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The blagger’s guide to buying art

If buying art leaves you with a blank expression to match your blank walls, then read on. Before you make an expensive mistake, we called in the experts for some top tips.

While on the surface, art might seem like an indulgence, it’s actually one of life’s simplest pleasures. Forget about the eye-watering sums spent on big name originals – buying art can be affordable and fun.

I love mixing inexpensive prints with affordable one-of-a-kind originals. Which is why I’m heading to the Contemporary Art Fair at Sandown Park Racecourse in a couple of weeks – Sat 14 and Sun 15 March. Some brilliant artists (several of them local) will be exhibiting, and you can browse freely, chat to the artists and pick up some affordable art, anywhere between £40 and £4,000.

With over 160 exhibitors you’re bound to find something – from landscapes to avant-garde sculpture, photography, urban art and more – I defy you not to buy! Even if you have no serious intention of prising open your purse, it makes a fab day out.

To help give us a clue, and save us from making an expensive mistake, interior designer Kate Lovejoy shares her top tips on on what to consider when buying art for you home…



Fiona Pearce was born in Guildford and now paints from her studio in Hampshire

Most people are in one of two camps. They either buy art because they love it and they’ll design a room around it. Or they’ll have no attachment to the artwork, but simply want to add texture to their home. For the former, art is an emotional purchase – the latter will treat art in a similar way to wallpaper.

You can always change your wall colour to tie pictures and interiors together. The colours of the art will dictate the tones to use within the space. There’s no right or wrong answer, but you have to work out your motivation. Either a piece of art speaks to you, or it doesn’t need to.



Diana Jane, ‘Every Moment is a New Beginning’

Try not to worry about arranging all your art in the middle of a wall. Sometimes playing with proportion, placement and grouping can make all the difference. Gather up all your pictures and collectables and try and edit the pieces that you love, work together and what doesn’t – but try and keep it all tonal. There will be places that naturally lend themselves for art placement, and will become a focal point, but I’d say try and be experimental. You may have a chair in a corner with a floor lamp and small, jewel-like piece of art that pulls that draws your eye to that area of the room.



Rob Ritchie, ‘Avalon Plum’

Play with proportions. Dainty artwork can be just as impactful as something huge. I like the element of surprise. Playing with scale in general is always good, and this applies to furniture and lighting as well as art.

A home does not need to look like a gallery, unless you want it to. So don’t be afraid to mix inexpensive prints with original pieces in a gallery wall. Or layer up your scene with sculptural pieces in different forms – ceramic, glass or brass etc.

Often people are afraid of grouping things together, but it can look amazing. I did a gallery wall recently of eight to 10 prints, keep the images tonal and added texture with pattern.



yellow sofa three green organic images on wall in white frames

Tinkz.Art – tonal, co-ordinated artwork

Frames are really important – and can end up costing as much as the some of the art you have bought. Think about the practical stuff: where you want to hang it? Does it need anti-reflecting glass? Or would it better in a spot where reflection isn’t an issue? Is it a standard size? I’d use professional framers where possible, the results are so much better. That said, if you buy inexpensive frames, create bespoke inserts for about £15-£20 and it will make a huge difference to the overall look.



Kasia Clarke, ‘Solace Forthcoming’


To be honest, there are aren’t really many rules. A lot of it comes down to personality. If you hate clutter, you’re more likely to hang your art with military precision – evenly spaced and symmetrical. If you’re a bit more go-with-the-flow, an eclectic gallery wall with a mix of frames and finishes will appeal.

That said, when it comes to mixing and matching frames, I would stick to a seasonal palette.  I wouldn’t put silver and gold together, but I think black, white and gold work, as do natural wood and gold,

When putting art in your room, try and keep to one tone.

If you’re grouping things, the odd number rule naturally feels right. It’s not necessarily hard and fast, but as a basic rule, it’s not a bad one to follow.

Use Command strips to hang everything. Heavier pieces will need holes and hooks putting into the wall, but for anything relatively light, you can use these. They’re brilliant.

For gallery walls, as a guide I’d say to start create a horizontal line keep the space within 30cm of the bottom and 40cm from the sides. Lay the frames on the floor and play with positions. Pinterest has lots of plans for you to follow.

If the artwork is big, make sure you have measured the spaces you will hang it.




It will always depend on your budget. But I am a huge fan of affordable art fairs like the Contemporary Art Fair. There’s a lot of original works that can be surprisingly affordable. So start there. This year, the Contemporary Art Fair includes live demonstrations by exhibiting artsits, as well as artist-led workshops run by Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village where visitors are welcome to try creating their own art. For children, there’s an Art Quest activity trail.

Etsy is another great source for inexpensive prints and posters as well as originals. Poster Lounger, King and McGaw,, Habitat and Rockett St George are all worth looking at and some of the sites you can refine your search by colour and style. So it can make the search a bit simpler if you are only looking for images that work tonally.

The Contemporary Art Fair, Esher, is on from Fri 13 – Sun 15 March. Buy tickets here

Find more ideas here

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1 comment on “The blagger’s guide to buying art”

  • Peter Graham March 3, 2020

    You missed out AppArt at Priorsfield School (this is just the venue, not the source of the artworks, which are professional and amateur), Godalming from 4 April – shame on you!


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