Top Tips On How To Find Affordable Art & Ten Limited Edition Buys For Under £100

I’ve always loved curating wall art for my home. My first full on gallery wall was 12 years ago at our home in Caversham - I pulled together a selection of old family photographs, picked up a load of black frames from Wilkos and covered the wall from top to bottom. It ticked the boxes on many levels - it was a focal point for the room, it was interesting to look at, it was full of memories, plus (bonus points) it was economical to create. Spurred on by the success of my endeavours, I covered an entire wall in the kids playroom with colour photographs, stuck on with copious amounts of Blu-Tack. Looked great up, not quite so great when I removed it all and was left with a wall of oil marks. My next move? A white walled staircase gallery wall (this may sound familiar) which teamed nicely alongside two storeys of Tree wallpaper from Cole & Son. Yes, even back then I was an Insta cliche.

My family gallery wall (mid party). Yes, I am dressed as Margot from The Good Life. Allegedly.

My family gallery wall (mid party). Yes, I am dressed as Margot from The Good Life. Allegedly.

Fast forward a decade and I’m still obsessed with decorating my walls. It’s part of my core style - every so often I’ll try something new but I’ll always return to the impact of art to make the rooms in my home my own. I never, ever get bored of looking at art. One of my best ever days was spent with my friend Sam walking around the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, a place that is an absolute must see if you are visiting the City. It’s stocked full of the most amazing pieces - an entire room of Claude Monet Waterlillies, Van Gogh Starry Nights so close that you can almost touch it. Literally amazeballs. Unfortunately, my family don’t feel the same way about the joy of art and would rather cut off their own heads than spend the day walking around the Tate Modern, a fact that never fails to infuriate me. Godammit.

A few years ago, Joe bought me a Benjamin Murphy print as a birthday present and from that point on, I’ve started to really look at what I like art wise and why I like it. As a result, over the past couple of years, I’ve started spending a little bit more on art - not huge amounts, often no more than the price of a night out, but enough to make me feel as if it’s an investment. It’s MASSIVE fun. Instagram is stuffed full of artists and online galleries and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and come out the other side with a PayPal confirmation e mail. Online galleries such as Nelly Duff and Jealous Gallery are a brilliant source of inspiration. The Blisters Show at Print Club London is well worth a look - into its seventh season, they gather fifty emerging artists on a theme (this season it was TV shows) and sell 50 limited editions of each print for £50. You get a piece of art that you love, but you also have the excitement of not knowing whether or not your purchased artist could become the next big thing. The Ace Club Artist Collective do similar - a selection of limited edition artworks for £100 each (currently including Alexandra Gallagher, Heath Kane, Pam Glew and Dave Buonaguidi, to name but a few).

Two years ago, the Art Of Protest Gallery opened in York, combining the extensive expertise of Craig Humble and Jeff Clark. Based in Little Stonegate, they focus on contemporary urban art including artists such as Magnus Gjoen, Lauren Baker and Banksy. I always LOVE going to visit the gallery and seeing what they’ve got and always, without fail, having a glass of Prosecco and a chat with Craig and Jeff whose knowledge of the subject is endless. In the interests of providing a full and accurate account of this super interesting subject, I asked Craig to tell me his recommendations for sourcing and finding the perfect piece of art for your home. Here’s his top tips, followed by my own curation of my favourite limited edition finds for £100 and under.

Craig with artwork by Salty De Souffle.

Craig with artwork by Salty De Souffle.

What’s The First Rule Of Buying Art?

The best way to look at investing in art is always to buy what you love, and if you share your home with a partner, something that you BOTH love. If you get your art purchase right, then you will have it forever and the value of the item, whether it be in the tens, hundreds or thousands, will be paid back in pleasure in a couple of years. 

So Where Do I Start?

Smaller art fairs are an excellent route. The stands in these events are often run by the artists themselves or online independents dipping their toe into face to face dealing. Without the overheads, there is often amazing art at a fraction of the price of a city or town gallery.  Sometimes there’s a fee to enter these fairs, but it’s a nice day out and where there is art there is usually a glass of wine or two to enjoy while you peruse. This is also a location to find emerging artists who are yet to be represented so you are an early patron buying before values have been market tested. There are advantages to buying on the first and last days of a fair.  On the first day, the whole collection is available to you to choose from and on the last, every stand will be looking to do a deal.  Some savvy buyers with the time do both the opening event and the closing day do their spotting on the first day and dealing on the last day. 

Art On A Postcard is a charity lottery run at lots of cool art fairs. All proceeds are donated to the Hepatitis C Trust to help them in their campaign to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2025.  You pay £50 and you get a lucky dip out of, say, 100 originals on a post card - quite often there are a couple of very saleable contemporary artists in the mix (I've heard of people getting Hockney, Hirst and Emin from these sorts of charity tombolas).  Check out Art On A Postcard for the next event they are at.

Craig and Jeff in front of artwork by Defer.

Craig and Jeff in front of artwork by Defer.

Any Other Ideas?

Consider degree shows at Universities with established fine art courses. As long as you are applying the ‘love it’ rule, you will be fine.  Alternatively, if you know the artists work already or have seen it in a friend’s house, a direct approach to an online canny artist will be warmly received. Most have an online presence where you can communicate directly with them. But take note - as an artist’s collectability increases, this avenue closes as availability becomes a key driver of value. 

And Your Top Tip?

Find the art you love then support it like you might a football team or your favourite band as a teenager. These are unique, beautifully imagined items pulled from deep inside a creative soul; none of it is worth anything from one angle but it is worth everything from another. The value of art is built through the love of its collector base; support the creators you love and you might have the lovely dilemma in five to ten years time that the piece you chose has increased in value 10, 20 or 100 fold and you can cash in. Sadly for me the pieces I have collected where this is the case I love too much to ever sell. 

What’s The Benefit Of Buying Through A Gallery?

 An independent dealer in an open source gallery is going to be giving you a curation and quality assurance service so although you may have to pay a little more, they are doing a lot of the leg work for you. Popping into galleries socially to chat about what is on the walls is a good way to start. Aim to find three to five galleries whose style and ethos is akin to your own. You don’t have to buy every time you call in but you will give yourself the chance to fall in love with something by chance and that is often the best way to find art.  Computer and phone screens have a poor colour range compared with the mediums used by artists today. You also miss out on texture, paper quality and scale. So in an ideal world, it’s best to see the piece in the flesh.

Give Me One Good Reason To Invest In Art.

Think about how much you spend on Sky, Amazon or Netflix, then try and remember what you watched on them three years ago. Then compare that with your relationship with a piece of art that has been in your home for a similar period of time. It’s a no brainer.

Investment - Sarah Maple   £95 - Edition of 100

Investment - Sarah Maple

£95 - Edition of 100

New History - Heath Kane, Ace Club   £100 - Edition of 25

So there’s my current top ten faves. Buying art can be so much fun and doesn’t have to break your bank account either - check out the ideas above and see what you can find. It’s great to be able to support independent artists and also add something unique and interesting to your walls. And who knows, you may be buying the next big thing! Thanks so much to Craig Humble for helping me with this blog post and the next time you are in York, make sure you pop in to see him at the Art Of Protest Gallery for a chat. And a glass of Prosecco, obvs.