For wannabe collectors, the art world can be an intimidating arena of bamboozling terminology and as cliquey as a Freemasons’ lodge. But there are ways in.

“It’s incredibly important to get a grounding and education in art history by visiting famous institutions like The Hermitage, Pompidou, Tate or somewhere like the Pace in New York,” says Graham Steele, director of London’s top contemporary art gallery White Cube. “And even the Internet is a kind of Pandora into the art world.” Yes, you’ve got to do your homework.

The hard-nosed business types among you are probably thinking that you can make an easy few bucks by treating art as a commodity — but you’d be wrong. Steele bluntly states, “If you want to make money investing, buy gold instead.” International art advisor Simon Watson gives a similarly bleak view of first-time investors.

“Art should be a passion and a point of pleasure and something to love and live with in your home. After all, paintings don’t come with an ATM on the side,” he tells us.


There are budget-friendly options for under $500. The art advisor suggests looking for “work on paper, prints and drawings from reputable galleries, which have a history of working with artists that show promise.” He adds another affordable option: “I went to Ikea and bought ten frames for three dollars each and I’m going to museums and buying postcards and if you want to spend more, go for limited edition prints from the big galleries.”

Also check out the emerging young galleries, like Untitled in New York, Francesca Kaufmann in Milan and The Modern Institute in Edinburgh. Steele, whose gallery has housed works by world-renowned British artists Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, says, “Don’t buy into new artists immediately. Wait until they’ve produced a few series and look out for positive signifiers such as the amount of collectors and museums that buy their work but it does take a great deal of time and patience.”

Both experts agree that art fairs are one of the most enjoyable and friendly atmospheres to explore the art scene. “Frieze in London, Art Basel, Miami and The Armory, New York — they all sift the artists and make it very accessible to the public,” Watson says.

Follow the fairs

  • Art Brussels, April: Feel the love as you mingle with collectors in their homes at this small and intimate contemporary art fair. Oh and it’s affordable too.

  • Turin Artissima, November: The aesthetic is proudly Mediterranean. One of the best things is that it’s truffle season, so you can see great art while munching on fabulous food.

  • Art Rio, September: Think: Contemporary paintings, sculptures, installations, photography and videos. Let’s be honest, it’s going to be ‘hot’ – it’s Brazil for God’s sake.

Up and coming and affordable according to Simon Watson

  • Matt Chambers: “Los Angeles-based Matt Chambers is a wild-style painter with a background in indie-films. His work is sometimes abstract, sometimes cartoon like, sometimes comical with no real narrative but you find yourself ‘reading’ and mediating the paintings.”

  • Lucas Arruda: “São Paulo-based Lucas Arruda makes stunning, small-scale abstracted landscapes. These seemingly gentle works have a haunting and mysterious quality.”

  • Matt McGuinness: “London-based Matt McGuinness makes punk, pop paintings whose ‘Casper Disaster’ series merges Warholian silkscreen with violent images of war from countries such as Iraq.”

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