-galleries that seem to have become more about corporate than they are about art.

We will also take a dive into the world of art collecting a little more broadly. There’s a great deal of information that you will need to know even when you are collecting on a budget and with a little homework you can avoid many of the pitfalls that new collectors face. Working out what’s marketing hype and what’s worth collecting can be challenging to the uninitiated, but the good news is that learning to avoid the pitfalls isn’t at all that difficult.

It is, as they say, all relative. Whether you are spending a Million plus on a Banksy or a hundred bucks on Etsy, the same principles, issues, and challenges can often apply. It is all relative to what you can and can’t afford to lose, and ideally, if you follow some simple steps and carry out your own due diligence, you shouldn’t be losing anything.

Knowing where to start…

Before you decide on collecting anything or even coming up with a budget, it’s worth spending some time working out firstly, why you want to collect art, and secondly, you need to figure out what you love. You also need to decide whether an artwork's future value will be a determining factor in your collection, or whether you can live with the likelihood that finding a bargain Matisse at a yard sale is a lot like your chances of winning the lottery over and over again.

Is art a good investment?

I can answer this in a single paragraph. No. Art isn’t generally a good investment if you are collecting it on a tight budget, or looking to get rich quick. It’s not even a great investment when budget isn’t an issue. Art is a risky business where prices can be swayed by a single critic review.

You can make a successful investment in art, and there’s little to no love needed towards a piece of art if the outcome you want at the end is purely monetary.  But, art is mostly, and for most people, a really bad investment if you want to get rich quick or get rich at least anytime soon from the proceeds of the art alone. Personally, I have never been convinced that collecting art with its future investment potential at the front of your mind is a great reason to collect art at all, even if you can afford top tier artworks from the world's most elite galleries there is never any guarantee that you will see any kind of financial return on your investment.

The value of art is based on a very simple model of supply and demand. It’s also a model which also brings with it, huge swings upwards in value at times, and equally and more likely, huge swings in a downward direction too. That can be the case if the art receives a bad critic review or when there are downward shifts in the economy, although the economy is often less of a factor.

If you want to fully understand whether art is a good or bad investment, you only need to look at the number of art galleries that have shuttered their doors for the last time in the past decade. About ten years ago, I remember asking a gallery owner friend of mine if they would set up another gallery if they could start all over again and the answer was a resounding no. It had never dawned on me before then that galleries are essentially making continued investments either in art or artists that may never sell, whereas collectors are purchasing the work because they want it and don’t necessarily want or need to sell it on.

For wealthy investors, art is perhaps more of an alluring investment opportunity, particularly if art is just a single strand within a much broader investment portfolio where you are not too dependent on one particular investment opportunity coming through.  With some artworks from some artists, there’s much less of a risk that the artwork will depreciate in value over time, but that kind of art tends to already be at the upper end of the scale when it comes to its value.

Art at the tens of thousands to million buck plus level is less likely to lose money than art that is more affordable to the masses but that doesn’t always mean even at this level, that the artwork will always increase in value. A critical review from a professional art critic can make or break an artist's career and the value of a collection, as can a misstep by the artist or any number of other factors.

Art isn’t like the stock market, it can increase in value when the financial markets are performing at their worst, so for some people, it makes sense to diversify their portfolios by adding in a pricey art collection to their portfolio in the hope that it increases in value. Very little about collecting art at this level is really about collecting art, it becomes more about managing risk. It’s all about scarcity, supply, demand, and knowing when to make a move.

When it comes to collecting art at the level where you are talking about spending tens of thousands or maybe millions of dollars or pounds rather than buying a small original from your favourite Etsy seller, your budget will need to also stretch to caring for the work. That care will most likely need to include things like having to have temperature-controlled environments with detectors that measure humidity levels or making sure that any lighting doesn’t create harmful UV rays that could make the paint fade or crack prematurely. As art ages, it becomes needier and needier.

This is a level of art collecting that can quickly become more expensive than owning and operating a private jet, in some cases a fleet of private jets, and oh, don’t forget the insurance, management fees and the team of preservation experts that you’ll need to have on call. If you then want to move the art from A to B, you might also need a team of specialist art movers to take care of things. If you think about the cost of sending regular parcels around the world, think about sending multi-million dollar works on an aircraft in a temperature-controlled container along with a team of experts who know how to look after work in transit.

The simple fact that we can’t get away from is that art collecting can be expensive, but for those of us who are unable to drop down eye-watering budgets of between $5000 and $500,000, or possibly even more, art collecting tends to be something that won’t necessarily make you mega-rich in monetary terms, but it will certainly make you richer in culture.

Risks to artists can be just as high as they are for collectors, art is generally expensive to create and there are very few guarantees that anything created will sell. It’s not uncommon for many artists to always have a collection of their own work on hand, and that goes for some of the most prolific and popular artists too.

