A comprehensive guide to help you buy original art online in 2016. Find out our top picks & the most popular websites for buying art…
1. Top Pick: Saatchi Art
If you’re looking to buy original art online then my top recommendation is Saatchi Art.
Why Saatchi Art? Here’s 10 different reasons why they made top spot…
Saatchi Art is big. Really big. There’s over 500,000 original paintings, drawings, sculptures and photographs for sale by more than 50,000 artists from over 100 countries. You’ve a pretty good chance of finding something you love with those kinds of numbers.
I wrote about my own experience of buying prints from Saatchi Art and was really impressed with their service. Don’t just take my word for it though Saatchi Art currently has a review rating of 9.3 out of 10 Trustpilot rating from well over a hundred customer reviews.
For every original work of art you buy at Saatchi Art 70% of the sale price goes straight to the artist’s pocket. Bricks and mortar galleries typically take a 50/50 split so purchasing from Saatchi Art means a 20% wider smile on the artist you’re buying from.
I’ve discovered several artists for MoMa through Saatchi Art’s Curated Collections. They’re a great shortcut to finding some of the best art on such a huge site. Browse selections from Guest Curators, Art By Room or the best New Additions each Monday.
Saatchi Art offer a time saving and totally free art advisory service for individuals and trade professionals. Work one-on-one with your own personal art curator who’ll assess your needs and tastes then hand-pick a collection of up to 50 artworks to choose from.
One of the biggest barriers to making that initial leap to buy original art online is not being able to see the work in person before it arrives in your living room. Step in Saatchi Art’s 7 day money back guarantee – return the work for a full refund if it’s not quite what you hoped.
I’ve also discovered some amazing artists via Saatchi Art’s One to Watch interview features. Saatchi Art travels around the world to visit emerging artists in their studio to photograph them at work and talk about their practice and influences.
Saatchi Art lets you follow any artist so you’ll be notified first whenever they upload a new piece of original art for sale. This simple feature is a real game changer – once only available to galleries and well connected collectors now anyone can have a direct link to the artist.
Earlier this year Saatchi Art introduced the ability for potential buyers to make a ‘best offer’ for original artworks. If the listed price is beyond your current budget, you can submit an alternate offer to the artist and Saatchi Art will take care of negotiations between the artist and buyer.
Saatchi Art frequently run discount codes and vouchers where you can usually save around 10-15% off prints and original art. If you want to find the latest offers then check out my Saatchi Art Discount Code page which we update every month with the newest codes.
Also there’s an excellent Saatchi Art iPhone app too (unfortunately not on Android yet).
As a footnote if you’re not the biggest fan of Charles Saatchi you’ll be pleased to hear that he no longer has any link to Saatchi Art having sold the site to Santa Monica based company Demand Media in 2014. Don’t think he’s too chuffed about the use of his name though.
All featured on MoMa UK:
1. Gustavo Ortiz – Beautiful South American infused collages
2. Kelly Puissegur – Weirdly wonderful paintings straight out of SF
3. Daniel Mullen – Amazing architecturally inspired forms
2. Best Online Galleries
Here’s 10 different reasons that make them my top pick…
Read my Saatchi Art review or the 10 reasons above for why Saatchi Art comes out top of the pile for buying art online. From emerging to established artists Saatchi Art is a great site for buying affordable art or investing in more expensive work for your collection.
Visit Saatchi Art
‘Insider access to the world’s best art’ is the Artspace motto. A spare £15k will get you an original Jeff Koons ballon dog or three Louise Bourgeois prints. For the rest of us a slightly more affordable £340 pockets an animal themed Dave Eggers silkscreen print.
Visit Artspace (get $50 credit via our link)
An excellent user-friendly site for buying more affordable art direct from independent artists. Can lean towards the craft/commercial end & quality varies but there’s strong art here if you dig around. Photographs by Filippo Minelli & Nadia Attura a case in point.
Visit Art Finder
Think Dan Baldwin, Pure Evil, Maria Rivans, Stanley Donwood & Peter Blake and you’ll have a good idea of the artrepublic roster. The Brighton based gallery is now a worldwide supplier of limited edition prints & posters with a street art/urban sensibility.
Features work by artists currently studying or who’ve graduated within the last five years as well as Contemporary Collective for alumni artists such as Anna Masters & Gosia Poraj. You can also commission an artist for a bespoke piece of work.
