Buying Australian Art For The Home - Lucy Feagins, The Design Files

It's easy to feel a little uninformed on the subject of art. Whether wondering what to buy, or how to display, there's often a sense that you'll 'get it wrong'. In fact, that mindset couldn't be further from the truth.

First and foremost, buy what you like. Don’t get caught up in trends, or perceived future value. If you’re investing in artwork, it should appeal to you aesthetically. Imagine waking up to it every morning. You want to really love it.

Melbourne gallerist Sophie Gannon warns against treating art as decoration, though.

“Don’t choose art to match your furniture - good art will outlive your couch,” she says. “Art will be with you forever.”

Artwork in the Sydney home of Daimon Downey. Photo: Caitlin Mills

If you’re seeking affordable art, look for graduate exhibitions and fundraiser shows to access collectible names at affordable prices. The Westpace gallery annual fundraiser show is well worth a look. High quality art prints are also worth considering - Contemporary Editions produces limited edition artwork reproductions by Australia’s best contemporary artists.

Most established Australian artists will only sell original works exclusively through a gallerist or art dealer, so if you’re looking to purchase an investment piece, this would usually happen through a commercial gallery. Commercial galleries usually have an advertised annual exhibition schedule – but they also frequently sell artwork outside of exhibitions, so don’t be afraid to reach out directly, and enquire about available works which might not be advertised.

The art filled home of Sophie Trippe Smith. Photo: Caitlin Mills

There’s a long standing tension between ‘fine art’ and ‘decorative art’, and I tend to steer clear of this heated debate!

In real terms, ‘fine art’ refers to art created by an artist with formal art training, who is represented by a commercial gallery. This type of artist is a career artist whose practice has some sort of demonstrated history, whose work is likely to increase in value over time, and potentially, to be collected by major institutions, such as the National Gallery of Victoria. ‘Decorative art’ is, as the name suggests, artwork created primarily for aesthetic appeal, by an artist who may or may not have formal training, but who is not primarily concerned with being collected by major institutions. There are many highly talented decorative artists, and I encourage investing in both / either fine art and decorative art. Both types of art will inject joy and character into your home. Generally, though, decorative art is less likely to increase significantly in value over time.

Paintings by Melbourne Artist Katie Daniels. Photo: Amelia Stanwix

Decorative artwork by artist and creative director Emma Abrahams, in her own home in Melbourne. Photo: Caitlin Mills

Buying art is a highly personal decision, and though you will probably want to do some research to justify the investment, at the end of the day, selecting an artwork to start your very own collection is a little like falling in love. When you find it, you just know.

Tips for building a collection

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing and investing in art, but there are a few guidelines you can follow.

  • Join the mailing lists of artists and galleries you like, to ensure you’re first to know about upcoming exhibitions and available works. Email galleries directly if you’re seeking a particular artist’s work – in many cases, popular artists’ work will often be purchased behind closed doors, before an exhibition is even announced.
  • If you’re really serious about building a collection, consider an art advisory service to source works, and guide your collection. Guest Work Agency is a Melbourne advisory service offering both curatorial and legal advice for art collectors.

  • Great framing is non-negotiable! Don't scrimp, use a professional framer. Any artwork is instantly elevated by a proper, custom made frame, and professional framing will preserve the life of the artwork, too.
  • Avoid matching your art to your colour scheme. When artwork matches perfectly with your sofa, an interior can start looking too contrived. Instead, seek out complementary contrasts.

No great art collection has ever been amassed overnight. Embrace blank walls, and wait for your collection to evolve over time.

An eclectic Art Collection in the home of Eryca Green. Photo: Caitlin Mills

Galleries and Resources to follow

Westspace is a contemporary art space, founded by artists. It’s an innovative exhibition space that balances the professionalism and curatorial approach of a contemporary art institution, with the creative freedom and risk-taking of an artist-run space. Their annual fundraiser show brings together a brilliant mix of artwork by emerging and affordable artists.

Sunday Salon is a new affordable art platform, curating local talent. Founded in 2020 by Mirka Mora’s granddaughter, Lily Mora, this online-only offering brings together a diverse cross section of young and emerging Australian artists.

Sophie Gannon Gallery is one of Australia’s best commercial galleries, representing a brilliant cross section of Australian contemporary artists.

Daine Singer is a contemporary art gallery in Melbourne which represents a small group of 15 artists from Australia and New Zealand, and also presents occasional exhibitions by unrepresented artists. Daine Singer’s stable of artists tend to be young, adventurous and slightly more affordable than some of those represented by more established galleries.

Edwina Corlette – Edwina Corlette is a Brisbane based gallery, representing a great stable of contemporary artists from across Australia.

Saint Cloche – Saint Cloche is a contemporary gallery in Paddington, Sydney with a particular focus on emerging artists. Their shows tend to bring together smaller scale, affordable works by local artists.

Guest Art Club - is a network of emerging art collectors, founded and moderated by art advisory service, Guest Work Agency. This art club gives members the opportunity to access artist studio tours and other curated art events, within an intimate setting alongside other emerging art collectors. - @guestclubart


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