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How to identify and buy quality, affordable art for your home


Selecting and purchasing art to display is a highly personal and potentially expensive decorative component of a beautifully designed home. For many of us buying heirloom investment pieces seem out of reach, until you consider the possibility of buying from young and up-and-coming artists.

Charlien Muller, artist and art teacher based in Pretoria, says that the South African art scene is vibrant, with many promising young artists working at establishing a market for their art. Muller manages a campaign on her Facebook page where she markets her own work together with that of other artists – experienced and those just starting out. This method of marketing her and others’ work has worked well; she says that she has sold over 500 paintings since 2007 using this method of marketing. The artists working with her are open to negotiations, with some of them even agreeing to a payment term, enabling more of us to now be able to afford really beautiful pieces for our homes.

Ensure your walls are the perfect co-star to your art

According to her it is fairly easy to buy a long-term investment piece, provided you do your homework, ask for knowledge and help from an experienced artist, and access the correct avenues. Muller advises that, depending on theme and complexity of the piece, you can expect to pay between 40c and 50c per square cm if the artist’s work is unknown, but that many variables influence the price of a quality investment piece.

The price of an artwork is determined by a number of factors including the size and complexity of the painting, market demand for the theme of the painting and previous selling prices achieved of the artist. She explains that prevailing market prices and current economic conditions also have an influence on the price the artist can expect to achieve.

“With new-comers you tend to find that prices are lower as artists are working at establishing a name in the market,” she says. “But even experienced artists are more negotiable during tough times.” She explains that now is when you should be looking to invest.

Zoning in on art gemscharlien-art-combo-resize

Muller says that when looking for that “bargain” art buy, your best bet is likely to be scouring social media platforms or specialised art sites. Art galleries and print media is also an option, but Muller cautions that print media is losing traction with artists as it cannot update new work as fast as digital sources can. This might therefore not be the best place to find art gems.

Although researching the artist’s work and ensuring that you are familiar with the artist and past selling prices achieved is the most fool-proof way of ensuring you buy a potentially valuable piece, there are some basic things you need to know and consider before buying art, especially if you are a novice.

The materials used by the artist definitely influence the price the artist can expect to achieve. “The quality and size of frame used is one of the most expensive determining factors of price,” explains Muller. “Although the type of paint used does play a role in the costs of the artists it is basically insignificant when it comes to the buyer’s perception on price.”

As a buyer your chief consideration should be the decorative value the piece will add to your home. You need to have a vision of where you want to display the art and how it will add to the beauty of your space. Muller advises that the art you buy should strongly reflect your personal taste and that you need to feel a connection with the piece from the moment you see it – it will be in your home for quite some time after all.

Based on these factors you can then make the artist an offer. Muller cautions, however, that you need to keep in mind that the reputation of the artist and previous selling prices reached must reflect in this offer.

Art is as much an emotional purchase as a sound long-term investment. You may find yourself paying a higher price for a piece of work just because it really struck a chord. This is fine too, ultimately it’s about the feeling you get every time you walk past your artwork.

All art pictured is the work of Charlien Muller


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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