There was one piece of career advice I remember getting from my mentor when I first started creating art professionally and that was to never become an artist. Instead, he told me that there would be way more financial benefit if I became one of the supporting cast. I had no idea what he was talking about until my first gallery gig when I handed over 50% of the sale to the gallery, after spending 30% on art supplies, and giving 20% away to the tax office. It is though, the one piece of advice I am glad I never took.

Out of order abstract artwork by Mark Taylor
Out of Order - A follow-up work to Circuit - Mark Taylor (2022)

Primary and Secondary Markets…

Art is filled with jargon, so understanding what some of that jargon really means is perhaps one of the first things you need to get on top of. Art is either sold in the primary or secondary market, regardless of who created it and where it’s purchased from.

Primary sales of artworks are sales that originate from the artist, their agent, or the artist's studio or publisher. There is a link back to the artist in the primary market so if you buy through this route, it’s a safe bet that the artist will receive some level of benefit or payment. But never assume that the artist will receive the bulk of that benefit or payment, most of what an artist earns will go immediately out of the door as soon as it lands in their bank account.

The secondary market is usually a sign of a growing interest in an artist's work where work is resold, usually through secondary galleries and art brokers, and even at auction houses. The artist doesn’t usually directly benefit from secondary market sales, other than those sales solidifying the artist's worth and adding to the artist's sales record. Things might change as we progress towards blockchain technologies becoming more mainstream, but we’re a way away from that right now.

If you are serious about collecting, even if you are on a budget, it’s worth understanding the differences between primary and secondary markets, and it’s also worth noting that prices on either market are not always lower or higher than the other, you can pick up art on the secondary market sometimes for considerably less than the price it would sell for on the primary market, equally, you could pay significantly more. This is where it all starts to get really complicated.

The secondary market can be a really good indicator of potential future value and often defines the true value of the work as prices are driven directly by market forces rather than galleries, or even artists. Any art is only worth as much as whoever wants it, is willing to pay for it. Of course, that’s also true of the primary market, no matter how many conversations an artist has with themselves about what their art is worth, it's the market who will decide what to pay.

It's worth pointing out here that artists don’t always have the option of setting the initial price, especially if they are represented. That might be the case for some artists who work in the print on demand space too, their prices are usually a combination of production and material costs, shipping, and usually only a smaller percentage goes back to the artist in the form of a commission.

If you are buying from a secondary market, discounts are rarer than unicorns. The market decides what any particular work is worth and if you are not prepared to pay what someone else is, you won’t be able to secure the work. Galleries, art brokers and even artists might try to influence this, but ultimately the buyer decides. However, if you regularly purchase from the primary market, discounts are less rare. Many galleries will look after regular collectors and might offer discounts of between 5% and 10%, but it’s also worth remembering that this discount isn’t usually available from an artist directly if they are represented by a gallery.

Any professional artist will never undercut the gallery they are signed with. It makes little to no sense in discounting the work and jeopardising any future representation from the gallery, but if you are buying enough works via their gallery then don’t be afraid to ask the gallery if a discount is available on works sold through the primary market. It’s not unusual to find galleries that will offer some significant discounts on complete collections, and this is something that is often agreed with the artist before the work even goes on sale.

Geometric abstract artwork in yellow and blue
Fractured Peace by Mark Taylor

Understanding Risk…

If an artist offers to sell you work at a discount on the premise that you don’t say anything at all to the gallery, it should be seen as a red flag and you should buy a new pair of sneakers and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

Any artist who undercuts the gallery isn’t thinking about their existing collector base, and nor are they protecting the investments of current or future collectors. If a work is for sale in the gallery for $10,000, the artist suggests they will cut a deal for $5,000 if you keep the sale quiet, the art at that point has lost 50% of its value. 

You might think you have a bargain but what the artist has essentially done at this point is to halve the value of previously collected works that were purchased for the full price. New sales rely on the price of previous sales and future demand and if you remove value via a discount, generally all sales, past, present and future could be put at risk.

It's worth pointing out right about here that the art world, even the art world that doesn’t come with high-end price tags, can be a bit of a minefield when it comes to placing value on works. Flipping is a word that you will need to be on the lookout for. This is when art is purchased and then resold in the secondary market for higher prices over and over. The result is that the work looks more popular than it really is and therefore it appears to be more valuable than it really is, and yes, it happens a lot. It’s an unregulated market and whilst it’s a legal grey area, little can be done to stop it while people continue to buy the work.

The idea is to create bubbles of speculation in the market to heighten expectations for a particular artist. As with most dubious practices, the bubble can, and eventually will burst as the market corrects, not only diminishing the value of the work but also seriously harming the potential worth of that particular artist in the future.

Shill bidding is something else that you will need to keep an eye open for and this is something that doesn’t only happen in prestigious auction rooms, it happens every day on platforms such as eBay. This is where fake bidders place fake bids in order to escalate the value of the work and the ultimate sale price. You might also find shill reviews or even just comments naming the artist placed strategically online to ensure the artist appears to be more relevant than they really are.