Visit Degree Art
Eyestorm’s been selling contemporary art online as far back as 1999. I’m a big fan and have featured several of their artists from Henrik Simonsen to James Hunter. Collecting contemporary art isn’t for everyone but if it’s for you then Eyestorm’s a fine place to start.
Prints and multiples by leading contemporary artists is how Counter Editions describes itself & it does exactly that. Tracey Emin etchings sit beside charming printed sculptures by Rachel Whiteread while David Shrigley keeps things from getting too serious.
Visit Counter Editions
I couldn’t quite get my head around the idea of digital editions when a friend first showed me Sedition Art. Without a physical object can’t you just make up edition numbers? But some beautiful art & Sedition’s smart & simple design quickly won me over.
Visit Sedition Art
I’m all for buying art for office spaces and which office wouldn’t be a little more joyful with the vibrant colours of a Bruce Mclean or Kotaro Machiyama. Rise Art’s uniquely positioned to let you rent art for your office space or home with the option to buy if you like it.
Visit Rise Art
It’s almost worth recommending Lumas purely on the strength of these magical Christiane Steinicke forest themed prints. But plenty more stunning editions await on this German based photography site with the option for large prints & contemporary framing.
I’ve only just scratched the surface of online galleries here but I’m confident these represent some of the best and most innovative around. I’ll continue to update the list when any new galleries stake a case to be featured in the Top 10 websites to buy art.
3. Online Curators
One of the biggest barriers to buying original art online is navigating your way through the myriad of artists and art websites to find the art you love. Even an excellent site like Saatchi Art can be overwhelming to find your way around. We only have so much time to scroll through page after page of not so great art to get to those rare gems we just have to have.
Hence the role of the online curator. While there’s some truth that curator has become a frequently misused self-identifying term by “people who are really picky with what they share on Facebook” there’s still room for passionate lovers of art to guide others towards the art they’re so excited about.
Whether it’s called curating, collecting or jumping up and down shouting ‘look at this!’ doesn’t matter so much as the sharing of creative ideas and expression. The Latin origins of the word come from curare meaning ‘to care’. That works for me.
So which curatorial sites would I recommend? Am I allowed to choose the one you’re reading now? I am? Why thank you generous people, I will.
MoMa UK only started in 2014 so it’s still in its early days but I created this site to make it as easy as possible to not just find art you love but to buy it too. If you can’t easily buy an artist’s work online then I won’t feature it.
The best place to start on MoMa is to browse the Buy Art section for a portfolio of featured artists with selected favourite works and links to buy their work. After that you could browse our Museum section for a bunch of artist interviews, emerging artists, news, offers and more.
Started by fine art graduate and designer Danielle Krysa in 2009 The Jealous Curator is now one of the most popular art blogs around. What began as a way to vent her frustrations at amazing art that made her jealous gradually evolved into a showcase of contemporary art that inspires her to get back to the studio.
Saatchi Art has a really good blog of curated art, interviews & guides called Canvas. It’s an excellent way of discovering art you can buy directly without hunting elsewhere.
If you like street art then Posters & Prints is a blog started just a few days before The Jealous Curator and has served up over six years of limited edition poster and print releases.
Contemporary Art Daily is excellent for showcasing art each day from current exhibitions around the globe (to buy anything you’ll need to do the detective work yourself).
4. Art Marketplaces
Etsy is one of the biggest and has long been synonymous with hobbyists, makers and handmade crafts. But a growing number of artists are starting out on Etsy as a way of testing the market for selling their work.
Etsy is now one of the best places to find affordable fine art prints and original paintings on a small budget. You can feel extra good about buying art from Etsy too knowing that a tidy 97% of what you pay goes directly to the artist! Folksy is a similar marketplace site worth having a look at.
I like the art & illustration of Natasha Newson on Etsy with original paintings starting at only £30. On the other hand you could buy a rare David Hockney print or poster for a few hundred to a few thousand pounds. Which leads me onto the next destination…
It’s easy to overlook eBay when looking for websites to buy original art. Don’t! eBay is a fantastic resource for buying limited edition prints and fine art posters long sold out everywhere else. The Eelus prints After The Rain and Where They’ll Never Find Us sold out in minutes on release but you can almost always find some on eBay. You may well pay a premium for such in-demand prints but at least you can get them.
Bargains do show up though, whether they’re limited editions by Stanley Donwood or signed prints by Peter Blake – the motto is keep checking! Even better just follow a search for your favourite artist and eBay will email you whenever new listings are added. Vintage art exhibition posters can be scooped up at decent prices too. Not to mention classic art books, sculptures, ceramics & just about any kind of art you can imagine…
5. Art Auctions
Confession time. Art auctions are a new frontier for me. My prior knowledge to researching this article comes mostly from news stories of another Picasso or Gaugin painting breaking the world record from a bewildered looking auction house.
