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Professional tips for selling art – a collector’s guide

Our insider’s guide for emerging art collectors, providing professional insight and advice on buying and selling art.
For many art lovers, an art collection serves a dual purpose. It can enhance your daily life and environment, imbuing homes with interest and beauty. As well as a personal design choice, great art can also serve as a valuable long-term investment.

For many art collectors, art can be a financial as well as aesthetic decision. The art market is seen as a particularly reliable long-term investment, but like any new venture, proper research is essential.

We’ve previously written a buyer’s guide for choosing the perfect artwork for your home – but what about when it’s time to refresh your collection? Today, we provide the ultimate insider’s guide to selling art. Whether you’ve developed a new focus for your collection or are freeing up space, ensure that your sale proceeds without a hitch.

Understand the market

Whilst a trustworthy gallery or dealer will help you understand the current market value of your artwork, there is no harm in doing your own research.

To feel confident you’ve sold for a good price (and to help guide any future purchases), make yourself an expert in the field. Take a look through auction catalogues, art collecting books and gallery websites to understand present and historic prices. If you know anyone who works in the sector, ask their opinion and research whether your collection might be increasing or decreasing in value.

You could even travel to one of the larger art fairs (such as Art Basel, Frieze London or ARCO Madrid) to understand the styles of art that are really exciting collectors. As well as gaining valuable information, it’s also a great excuse for a creative weekend away. A win for any art lover.

Get “retail ready”

If you’re thinking about approaching an art gallery to sell your art, one of the first things to do is ensure all the proper documentation is in place. This could include details such as:

  • Provenance documents 
  • Artist name 
  • Materials and dimensions 
  • Recent appraisal (if appropriate) 
  • Information on condition and care 
Whether it’s an art gallery, dealer or auction house – having this information readily available will ensure a smooth sale process from start to finish.

Such information will also help art galleries develop confidence in customers, aiding their understanding of the way in which an artwork has been valued and priced. Provenance documents are especially important, giving your buyer certainty that the art really is the real deal.

Just remember that who you sell with also impacts the price. Established galleries may pay more than smaller organisations. Other factors include the rarity, medium and even the point in the artist's career at which your artwork was created. The more you know about your collection, the better.

Go to the source

If possible, it’s a good idea to begin with the art gallery or dealer where you bought your piece. They will already have a firm understanding of the value of the artist in question, and may also have a ready-made receptive buying audience (just like yourself!).

Pay the gallery an in-person visit to make sure you are happy with the arrangements, and to get a feel for whether your artwork is appropriate for their current collection and pricing.

If the gallery is accepting new artworks, they will most commonly buy the piece outright. In some scenarios however, galleries may be open to resale arrangements. This is where the piece is displayed for sale, but you remain the owner during this time.

In cases such as this, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the commission and any associated fees and services. Contracts should include details such as:

  • Where the artwork will be displayed 
  • Any fees for the displaying the artwork 
  • The amount of commission due 
  • The terms of payment upon sale 
  • How the contract can be terminated 
  • Which parties are responsible for damages

Build meaningful relationships

It’s certainly no secret that the art world is a sociable place! Networking is essential for buying, selling and discovering artworks (and artists) you truly love.

For anyone looking to sell parts of their collection, building relationships with curators, galleries and dealers can give you access to information on interested buyers and upcoming exhibitions.

Establishing your collection is a process that takes time, patience and dedication – and selling art is no different. Remember the thrill when you bought home one of your first artworks, and don’t lose focus on art as a positive experience. If you can share your love and passion for an artwork, the chances are that a buyer will see this too.

If you’re working with an art gallery, they’ll likely have a strong online presence – linking-up with buyers all over the world. Viewing and buying art online is a significant growth area for the art market. With this in mind, think about how you can tell a compelling digital story about your art to grow that feeling of personal connection.

Maintenance and presentation

If you are lucky enough to be the custodian of a desirable art collection – it’s your responsibility to keep the artworks in pristine condition. This will help to preserve the value of your pieces, and involves monitoring factors such as humidity, temperature and sunlight.

Whilst art should always be bought with aesthetic considerations in mind (and displayed proudly!), this should be done in a way that maintains the artwork’s original quality. If you’re getting ready to sell part of your art collection, make sure it’s presented in its best light. This includes the quality of the frame or packaging, as well as the artwork itself.

Don’t forget to factor in these costs (including insurance, framing and shipping) into your ultimate sale price.

Selling art is a vital part of establishing an art collection you love. It helps keep your collection dynamic and evolving with your tastes overtime. By paying attention to maintenance, knowing your audience and ensuring all the proper documentation is in place – when it’s time to sell, you can truly maximise your artistic investment.

The Artmarket Gallery matches people with artwork they love. Working in close partnership with collectors, artists and leading arts professionals, we are one of the country’s foremost independent galleries. We sell and display art from up-and-coming innovators as well as the most celebrated names such as David Hockney, Banksy, Damien Hirst and David Bailey.