Be wary of private auctions where this is more likely to happen in the art world. The best auction houses will have already vetted potential bidders before the sale so as not to run foul of the many new laws that have been introduced in recent years, but that doesn’t at all mean that the practice doesn’t continue to happen, it happens in any area that attracts buyers and collectors regardless of whether the item is an artwork or not.

I frequently buy retro and vintage computers and recently even video games have been subject to some dubious practices of late. A sealed copy of Super Mario Brothers sold for a million dollars, albeit a graded copy. This suddenly puts a game cartridge available unsealed for less than sixty dollars in the same league as a genuine work of art from an old master. The only rare element is that the game was sealed in shrink wrap which will probably never be opened.

Unlike other investments where there is often a level of protection when things go wrong, art is an unregulated market. Buy a fake and you are generally on your own with a crater-sized hole in your pocket and an art sized gap on your wall. What you get with art is at best, something beautiful, and at worst, an unregulated asset that is illiquid and that also happens to come with high running costs and financial performance that only ever pays out when you sell the piece on for more than you paid.

Just one more thing about fakes and forgeries without going completely down that rabbit hole, never think that fakes and forgeries are exclusive to those pieces with high-value price tags. Believe me when I say that a good proportion of print on demand works will find their way onto the market from third party cushion covers to poorly reproduced prints which are then sold by rogue sellers on online platforms, and mostly without the original artist ever being mentioned, in most cases, the original artist will be totally unaware that their work is being distributed this way.  

Some of my work has been available for a number of years from unscrupulous sellers and there’s very little that can be done when the sellers remain unidentified and uncontactable for anything other than a sale. They mostly originate in countries where British and US laws have little to no reach. The responsible marketplaces are usually great at taking products down and blocking sellers from their stores, but they reappear often within minutes with the same products available from a seemingly different seller. Those HD wallpaper websites that turn up in Google searches are filled with digital prints, the prints usually being scraped from official online channels with many of them still bearing the watermark of the official seller.

Mountain scene digitally painted on a fence panel
Fence Panel Mountain is a follow-on work to my earlier 'Mountain' artwork which is still my best selling work ever! Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022)

The future…

For digital work which is arguably the easiest work to copy, blockchain and NFT (Non-Fungible Token) technologies will begin to make things more difficult for the bad players, but for now, the technology that has the potential to mitigate some of the risk isn’t mainstream enough, or anywhere near as accessible enough for busy working artists and a majority of their collectors.

Vanity Galleries…

I don’t particularly have any issue with so-called vanity galleries, physical spaces where the artist often pays to place their work in a bricks and mortar retail environment. It can be a useful marketing exercise to sell into local markets or to gauge public perception of your work as an artist, but there are differences that are worlds apart between the good ones and the bad ones.

Where I do have a problem is with vanity galleries that offer no form of curated experience, or those that have been set up to take advantage of local artists without providing anything other than wall space.

Let’s cut to the chase here, there are many vanity galleries that are simply in place so that artists can pay to display with little to no ongoing support or marketing available to the artists who are often putting everything into a model where the only real winner is the person who collects the rent.

This pay to display model takes money from the artist rather than the buyer, if the art doesn’t sell, the artist still has to make rent and that’s not good for the buyer or the artist. As a buyer, you will certainly discover some great art, you might also discover a lot of not so great art, but finding the good will be a challenge as most of the good pieces will be buried beneath the bad.

It's worth being clear here that there are other models that might initially look like pay to display models, but there is a difference between an artist's collective or local art group and a corporation basing their model completely on funding directly coming from the artist.

What should you collect?

You’re now aware of at least some of the risks so we can now have a think about what we want to collect. Knowing what to collect very much depends not only on budget but also what you like and what you can realistically afford. I would love to collect original Banksy’s, my budget is more original Etsy.

When you are collecting art you should be collecting something that you can live with and maybe for a very long time. With that in mind, it is worth taking some time before you even begin collecting to work out what kind of art resonates more with you. You might already have a subject or style in mind and that will certainly make things easier, but if you are after something that isn’t generic, something that’s a little more unique, and something that will provide a talking point, then it’s definitely worth exploring the wider art world and also look at genres, mediums, and subjects that you might not have thought about before.

Many people get into collecting art only to become quickly limited in what they can then collect. Popular genres and subjects are a safe place to start particularly if you intend to sell them on fairly easily down the line,  but if you’re after something that very few other people have hanging on their walls you might want to consider looking at more niche subjects and mediums and even sellers.

You could also start with collecting small works or prints from well-known names but that too can quickly become limiting, not least in that you might fast run out of affordable options to continue collecting and once again, well-known artists are already being collected so if you are after that more unique talking point to hang on your wall, the work of these artists is going to be a lot less unique than something from a relatively unknown artist.