What’s been pleasing to discover is that most art auctions aren’t just for exclusive collector’s (or James Bond villains) with millions to spend. I found art across all price levels from prints to posters and original artwork. Here’s the best online art auctions from what I found…
Paddle8 has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011 describing itself as “the auction house for the 21st century collector”.
Backers include Damien Hirst and Jay Jopling so they’ve some serious money behind them. Paddle8 sells works by some of the biggest names in art history. A recent Pop art themed auction presented prints and multiples by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Basquiat and Haring alongside recent work by Banksy, Ai Wei Wei, Hirst and Koons.
Auctions typically run for two weeks and you can bid at any time above the minimum amount. The bidding page is really helpful and calculates worldwide shipping costs, insurance and the 15% commission on top of the final sale price so you know exactly what you’ll pay.
Artnet is one of the biggest art websites in the world so it’s no surprise that Artnet Auctions is one of the best for buying modern & contemporary art.
Auctions tend to be live on the website for around 10 days and you can make your bid at any point. Each item has an opening bid (reserve price) so you’ll have to bid at least that to win the auction. At the time of writing there are auctions for a vibrant Josef Albers poster screenprint starting at $500 and a beautiful original watercolour by Canadian artist Marcel Dzama starting at $800. The site’s super easy and intuitive to use and all items can be returned if not as described. The only stumbling block for some might be paying by wire transfer but some auctions accepted Paypal too.
All the art auctions above are US based and ship worldwide. The Saleroom, however, is something a bit different. Billed as “Europe’s leading portal for fine art and antiques auctions” they list items from auctions all over Europe (including Christie’s) which makes them excellent for searching for works by particular artists.
For example here’s a search for David Hockney which brings back dozens of results from original paintings to rare etchings, screenprints and posters. Same goes for anyone from Andy Warhol to Louise Bourgeois.
A similar endnote to the last section – don’t forget eBay! It’s still the most popular auction site in the world so has more than its fair share of art. Most art prints and posters tend to be fixed price ‘buy it now’ but auctions are there to be found and bargains can be had.
6. Social Media
Artists are increasingly finding ways to sell their work directly from social media. It’s now one of the best channels for finding new work and connecting with artists whose work you’d like to buy. Ashley Longshore sells her larger than life paintings for tens of thousands of dollars on Instagram and she’s not the only one…
My 10 Ways To Sell Art Online article highlighted Lorraine Loots’ 365 Postcard For Ants series and how social media was fundamental to selling her work. Now titled Paintings for Ants Lorraine often uses Instagram to run live auctions for paintings. Followers leave a comment with their highest bid and the person with the highest bid at the closing date gets the painting. It’s incredibly direct and every buyer knows 100% of their payment goes straight to Lorraine.
While some artists sell their work directly through social media most artists use it to announce new work and link back to their personal website or online gallery so you can buy it there.
Another favourite artist Gustavo Ortiz frequently updates his Instagram account with images of his latest work alongside photos and video clips that give you a sense of his tastes and influences. If you see a new work you’d like to buy you’re probably just a comment or direct message away from purchasing an original piece of work before it’s even made it to a gallery.
As an artist myself I can tell you that artists LOVE getting messages from people interested in buying their work. It allows us to keep doing what we love to do. So don’t be shy and introduce yourself to the artists you’re interested in. We live in a time when social media makes that easier than it’s ever been.
7. Artist’s Websites
Art students are increasingly encouraged at college to have their own website. It’s hardly surprising that those websites are quickly becoming the artists preferred platform for selling their work. There’s no middle man, no commission to split and no hassle for the buyer trying to work out where to buy the artist’s work.
I’ve featured prints by Andy Wilx on MoMa with links to artrepublic where you can buy them. But you can also buy prints direct from Andy’s beautifully designed website AndyWilx.com. You might even bag them cheaper than gallery sites via his screenprint sales.
Not all artist websites have online stores but you can still utilise them them to get in touch and ask if a work is for sale. Catherine Ross is a recent graduate deservedly getting lots of recognition and selling work offline. The best way to follow her progress is via her website and blog at CatherineRossPainter.com.
