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A buyer's guide to buying art, from the UK's leading online auction house.
4 Mins

Buyer's Guide: Art

Jess Gibson
Jess Gibson

Building personal art collections is a tradition that dates back to ancient times, with pharaohs in Egypt gathering the art they not only deemed special, but that also displayed their wealth and power in one collection. These often followed them to their afterlife, with these collections – whilst sharing certain qualities, such as the inclusion of rich, opulent materials – entirely unique to the collector. And, these days, it would seem that many people still ascribe to this theory of art being representative of the purchaser, as well as the artists themselves; it’s for this reason that building an art collection can be a daunting experience.

But it really doesn’t have to be!

Much like painting a room in a bold new colour, the time spent ruminating over where to start can fill you with a trepidation that leads to inertia – though with decorating a room, once you’ve applied the first lick of paint, the next steps are much easier and, if you apply this mindset to browsing for and buying art, you’re bound to find the experience enjoyable and fulfilling. So, where to start?

You’ve got style

Art has, and continues to, evolve over time. As socio-political traditions and fashions altered throughout the centuries, and new modes of creating art were established, certain artists and styles rose to the fore and were lauded for their contributions to the art world; others failed to witness any form of real admiration and recognition until decades or centuries later. In both cases, these factors have influenced the value of the artwork produced, with some seen as more worthwhile than others. For example, the introduction of silk to Europe transformed the creation of tapestries depicting historical events, as brocade and other silk-weaving techniques were incorporated into artwork, raising the worth of such pieces due to their association with royalty and aristocracy.    

The point here is that there’s so much variation within the art world and, therefore, variation in the value, that having a firm idea of what your own personal style is before you embark upon an art hunt is pretty much essential. Are you a fan of nature and still life? Or do you feel like abstract, figurative work is more your thing? Do you want variety or a more flowing, fluid visual experience?

If you aren’t sure of exactly what you’re looking for, it’s worth attending art shows, exhibitions and museums. Social media is also a great way to find the artwork and artists that match your own vibe and allows you to create an online folder featuring the type of work you want for reference purposes.


This one is a fairly simple, standard step when buying art. You need to set yourself an overall budget, but in order to do this, you would benefit from researching what certain pieces are worth – as quality, time period, artist, and medium can all affect their value, and it would be prudent to arm yourself with such knowledge before spending your hard-earned cash.

Your own ‘gallery’

Whether you’re planning on creating your own mini gallery or simply want a piece that draws in the eye and fills a gap, some consideration of what style and medium you want is useful. Are you looking for Renaissance-style pieces? Or modern, Andy Warhol-style art? Do you want it to demonstrate your own personal changes over time via a mixture of mediums and sizes, such as sketches and paper-based prints alongside photographs and framed oil paintings?

It’s often suggested that you stick to one colour palette, but we would argue that the colour palette should depend entirely on your own personality and aesthetic: if you’re quirky and eclectic, then why shouldn’t your art collection be, too?

Patience is a virtue

If you have a very particular artist, time period, or style in mind for the space you’ve got, it may take time for you to source the art you desire, and so patience is key. Online auctions allow you to view a wealth of choice without having to to invest time, energy and money on travelling around searching for pieces. 

You may have found a piece that you fell in love with but you aren’t sure about the space you’ve placed it – allow time to live with such items for a while and, if necessary, move it about to see where it fits best. And then apply this approach to building up your collection.

The purpose here is to enjoy the entire process; if you rush it, you’ll miss out on the joy of savouring the way pieces fit together and complement one another.

LOVE, not like

This point is simple: you should love the piece you’re buying.

The biggest things to remember when buying art at online auctions are a) you aren’t trying to impress anyone, but to pick pieces you feel inspired by, that reflect your personality and values, and b) trust your instincts by being both discerning and brave – who cares if no one else loves it? All that matters is you!  

Here at William George, we hold regular auctions of beautiful, rare, and unusual pieces, from print clearances to fine art and everything in between.

Take a look now at what you could soon be hanging on your wall!