Your art collecting might be to create a more aesthetic space rather than it being a collection that needs to provide a return on your investment down the line, and there are plenty of options that will allow you to change the décor without changing the art. My advice is to take in and research as much art as you can regardless of the subject, medium, or artist, and take some time to discover what you are drawn to (excuse the pun).

If you look beyond the safe options that everyone else is collecting you will find artworks that just work regardless of the setting and if you are looking to fill limited space with artworks you could consider something like a gallery wall of smaller pieces. This will allow you to grow your collection without having to consider that all-important other kind of budget that you will need, which is wall budget.

If you only have a small space for your collection, think about periodically resting some works and swapping them out for new additions to your collection, or go with a single signature piece surrounded by lots of smaller works.

retro computer artwork by Mark Taylor
The Retro Collector by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Available from my online stores!

Who should I Collect?

It's worth pointing out at this point that buying the work of an unknown artist or at least work from an artist who hasn’t got anywhere near the same provenance as artists with a long track record of sales, doesn’t make the work any less of an artwork. What it does mean is that you might just be at the forefront of discovering that artist and there is a possibility that your new work will indeed increase in value at some point in the future if the artist eventually goes on to earn that badge we call ‘discovered’.

There is practically, as much risk in collecting works of unknown artists in the hope that they will one day increase in value as there is in collecting anything else, but these risks are heavily mitigated in comparison to buying big-buck collections. You can mitigate the risk a little more by buying from artists who you can see are working hard to develop their provenance and career, checking out whether they are active on social media channels, whether they are involved in any art communities, and by listening for online chatter. I would be less inclined to base any collection on the merits of online reviews, just as I would if I was spending money on art from any mega-gallery where I am being steered towards what the gallery want or indeed, need to sell.

There is also an opportunity to collect outsider art, although it is a term that is used in multiple ways, it’s generally thought to describe work from self-taught artists or those who have no formal touchpoint with the art industry or are naïve to the nuances of the art world.

Art Brut is another term often used interchangeably, yet there are exhibitions specifically for outsider art and it would be completely disingenuous to describe every currently unknown artist as an outsider in the context of thinking them to be naïve or from outside of the art world. If you fall in love with a piece of art then it shouldn’t matter if the artist was self-taught, many of the very best artists throughout history have never attended a prestigious art school.

When I speak about unknown artists, some may be self-taught, some might not attend every exhibition or turn up to the opening of an art world envelope, yet there are thousands upon thousands of unknown artists who are probably more alert to the nuances of the art world than many established artists are.

There will be many, many, unknown artists who might never quite find their way to wearing the ‘discovered’ badge, and many who might not find the moniker of ‘discovered’ until after they’ve passed. None of this means that they won’t ever be discovered, many will, nor does it mean that their art is any less. This is a group of artists who often work even harder than many of the most well-established artists, and maybe often produce dare I say it, at times, much better art.

It's worth remembering that unknowns are usually at least a little known too! There are many unknown artists who are well known within their own niches, geographic areas, and on platforms such as Etsy, eBay, or any number of print-on-demand services, all good examples of platforms that are filled with work that regularly sells, and some of these artists might already have a significant following within their own creative communities. Yet to those outside of those circles in the wider art world, these artists are unknown. An unknown is often almost anything but, so maybe a better term for these artists might be, not yet fully discovered.

Beware the emerging artist hype…

You could throw your money towards emerging artists, artists who have maybe a number of sales and shows under their belt, some of whom might have been newly signed up by galleries, but bear in mind that at the point of emerging, the value will be on the rise and the more budget-friendly pieces will have long ago been sold.

It’s a sort of middle ground between buying from a completely unknown artist and an artist with provenance, an established career and a high price tag. In my experience of being previously (I still think, incorrectly for that moment in time) labelled as an emerging artist, this is where the high-end hype also starts. Sometimes for good reason, other times the hype is self-driven by an inexperienced ego or as a product of a carefully crafted marketing campaign.

There is no defining moment when an artist officially gets to wear the emerging artist badge, many artists badge themselves with this label without any provenance to back it up at all.  You only need to look through Instagram and other social channels to see how egos are crafted on a web page and you might still end up paying over the odds for work that has zero provenance. Word to the wise, make sure you carry out your own due diligence.

If you are looking for a truly emerging artist, my advice would be to look towards artists who are just about to graduate from art schools. Most of the schools will exhibit the work of their students and this is often where you will be able to pick up work that could potentially have some significant future value. Art school exhibitions are frequently attended by professional art critics and these shows can be incredibly important to the artist's future career. It’s an ideal opportunity for those collecting on a budget to maybe find something that will have some level of potential for a future financial return.

Never buy art to match the curtains…

Another mistake many first-time art collectors make is in collecting works that will match existing home décor. That works if you need to find temporary art that will only be relevant while your walls are painted a certain colour, when you eventually change the colour of those walls or change the carpet you will then probably want to change the art. Collecting to match a colour scheme often means that the art becomes as temporary as the next home décor trend.