I’m a big fan of Stanley Donwood and a happy owner of two fantastic etchings. One of the first things I did after buying the prints (from an Amsterdam gallery) was to seek out his website. From there I signed up to his newsletter (another way of being the first to hear of new work for sale) which is where I heard about his new shop Zmas Boutique.
It’s totally in keeping with Donwood’s grumpy style and there’s been some limited edition releases on Zmas Boutique were a steal (and sold out super fast).
So, next time you’re in a gallery and see an artist you like – look them up online, get on their mailing list and you might have some of their work on your walls sooner than you think.
Backing Ellis’ campaign not only felt good (helping support another artist) it also got me an A4 sized drawing she created on the trip. Buying art via Kickstarter often connects you with an artist or community in a much more personal and meaningful way than an a conventional online or offline transaction.
Have a wander through of the hundreds of art campaigns currently running on Kickstarter and see if you can find an artist doing something so inspiring you can’t help but invest in.
Running a site about to help people buy art online is really rewarding. But sometimes you need a healthy reminder of what got you into art in the first place. The unbridled joy of raw creativity. Not for the first time I’ve felt that passion rekindled via Kickstarter.
When I was hunting for Kickstarter projects to feature here The Monster Project is a lovely example of an opportunity the site gives you to buy art – and make a difference too.
The Monster Project is a collection of artists who invite elementary school kids to draw monsters. Then the artists get to work interpreting the kids drawings using their own techniques and skills before going into the schools to present the new interpretations to the kids.
The children get to learn new art techniques as well as reinforcing their inherent potential for creativity and originality. Watch their Kickstarter video for the looks on the kids faces alone!
This is the kind of art project that makes Kickstarter and alternative crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and GoFundMe so inspiring to be a part of.
9. Print on Demand
Not everyone can afford to buy original prints and paintings. Print on demand sites bridge the gap between artist and the people who love their work but don’t have the budget of an art collector. Sites like Society 6, Threadless, Design by Humans and RedBubble use high resolution images by artists to create prints, clothing, and a wide range of accessories. Because print runs are unlimited prices are way cheaper than buying limited edition art prints and are still really good quality.
Print on demand websites make a good fit for buying art from illustrators & designers whose work often suits the medium better than a traditional gallery. See a few of my top picks for artists and illustrators selling work below…
Several artists featured on MoMa currently have work for sale on print on demand sites. Amy Hamilton is is one of the most popular artists on Society6 and you can see why her animal illustrations connect with so many people. Staying on the illustration tip Federico Babina joins Amy on Society6 selling works of re-imagined buildings based on movies, artists and designers. Over on Design By Humans you’ll find the magical world of Deedee Cheriel on everything from prints, t-shirts, stickers and phone cases.
10. Photography Sites
This was a tough section to research. While there’s a zillion photo sites online most of them are stock photo based or only sell digital images for download. If you’re only looking to buy photographs to download I’d recommend 500px.
For those looking to buy photographic prints online – the rest of this section’s for you.
The most expensive photograph ever sold is Andreas Gursky’s Reine II for $4.3 million. A long way off the hundreds of millions the world’s of most expensive paintings but still, quite good for a day’s work and a notable nod towards photography as a sound investment.
There are certain considerations to be made before buying original photographic prints. Editioning, paper types, c-type or giclée prints, the list goes on… thankfully The Telegraph put together a handy article on buying prints you’d be wise to read first.
After going through a bunch of photography sites I kept coming back to Saatchi Art’s photography section. I couldn’t find another site that matched it for the range of photography on show and quality of work.
There’s such a vibrant mix of emerging and established photographers with over 10,000 photographs for sale between them. Saatchi Art also makes it easy to sort by category, price, style and has some well curated photography collections too.
Add Saatchi Art’s fantastic customer service and it’s my top pick for buying photography online.
For lower priced fine art photography by independent photographers Artfinder is worth a look. The German based company Lumas is one of my favourite sites for contemporary photography and, in typical German style, have some sleek framing options.
I’ve bought some William Wegman photographs from US based 20×200 and was more than happy with their service (just watch out for UK customs charges!).
A final tip is for the World Photo Organisation. There’s not a vast selection, the images are tiny (until you click through to checkout) but there’s some incredible award winning photographs you can order prints of.
Phew, that wasn’t short! Hope you found it helpful in finding the best websites to buy original art online. If you did then you might like my equally long winded articles 10 Ways to Sell Art Online and my Best Sites to Buy Art Supplies guide.
Thanks for reading and I hope you find some art you want to live happily ever after with!