Real Homes

The affordable art lesson

Art can provide that all-important finishing touch to a scheme and allow you to express your style – but you can find pieces that won’t break the bank too, discovers Jennifer Morgan


Ever feel like your room is lacking something? Walls looking a bit bare? Perhaps you need a hero piece – or even pieces – of art. ‘Art can completely transform a home,’ says Will Ramsay, founder of the Affordable Art Fair (affordable­, ‘whether it’s a bold statement piece that lights up a room or a gallery wall of curiositie­s.’ But if you’ve shied away from art in the past, thinking it out of budget, panic not – there are lots of ways to make art a part of your home without blowing all your cash, and places to discover it, too.

The Affordable Art Fair was born in 1999, out of a wish to make art accessible to all. ‘I also wanted to demystify the art buying process, while supporting contempora­ry artists,’ says Will. ‘We now host fairs in 10 cities around the world.’ There are two London fairs coming up – Affordable Art Fair Hampstead (5 – 8 May) and Battersea Autumn (20 – 23 October). ‘It’s like seeing 100 exhibition­s all under one roof, with art to buy up to a ceiling price of £7,500.’

And then there’s Instagram. ‘Artists at all stages of their careers use Instagram,’ explains one such talent, Helen Stone (helenstone­, ‘It’s a great place to look for pieces you’ll love forever. Follow Instagram links to individual websites (some are shoppable) and don’t be afraid to DM the artist.’ There are also some great hashtags to follow. ‘Matthew Burrows MBE started #artistsupp­ortpledge on Instagram in 2020 to keep artists working and selling through the pandemic, and it’s a great way to find affordable pieces,’ Helen adds. ‘The artist posts original work for sale with a maximum price tag of £200 (plus postage) and pledges to buy another artist’s work when sales hit £1,000. As a buyer, you just DM the artist. Look out for trails and open studio/ open house days near you, too. They’re fun, you see plenty of art and meet the makers.’

Some artists use specialist art-selling platforms such as Saatchi Art (saatchiart. com) and Art Finder ( ‘These are easy marketplac­es for a buyer with lots of support and advice, and you can search by style, medium, country of origin, and so on,’ explains Helen. ‘All prices are marked, and some artists offer original works and prints.’

‘Buying art on sight is great, but don’t be put off if you see something you like but that isn’t quite right – for example, the wrong size or colour,’ explains writer and artist Kerry Hussain (kerryhussa­ ‘Most artists are happy to take commission­s. I offer a free consultati­on to discuss requiremen­ts and once I receive the signed agreement, I get to work. Clients can be as involved as they like in the process; some people are happy to let me get on with it and others like step-by-step progress reports. I’ll send updates as I go along, charging half up front and half on delivery.’

‘If something is out of budget you may find a print version available,’ says Will. ‘Or you could ask to pay in instalment­s (usually our fair exhibitors are happy to oblige), while the Own Art scheme ( can help you split the cost over a few months or years, making it even more affordable to start.’

‘A print is a great way to start collecting without breaking the bank,’ agrees Helen. ‘Not


to be confused with print-making – which is an art form in itself – a quality reproducti­on of an original painting or drawing helps support the artist and allows more people to enjoy the work. Often described as a giclée print, a high-resolution image is printed by a highresolu­tion ink jet printer on to archive-grade fine art paper. Offered in a choice of sizes, they’re often limited runs, signed by the artist.’

Okay, so you’ve got some idea of where to look, but what should you look for? ‘Art can have a huge influence on the feel of your home,’ says Kerry, ‘and it’s important to buy what you really love rather than what’s on trend. Statement artworks in the living room and main bedroom can be complement­ed with smaller pieces dotted around the rest of your home. Often art is the afterthoug­ht, but I think it’s important to consider it when designing a room as it can have a big impact on the look and feel.’

‘My art gallery owner friend always says to me that if you find an independen­t artist that you love, support them as if you were supporting your favourite football team,’ says interiors blogger and author of Resourcefu­l Living, Lisa Dawson. ‘Follow them, champion them and share your love for them with your friends. I’ve got a variety of artists on my walls, discovered either online or at art shows. Anna Marrow, Marcelina Amelia, The Connor Brothers, Babek Gangei, Frankie Thorp and Sadie Tierney are just a few of my favourites.’

‘You should always love the art you buy,’ says Will. ‘Don’t buy something because of what someone else thinks or because of its perceived value. Buy it because it makes you happy. Do spend time getting to know the artist and the story behind a piece too – this will really help you to understand more about it and whether it’s right for you. There are many factors that make a great piece of art – affordable or not – but the most important thing is your reaction to it: does it inspire you? Does it make you feel something? Can you not stop thinking about it? The best pieces I have invested in are those I love – and keep coming back to find something new within them on every viewing.’

‘Consider your space,’ says Will. ‘If you’re just starting out with your collection, think about what will make the most impact on the room: are you looking for lots of smaller pieces or one or two larger works? Do you prefer framed or unframed canvases? Art collection­s should evolve over time and grow with you. You may find you want to start small and build up to buying that statement piece, or you may prefer to buy big and less often. Don’t buy art to match your sofa – buy what inspires you. You will find the right place for it!’

‘What you put on your walls should really mean something to you,’ adds Lisa. ‘Choose something that makes you smile and reminds you of good times.’ Lisa loves a gallery wall: ‘The best are the interestin­g ones that evoke conversati­on and encourage you to look closer. Restaurant menus from special occasions, children’s drawings, concert tickets, charity shop finds – all of these are ripe for framing and adding to your space to create an eclectic and interestin­g display. Juxtapose such memories alongside favourite prints, investment art and photograph­y for a collection that draws the eye and is a work of art in itself.’

And finally, ‘always keep an eye out as you never know when a great piece of art will come calling,’ says Helen. ‘I’ve known of some incredible finds that have turned up in charity shops and on Ebay.’

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