Whilst you might not be collecting with any future value in mind, you will want to at least protect your initial investment and make sure that the art that you purchase isn’t just a fashion statement for the here and now. There’s little to no collectability value in doing that even when prices are low. If your hope is that the value of the collection increases over time, here and now trends are sold in volumes that automatically diminish investment potential because everyone else is following the same trend and buying the same art.

8 bit computer artwork
Eight Bit Eighties by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Available Now!

Considering price and available budget…

It’s easy to think that the art world is the one place you can rely on to see sales figures that look more like telephone numbers than price tickets and generally, that is kind of all we will see in the media. We never, or at least very rarely get to see any news about independent artists who could very well be contributing more to the local economy than the not quite so local mega-gallery. An artist making a living out of one hundred buck prints is much less interesting to read about than a Banksy work shredding itself, but look towards the artist's story and you might find something even more compelling to read about.

In part, the media bias is because the small numbers involved in many local sales, of which there will be thousands every day, simply don’t make great headlines. The media has been at the forefront of portraying the art world as a single, often exclusive, market, when in fact, the art world as a whole is made up of many components.

It’s not just the way the media like to do things, the mega-galleries and large auction houses also like this approach because it keeps the focus on them, but it distorts the view that we don’t have a single, flat, global art market.

If we identified and included the other markets such as the local Etsy seller and the multitude of other sources of art sales such as the artist who sells from the wall of their local coffee shop, or the artist who sells through an independent retailer, what we would see is an art world where the big numbers suddenly stop looking quite so big. More art is sold in the non-high-end markets than is sold on a Tuesday night in auction houses around the world and every day in the mega-galleries.

Start Small…

My advice to any new art collector is to start small. If you have a limited budget, starting small means that you’re not putting your all into something that you might find you want to change fairly early on in your collection. It also means that you can quickly build up a collection before committing more budget to more valuable pieces.

Rather than scrimp and save, buy good quality works from lesser-known artists rather than buying something that just about falls within your available budget or even stretches it beyond, just so you can own ‘something’ from a more well-established artist. A second rate work from a well-known artist is going to limit what you can collect in the future if the artist's other works are more valuable, and that’s if they’re available for sale. Besides, you can find a heap of satisfaction in supporting the next generation of artists.

Consider starting out with prints. An art collection for some people can be a collection of original Matisse and for other people, it can be a collection of comparatively low-cost prints. If it is about having art on the wall, there’s nothing at all wrong in going down the route of collecting prints, there are a multitude of options available from exceptionally budget-friendly right the way through to archival quality prints that can in themselves become highly sought after, especially if they’re limited editions or signed by the artist.

Even some open edition prints can become highly sought after, especially if you do your homework on the artist. In the print on demand space, it tends to be everything or nothing. Some of these print on demand services print thousands of copies of the same work, others might only sell in very small numbers and in some cases, the artists will retire works rather than have unsold pieces in their online portfolio. If you are looking for work that no one else has, especially when it comes to prints, then print on demand is where you are more likely to find those kinds of works.

What that means for the savvy collector is that as crazy as it sounds, you could find yourself with an open edition print that’s way more exclusive than an artist's limited edition. If you are looking for an art collection that very few other people have on their walls, doing your homework in the print on demand space could see you landing a collection that is very unique for a very wallet-friendly price, and if you can get the artist to sign the print, it could even increase in value. Remember, print on demand means that whilst there may be the option of unlimited prints, it’s quite rare to come across prints only available on that platform available in significant numbers, prints are only produced to order.

Keep an eye open at special events too. My all-time best bargain buy was an open edition Disney print purchased from Disney World but signed by the five animators responsible for creating the image. Maybe not quite as valuable as the original cell would be if it were to be signed by the animators, but in this instance, they never collectively signed the original cell and they only signed two open editions by mistake. Just over twenty years later, that twenty buck open edition is now worth four figures and I own both of them.

If you are starting with prints it’s probably best to avoid the box store variety and look beyond the hype of editions. Some limited editions are so huge that an open edition would sell fewer works, and in some cases, a limited edition might even mean a limited quantity available in a specific size, other sizes might be selling in their thousands.

Buy good quality prints. The type of medium the work is printed on will not only make a difference to the price, it will also make a difference to the longevity and quality of the work, and even its future value. An archival quality print in a quality frame can still be an amazing focal point for your collection many years after you buy it.

It’s worth remembering too that quality art prints are usually crafted by master printmakers and at this level, prints become their own medium. As such, in some cases you can expect to pay a considerable amount of money to own an archival quality work that has been skilfully put together by a master printmaker, usually working alongside the artist who will be overseeing quality.

If you are buying editions, unless you are buying a very early print from a copper plate, don’t fall for the lower number is more valuable sales pitch. A long time ago prints would be created from plates that would eventually wear out meaning that the later print runs would be significantly poorer in quality.

