Where & How to Buy Original Art for Your Home

By: Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Photo by Toa Heftiba

Original art means, of course, no reproductions, no prints, no copies, but these works come at a premium and can be hard to find unless you have a seat at Christie’s. Here are our favorite places to score original artwork online as well as tips from the pros—art advisors and artists alike—on how and where you can find beautiful work at a great price, no auction paddle required.

Best places to buy original art online

Chairish

Chairish is an online marketplace for vintage decor, furniture and art, and if you’re not willing to deal with the stress that comes with auction sites, go with Chairish.

We love Chairish because they have a team of curators who vet items for quality, so you don’t have to worry about coming across a Target chaise. They also have expert-curated lists (like this one from Dara Caponigro) as well as lists by maker and by style, so if you’re more Gustavian Swedish than Danish Modern, they’ve got you covered.

Chairish handles all the shipping too, so you can skip scouring Craigslist for a dude with a truck.

Check out the gallery of artist originals here.

Everything But The House

EBTH.com is an auction-format online estate sale marketplace. They have oodles of great artist originals, and all auctions start at $1—no matter how notable the artist.

EBTH is for those who crave the excitement of Sotheby’s but prefer the comfort of their own home. I personally love their Art Deco collection, which lets me imagine that I’m decorating my house for Scott and Zelda’s visit.

Check out paintings up for bid here.

Saatchi Art

Saatchi Art is the best places to start if you know you want to begin a collection of original art but don’t know where to start. It offers a free advisory service that will select around 30 works of art based on your taste, space, and price range.

See Saatchi Art’s selection of paintings here.

Photo by Deanna J

Tips for buying great original art

Here are tips from art professionals, sellers, and artists on how and where you can find great works of art for your home.

Kipton Cronkite, art curator and advisor

The best ways to find original art for your home is to have a good art advisor. However, if you don’t have an expert in your back pocket, the best place to “win” art is to bid on art at charity auctions. I have picked up many pieces over the years at charity auctions in New York where artists have donated valuable works of art. Most of the time you can pick up pieces for a fraction of the retail price too!

Although I don’t necessarily buy art at flea markets, you can get some really great deals on old vintage oil works to place in secondary areas of your home (powder room, guest rooms, guest bath rooms).

I don’t suggest buying art on eBay, but at auction (as long as it’s the top houses like Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips), I say YES! The experts at auction houses do their due diligence on the artists and artworks so there is a layer of protection and vetting that comes with the price of the commission. Of course, outside of having a great advisor to help you, going with your gut and buying what you like is my number-one rule. If a piece of art (no matter the value) makes you smile and feel good, then buy it! Art is meant to be enjoyed!  

Olivia Tornick, Rago Arts & Auction Center

[When buying at auction] Take time to explore the online catalog and look closely at the images provided. Request additional images and a condition report from the auction house before you bid. Understand the buyer’s premium (how much you will be charged in addition to the hammer price. This is usually around 25–30% depending on the auction house and bidding method).

Also, if you are not picking up the item directly from the auction house, be sure to call the shipping department to request a quote for delivery. You don’t want to set your budget and then find you didn’t plan for shipping costs.

Sarah Becktel, artist

My favorite place to find original art is actually Instagram. I follow lots of other artists and have bought a number of pieces after seeing them posted on Instagram. As an artist myself, I think it’s fantastic to support living artists (so they can continue to create) and Instagram is a great way to connect with, and buy directly from, an artist.  Connecting with an artist directly allows the collector to ask questions and get background information about both the piece of art and the artist’s methods, materials, and techniques.

Photo by Alfons Morales

Lyndsey Dee, Ontario Mall Antiques

Head out to flea markets, antique shops, and estate sales. If you head out early, you’ll find the best pieces, if you head out later, you’ll find decent pieces that the dealers are ready to get rid of and are open to negotiating.

It’s best to prepare before venturing out. Dig around online for favorite artists or types of art you may be looking for. Ask Art is a great resource to look up artists’ names and see who is actually listed as a signed artist. This also gives you an idea of how much these artists’ pieces are worth.

Ask! Ask! Ask! It’s always best to ask the dealer what they know about the piece. Antiques pickers and dealers scour estate sales, auctions or someone’s attic and may regale you in some interesting stories they stumbled upon behind the painting.

Be your own investigator. Scope out the pieces to see if they are real and not a copied print. Look for the canvas staples to the backs of frames, paint strokes and texture as well as signatures. Frames and images can tell you age based on appearance too.

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