Purchasing a Painting over the Internet: Is It Safe?

27 Jan

September, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

The Internet has opened all sorts of new markets. Books, clothes, music, home decor, all come our way at the clacking of a key — why not original art as well? As owners of the online gallery Steve Henderson Fine Art, we encourage cyber sales, and through the years, have found ourselves addressing the best way to make both client and artist happy with the experience.

For a brief overview of purchasing paintings online, Ehow addresses the basics in How to Buy Paintings Online, but after this  primer, you’ll probably have a few questions. We’ll start by one that we consider very important: 

Is it safe?

Purchasing art over the Internet is not like ordering a pack of socks. Because many individual artists sell their work online, you want to make sure that the person with whom you are dealing is a valid artist, running a reputable business, and willing to work with you throughout the process.

Many brick and mortar gallery or art museums that represent specific artists have an online presence in addition to a street address; there are also strictly online conglomerates that offer work by a multitude of artists. These should be relatively easy to research, as, in the case of the former, they generally leave a footprint in the form of newspaper articles, magazine reviews, and Chamber of Commerce statistics, and, in the latter, showcase a number of artworks by individual artists who can be tracked and identified.

Opalescent Sea, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Individual artists are the most difficult to verify, but also the most rewarding, because you are able to communicate with the artist himself, something that is often off limits in a traditional gallery setting.

To research an individual artist, find his individual website. If you don’t have the address, type in the artist’s name and see what you come up with; you might add “artist” or “art” after the name to narrow the scope, especially if the name is not outrageously unusual.

While it is not a firm requirement, it is a good sign if the artist has a designated website, and not simply a space on a freebie site. An updated, well kept-up website indicates that the artist is serious about selling his work, and should have policies in place concerning client satisfaction, payment, and returns if necessary.

Once you’re on the site, look around: Is the artist represented by any brick and mortar galleries or art establishments? Another good sign. Resumes and background can be made up, but whether or not an artist is actually represented by the establishments that he says he is — this is something that can be confirmed by a phone call, or a visit to the representing gallery’s site.

Has the artist participated in any shows? These, also, can be easily confirmed.

Is the artist a member of any societies or organizations? Has he studied or earned a degree in his field? More confirmation of validity.

Ruby, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Does the artist have a business license? This is public record,  and, again, evidence that the artist is serious about selling his work. (Yup. We’ve got one.)

At any point in the researching process, feel free to contact the artist and ask questions, whether about the artist’s background, a specific work, policies of purchase, or anything that you need to know to further your goal of owning one of the artist’s paintings. Most websites have some manner of contact form, and working artists enjoy interacting with the people viewing their art.

Buying a painting is a process, and once you find an artist whose work you like and whose credentials are established to your satisfaction, you are ready to ask serious questions of the artist about the piece or pieces in which you are interested. After all, seeing a painting on computer screen is not the same as seeing it in person, so how do you ensure that what you see is what you get?

That’s for the next article. To make sure that you don’t miss it, please subscribe to this blog in the E-mail Subscription section in the right column near the top of the page.

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