Today, where print plates are used they tend to be created from steel-plated copper, meaning that the plate doesn’t wear out like they once did and all prints in the edition are generally the same quality. Numbering of these prints is rarely issued in print order, the last print of five hundred pieces could be numbered 1/500 or 500/500, and it makes no difference at all to the value.  

Another thing to look out for is when the work has been signed by the artist, but not created by the artist. Some artists will use assistants to create the work in the artist's style, usually overseen by the artist but that is the only interaction that the artist will have had with the work. You are less likely to see this in the independent creative space.

Insert Coin artwork of arcade cabinet door and coin slot
Insert Coin - Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Every element was painstakingly hand-drawn using digital mediums, including each strand of the woodgrain!

Look beyond the gallery…

Some of the best work I have picked up for my personal collection over the years has never seen the inside of a typical gallery, it was discovered hanging on the walls of a coffee shop or a seaside gift shop selling the work of local artists alongside seaside souvenirs. Some of the works I have picked up over the years have been from artists who have since been through their own emergence and have now been discovered and there is simply no way that I would be able to afford some of their more recent work.

Keep an eye open for local events where you are more likely to come across local artists who have a wealth of artistic experience. Many of these artists might also be working in other spaces and using the local market as a way of supplementing their income from other art sale sources. There are bargains to be had even for great quality work and for a lot of people, it’s not the collection that drives them to collect art, it’s the hunt from potentially picking up a real undiscovered gem.

Look out for independent creatives…

Supporting a local arts scene with independent artists who for whatever reason, don’t typically follow the traditional gallery path is where a lot of the most unique work will be found. For me, a collection isn’t so much about monetary value, it’s the emotional patina that comes attached to a piece of work that has been created by someone who is the lifeblood of a local community.

When you purchase from an independent artist you not only help them, you help their local economy. As I grow older (or more mature – because that sounds so much better), I have a very different mindset to the one I had as my younger self who would yearn for an original Hockney. If I invest $300 in a mega-gallery, I am going to get the art that they want me to own, (and not very much of it for that kind of money). If I invest the same in a local artist, I’m going to be looking at a piece of work that has that uniqueness and emotional connection to the artist that I want hanging on my wall.  

I’m likely to also get a lot more from the art, not necessarily on the canvas, but definitely in terms of knowing that the $300 went towards feeding the artist's family and a portion of it was probably spent in their local economy supporting another independent business. I will have also given an ‘unknown’ artist a real boost of confidence, probably much needed for those who work around the clock for less than a living wage, and I might have encouraged them to carry on creating art. I don’t feel as if I get anywhere near that level of value add from a mega-gallery, although one of them did offer me a free cup of coffee once in return for a few thousand dollars that I wish I had never spent.

Not only that, the $300 artwork is more likely to create a bond between the buyer and the artist who created it, and in some cases, a lifelong friendship. At any level, you’re never going to get that kind of value from a mega-gallery but you will nearly always get it from an independent creative. For $300, I can feel valued as a buyer, I can be taken seriously as an art collector who collects art, not in the hope of future resale value, but in the hope that the artist goes on to forge a career out of doing what they love.

Computer store shelves filled with retro computers and consoles artwork by Mark Taylor
The Silicon Shop by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) is available now. This is a nod to advertising in print media during the 80s when a specialist computer store would fill magazine pages with ads that kids would read as eagerly as the rest of the magazine! Notice the cardboard boxes stored underneath the bottom shelf!

Top Ten Things You Need to Know…

In no particular order, the ten most valuable lessons I have learned from more than three decades of creating and buying art are:

Trust your inner gut…

If you like a piece of art, buy it, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. Learn to trust your gut feeling when it comes to selecting work, it will be more attuned to the art you love than listening to a sales pitch.

Build a relationship with the artist…

It’s not always possible to build a relationship with the artist when you are buying from a gallery. It is the gallery, not the artist who owns the relationship with you and I can tell you from experience if they can keep you at arm's length from the artist, most will. At best, you might be invited to a meet and greet, but there’s little chance of developing the relationship further because the artist will have signed a contract with the gallery that puts the power of the transaction in the gallery's hands.

If you want to connect with the artist and where their contracts with galleries allow, most artists will be more than delighted to talk to potential collectors or even people who are just interested in the work they create. Reach out to artists on social media, send them an email, speak to them at shows, and get to know not only them but how they work. Many will come back to you, but be mindful that some artists will have a team of people running their social accounts and they might not get to see your email, but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out.

Support local galleries…

If you do intend to buy work from a gallery, support a local independent gallery, they’re less likely to push you into buying work they need to move so they can inflate sales for the next big show. You are also more likely to have meaningful interactions with their artists, and many independent galleries put the artist front and centre of their operating strategy and from experience, not all galleries do this.

snake pass artwork, snake in bold jungle leaves
Snake Pass by Mark Taylor - Copyright 2022. This was originally created as a commission. The snake is almost leaping out of the canvas!

