[Basic knowledge of buying contemporary art] Thorough explanation of points when buying art from an art collector

table of contents


How to buy contemporary art

Hello everyone. This is GOSUKE, the manager of MONOLiTH, a contemporary art online shopping site.

Have you ever wanted to buy art?
It seems that the number of people who buy art is increasing in Japan, especially among young people.

I myself bought art for the first time when I was 25 years old, and before I knew it, I had purchased a little less than 10 pieces, filling the walls of my room.
Collection habits are scary...

However, at first I didn't know where to buy or what kind of things to buy, so I went to see various exhibitions and actually bought them to acquire knowledge.

In this article, I will explain how to buy art. Specifically, where you can buy it, what types are available, and how to look at the price.

We hope that art purchases are not cheap purchases, and that you will encounter works that you can call treasures for a lifetime!

primary and secondary

This may be a new term for many of you, but there are two markets in art: primary and secondary.

"Primary" means "first, first", and as such, it refers to the initial distribution from the seller to the buyer. It is to purchase works directly from the production side such as artists and galleries.

On the other hand, secondary means "secondary" and refers to secondary distribution that does not include the production side after the primary transaction. For example, in auctions, such as buying and selling between individual collectors.

This word is very common in the contemporary art world, so I definitely want you to remember it.

Now, I will introduce where you can purchase works in each market.

How to buy primary

There are five main ways to make a primary purchase:

art gallery
department store
art fair
online shop
Buy directly from the artist

I will briefly explain each.

    1. art gallery

An art gallery is primarily a place where artists hold solo or group exhibitions. When I say artists, I don't mean world-famous people like Banksy or Kaws, but rather famous people in the art industry or people just starting out.

Unlike art museums, which are large buildings, art galleries are often small-scale tenants in buildings in the city like this.
art gallery

A feature of galleries is that in many cases, admission is free, and the artist who created the work is in the gallery. It is attractive that you can actually talk with the artist and decide to purchase the work.

You can read more about galleries in this article.

    1. department store

Major department stores such as Isetan Mitsukoshi and Daimaru have recently put a lot of effort into selling contemporary art. We often hold solo and group exhibitions of young contemporary artists, as well as exhibitions of famous artists such as Banksy, kaws, and kyne.

Art exhibition at department store Isetan Shinjuku

In addition, since department stores often exhibit artists who are expected to break out to some extent in the future, there is a high possibility that it will be an asset value.

However, the disadvantages of department stores are that they are in good locations, rents are high, and the prices of works are a little higher than other methods.

    1. art fair

Once a year, such as Art Fair Tokyo and Art Fair Osaka, galleries and artists gather at large event spaces such as the Tokyo International Forum to exhibit and sell their work.

State of Art Fair Tokyo

State of Art Fair Tokyo

The art fair is recommended because you can see various works at once.

    1. online shop

An online store that sells artwork. Our site MONOLiTH is also here.

As an advantage, you can purchase art from anywhere in the country without having to go out to buy art, and you can carefully consider it without worrying about the eyes of artists and staff like in a gallery.

This site, MONOLiTH, mainly deals with young Japanese contemporary artists.

Click here for art online shop MONOLiTH

    1. Buy directly from the artist

This is a slightly higher-level purchase method, but you can also purchase directly from the artist. Inquiries via Instagram, etc., and convey your desire to purchase the work.

However, it is a way of buying for middle-advanced people, because it is psychologically difficult to contact the artist suddenly, or they do not get a reply because they are busy, and they sell only through the gallery.

How to buy a secondary

Next, we will introduce how to purchase a secondary.
There are three main ways to purchase a secondary.

art auction
inter-collector sales
Flea market services such as Yahoo Auctions and Mercari

I will briefly explain each.

    1. art auction

Starting with the SBI Art Auction, art auctions are a hot topic these days.

State of art auction
State of art auction

This is an art auction company in which individuals and corporations evaluate their own works and put them up for sale in an auction format.

In addition to being able to bid online without going to the venue, it is also attractive that anyone, including those who do not bid, can see the works of famous artists from Japan and overseas at a preview (preview).

You can read more about art auctions in this article.

    1. inter-collector sales

Although it is still a minor purchase method, there is also a form of buying and selling between collectors.

For example, in a service for art collectors called COLLET , you can see a list of works owned by art collectors who have registered with the service, and you can make a purchase offer for the works you like.

COLLET service for art collectors

COLLET service for art collectors
COLLET service for art collectors

Even if you don't have an art collection, you can register for the service, so you can enjoy just looking at what kind of works are in the collection.