Frame it…

Frames don’t just look pretty, they’re invaluable aides in protecting your investment for years to come. A good quality frame that protects the art can also add significant value, take the work from so-so to wow, and well-chosen frames can bring your collection to life. Even cheap prints in a quality frame can suddenly feel and look much more expensive.

Use a mount that is the same colour as the paper or any exposed canvas, this will protect the art even more especially if placed under glass, and make sure that the frame itself doesn’t become the artwork. Keep it simple so as not to distract from the content of the work and think about tones that match and complement rather than distract from the work. Professional framing can be much more expensive than shop-bought mass-produced frames, but think of a frame as additional insurance and as much a part of the investment as the artwork itself, good quality frames can pay back over and over in time.

Don’t worry if you no longer love the work…

I’m not sure if I have ever met a collector whose tastes haven’t changed as they have become more exposed to more art. It’s a natural part of the process involved in becoming a collector. The great thing about collecting alternative subjects, mediums and niches is that you have the unique ability to be able to afford to swap works out when they ebb in and out of favour, and they will. 

Right now, my Disney original cell collection is resting while I enjoy computer and video game ephemera, a collection of curiosities from rare arcade game flyers to even rarer point of sale materials used for a short while in retail environments which were originally destined to be thrown away after use. The design aspects alone are a snapshot of the eighties and are rapidly on the rise in collector circles.  Remember, art adorns other things aside from a canvas so if your budget isn’t quite at the level you need right now, look at alternatives.

Set a budget…

You have to set some ground rules when you begin collecting art and you also have to set an immovable budget because art collecting will suck you in. If you are buying works that need to be shipped to you, remember to include shipping costs and taxes in your calculations and you may have to pay more for home insurance. Always let your insurer know about the value of any work you collect as you might not be covered if anything goes wrong.

Spend some time working out what you love…

As I said just now, tastes will change, but you will want a solid foundation on which to start building your collection. Take as much time as you can looking at all sorts of artworks from all sorts of artists, subjects, and mediums and learn about what you like.

untidy 1980s computer desk filled with retro technology artwork by Mark Taylor
Bedroom Coder by Mark Taylor - a nod to self-taught coders from the 1980s of which I was one! My CB Radio handle was Mr Wimpy, you can see the eyeball badge on the desk! Alpine Soda (we call it pop in the UK) was delivered by truck every Friday to every street!

Make sure you have documentation…

Particularly important if your intention is to eventually move the art on in the hope of making a decent return on your investment. If it has been written down, there is one rule, it’s important. This might include obvious documentation such as sales receipts, press cuttings, work in progress photos, and general documentation that supports the provenance of the artwork back to the artist's studio, but don’t think that the documentation that might come with a print is any less important than if it had come with an original work.

Sales records and anything written about the work will add to the significance of an artwork and its worth, as will certificates of authenticity, although these are often a source of frustration with some being worth little more than the paper they are written on.

Know the Market…

Before you embark on a spending spree it’s essential for the health of your bank balance that you carry out some research and figure out the market. This is especially important if you are buying from the secondary market. Sadly, there are unscrupulous dealers who love a newbie arriving on the art-collecting scene and they’re mostly willing to sell at inflated prices. It not only benefits them to escalate a price, it also drives up the value of other works from the same artist.

Take a look through past auction catalogues, online galleries, and websites, especially those that have forums that the community can engage with, you will learn so much about everything from after-sales service to the artwork itself by ignoring the mostly fake reviews that litter the online space and going straight to the people who are buying artworks every day.

Another useful piece of homework that could inform your collecting is to visit multiple galleries or other venues that sell the kind of art you might be looking for and you can do this without you needing to spend a dime.  Just observe what other collectors are buying, and how much they are paying and get a feel of what is and isn’t popular. This should give you a much better sense of what holds the most value now and what’s likely to in the future.

Build meaningful relationships…

No one should enter the world of art collecting without having formed at least a small number of relationships within the art world first, and at whatever level you are collecting. If you make visits to local galleries, especially the independent ones, gallery staff and curators will often be more than happy to impart nuggets of wisdom or explain a piece of artwork and its history. It’s worth visiting museums too, they will have many connections that could help you navigate this complex business we call art.

It's a good idea to join local art groups in your community too, they will often have arrangements with local galleries and museums to offer special tours or experts will come along to events to give insightful talks. These events are useful not only for the information you will gain, but you can often be amongst the first to preview new exhibitions or benefit from some of the best offers on new artwork. Even aside from those benefits, the biggest benefit will be in the relationships you can build, some of these local art groups have vast swathes of useful connections.

What makes art valuable?

If your intention is to collect works that might increase in value in time, it’s definitely worth knowing what makes the artwork more valuable. It’s not always about who painted the work, although that could be a determining factor in any future investment potential, it’s about a whole collection of things that are not always obvious to the new collector.

The story of the artist is just as important as the art. If an artist has a captivating story to tell, buyers will buy into the story as much as the art in some cases. Popularity of an artist really links back to the fundamental model of art sales, it’s all about supply and demand. Popular artists will generally be more collectable than lesser-known artists, but as I said earlier, a lesser-known artist of today could very well be tomorrow's Matisse.

The medium of a work is a factor that you will need to consider, it’s not the case that works on canvas will always be worth more than a work on paper. Canvas will indeed be more expensive for some artists, but where an artist produced almost all of his or her work on canvas and very few pieces on paper, the collectability of the paper-based work could have quite a dramatic impact on its value.

The subject matter of a work could also have an impact on the value, either making the work more valuable or less valuable. A good example is that a far higher number of my retro works have appeared on the secondary market over the past few years, whereas my landscapes tend to be sold more often than not through the primary market. This is due to me only having recently made my retro works available through print on demand, previously they were sold directly to the buyer.

Right now there is an uptick in the number of people buying into retro but if I think back to the years pre-2010, artworks depicting vintage technology really were very niche and there was a much smaller demand for them from anyone other than hardcore retro collectors hanging on to the nostalgia of their childhoods. Today, I sell those works to people who would historically have only purchased my more traditional landscapes.

The point is, looking beyond the usual subject matter in an artwork could turn out to be another great investment opportunity, although as with any artwork purchased with potential future worth in mind, this is still a strategy with baked in risk and you really do have to carry out your own due diligence just as you would with any investment.

Art history is filled with works that were once considered too niche to be desirable to collectors and investors but later went on to become highly sought after.

There’s an important point here, never dismiss an artist who suddenly veers from one style to another thinking that the change will significantly reduce the value or collectability of any of their work. Art history has taught us over the years that swapping genres, styles, or mediums, doesn’t always have a negative effect on the future value of the work, and it might make some works even more desirable. If you think about Jackson Pollock, his drip-style probably springs to mind, yet his works in other styles will be much more attractive to some collectors.

ordered, abstract art print by Mark Taylor
Ordered by Mark Taylor (Copyright 2022) Another new abstract work that will give a sense of bold to any space!

Will collecting on a strict budget mean you lose out on potential future value?

I think it is fair to say that with the majority of working artists not working in the space we call the high-end fine art market, there is inherently more of a risk in securing a work that will go up in value. There’s simply a lot more work from artists working in this space meaning that there’s less of a supply and demand issue overall. That doesn’t at all mean that you will never potentially see a return on your investment, it does however mean that you are less likely to see an upward return on your investment unless you happen to come across an artist who is suddenly in demand.

I also think it’s worth taking some time to carefully think about why you want to collect art though, art collecting isn’t and shouldn’t be all about flipping a canvas to make a profit. You can grow a culturally valuable collection that will provide you with enrichment rather than riches and especially if you are buying from a local independent artist. 

Their art can give you a real sense of value in helping to keep an artist's career alive, you might also help the local economy, and above this, you will be contributing to an area of the arts that is consistently underrepresented, and massively underfunded. You’re helping a small business at a time when small businesses need all the support they can get.

For me, there’s as much, if not more value in doing that if you are passionate about the arts. The arts aren’t all about the mega gallery, the huge shows that attract billionaires in private jets, the arts have firm roots on the complete opposite side of that world. It’s a world that for centuries has existed as much in the shadows as it has in the light, it exists on print on demand, or Etsy, or your local independent gallery, it exists all around you and what you might find once you realise that the arts are right there in affordable touching distance, are works that are filled with passion, uniqueness, and dreams, and those are the very things that are definitely worth collecting.

 Did you miss me!

Sorry to those who have missed me over the past month or so, I have been literally inundated with work and I’ve been working on a series of e-waste art commissions. Hopefully, things might become a little quieter over the next few weeks and I can get back into the habit of writing more regularly!

And a big thanks must go to everyone who has been continuously supporting me by purchasing works from my new retro-inspired art collection, and a really special thanks to those of you who have been sending me computer and video game magazines from the eighties and nineties so I can continue to pictorially document the dawn of the home computer age that made today’s technology possible. It has been brilliant to discover some of these old magazines from the USA too and how very different the tech scene was in the States compared to here in Blighty! Not only that, I am really enjoying being transported back to my favourite age, so please don't throw any of your old magazines away!

On that note, look out for a couple of special features where I will be deep-diving into the technology that has been supporting digital artists for years and I will also be exploring some of the digital art disciplines already using the tools of the future such as Unreal Engine 5!

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. My days are filled with art, dog walking and Teams Meetings, while still being stuck somewhere in the eighties. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here:   and you can purchase my new works, special and limited editions directly. You can also view my portfolio website at

If you are on Facebook, you can give me a follow right here,  You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at


  1. Awesome post once again Mark! I love all your new works.

    1. Thanks Colleen, deeply appreciated and hope you have a brilliant weekend!


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