    1. Flea market services such as Yahoo Auctions and Mercari

Lastly, this may be a service that many people are familiar with.

You can also purchase works from flea market services such as Yahoo Auctions, Mercari, and Rakuma.

However, I personally don't recommend purchasing from flea market services, as it is a den of resellers, the exact condition of the work is not known, and counterfeits are sometimes sold. There is a point.

original and reproduction

Next, I would like to explain about the original painting and the reproduction painting.
There are two types of art works: originals and reproductions.

Original paintings, as the name suggests, refer to works that are actually drawn with paints such as acrylic paints and spray paints.

Reproductions refer to works that have been printed using printing methods such as silk screens and giclee prints.

●Original drawing
Original artwork by Rin Yusuke Sano

Art reproduction of Backside works.

Of course, if it is the same work, the value of the original is high because it is a one-of-a-kind item, but the reproduction is not of low value at all.

Reproductions have something like a serial number called an edition (often abbreviated as ED), which means the number of prints made.

For example, ED30 means that there are only 30 reproductions in the world.

Depending on the artist and work, even reproductions often fetch millions of yen at art auctions.

Market price (an index called unit price)

Since the prices of art works vary depending on the artist, there is no clear market price, but there is an index called the unit price of the issue.

The canvas that is mainly used when drawing a work has a number. The number starts at 0 and increases as the number increases.

Description of the number of canvases
About the number of Sekaidou canvases

And the issue unit price is the number of issues of this canvas divided by the price.

For example, if the work of No. 50 is 500,000 yen, 500,000 yen ÷ No. 50 = 1, that is, the unit price of the issue is 10,000 yen.
If the work of No. 50 is 1 million yen, 1 million yen ÷ No. 50 = 2, and the unit price is 20,000 yen.

As for the unit price of this issue, although it is assumed that it depends on the artist and work, the general market price is 10,000 to 25,000 yen.

By the way, the unit price per issue changes depending on the popularity of the artist, and it is higher for famous artists than for newcomers.
For artists, raising the unit price of an issue is also proof of stepping up.

Points when buying art from the point of view of the author

So far, I have explained the basic knowledge of buying art, but from here, I will briefly introduce the points that the author, who has actually purchased several pieces of art, look at when purchasing.

First of all, the most important thing is whether or not you like the design of the work .

It goes without saying, but I think it's very important that you like the way it looks, because you'll be decorating it at home and seeing it every day.

And next is what kind of artist painted the work .

Art is not a cheap purchase, so it would be sad if the artist who drew the art I bought with much effort quits his activity immediately.

For that reason, we look at things from various angles, such as what kind of background they have in creating art, what kind of theme they draw, and whether they have established a style that makes it possible to recognize the work of that person just by looking at it. I will continue.

Another point to consider is the age of the artist, so if you're going to go out of your way to buy works of the same generation, I'd like to have a good influence on myself to work hard in life without losing myself.

I think the fastest and most accurate way to understand an artist is to actually go to the gallery and talk to them.

And finally, this is quite a difficult place, but whether there is an asset value or not.

It's also true that you can't enjoy your art purchase 100% because if you look for asset value, you end up buying something that someone says is good.

Therefore, I think it would be a good idea to try owning some art and at some point aim for art with asset value.

First of all, I recommend that you buy your favorite works without worrying about the asset value.

By the way, the asset value of art is explained in detail in this article.

Commentary on art investment

[Art investment] Is asset management profitable with art? Introducing the recommended method!

Explains how to purchase and select works in art investment/asset management. As an actual example, I will introduce the price transition at the art auction of Backside works.

Introduction of MONOLiTH

This site has become long, but MONOLiTH handles a large number of works by carefully selected young contemporary Japanese artists.
Unlike art galleries, you can't directly see the work or talk directly with the artist, but you can take a closer look at the work and examine it.

For that reason, it is highly recommended for those who feel that going to an art gallery is a bit of a hurdle and difficult due to the distance.

For example, in the case of online, there is the problem of not knowing the size of the work, but MONOLiTH creates a composite image of all works so that you can see the size.

In addition to the works, we also provide information about the artists on our website and Instagram.

I would be very happy if you could consider MONOLiTH when purchasing art!

Click here for art online shop MONOLiTH

At the end

So far, I have explained the basic knowledge for purchasing contemporary art works.

Before and after buying art, I feel that there are many things that change in life, such as the value of money and the ability to make decisions.

We hope that you will be able to find wonderful and favorite art that can be said to be the treasure of your life!

Thank you for reading this far.
See you soon!

MONOLiTH Operation Manager
Gosuke Onoda