Dreweatts Collecting Guides | Fine Art - What to look out for

Dreweatts Collecting Guides | Fine Art - What to look out for

Dreweatts Collecting Guides | Fine Art - What to look out for

Collecting art on a budget.... Lucy Gregory, Dreweatts Picture specialist, explains what to look out for and gives us a sneak peak at her small art collection all bought from Dreweatts!

For many people, young and old, the idea of starting an art collection can be both a daunting and confusing one. What should you buy? Who and where should you buy from? What should you look out for?

As an art enthusiast on a very tight budget, I want to share with you some helpful hints and tips which I believe should be considered before you start to build your collection.

What's your budget?

First, work out your budget. There are a number of auction rooms around the country which offer works from £50 - £500,000! It is important to set your budget and stick to it whilst remembering that anything you buy is likely to have additional Buyer’s Premium costs as well as other fees such as Droit de Suite (Artist's Resale Right / ARR) and shipping/courier costs if you are not able to collect the item yourself.

Dreweatts offers both traditional hammer sales and online auctions which cater for even the tightest budget which I hope to demonstrate below!

Inline Image - Rosemary Ellis (British 1910 - 1998), 'Linear Abstract (blue and pink)',   Mixed media
Rosemary Ellis (British 1910 - 1998), 'Linear Abstract (blue and pink)', Mixed media

What is it you would like to buy?

The next thing is to decide what it is you would like to buy. The art market is forever changing and buying to invest is not something many people would advise. Instead, I would suggest it is most important to buy what you like – after all, it is going to be on your wall and you have to look at it!

That being said, there are a few things you can do to make sure you are buying items which will be good value for money. Condition, provenance and subject matter can all add to a painting’s value and it is important to make sure you check these things before you part with any of your hard earned cash!

Inline Image - Lithograph, Signed in pencil lower right
Lithograph, Signed in pencil lower right


It is always advisable to view a work in person if you are thinking about buying it, but if you can’t Dreweatts offers a condition reporting service whereby you can request that we inspect a work on your behalf. A Dreweatts’ picture specialist will report on any previous restoration or repair, any craquelure or retouching on an oil painting, creasing, fading or foxing on a work on paper and ultimately whether we think the work is in good enough condition that it is ready to hang without any additional conservation work being needed. In the long run this can save you money and when buying works for myself, I have always tried to go for things which will not need any extra attention once I get them home.

Inline Image - Colour lithograph, Signed in pencil, dated 72
Colour lithograph, Signed in pencil, dated 72


Provenance can also help to add interest to a lot. In 2017, I purchased two prints from the Collection of Jan Krugier. They are both works by unknown artists and really only have a decorative value in themselves, but Jan Krugier (1928-2008) was a very well established Polish/Swiss art dealer and holocaust survivor most known for his relationship with Pablo Picasso. For me, that makes them more interesting and appealing as well as potentially more commercial.

Inline Image - Anthony Jones (b. 1962), 'Underground Sign, 1999', Gelatin silver print, signed
Anthony Jones (b. 1962), 'Underground Sign, 1999', Gelatin silver print, signed

Another example of buying something for its provenance is a lovely little screen-print by Rosemary Ellis (1910-1998) which I was lucky enough to purchase for just £28 (+fees) also in 2017. Dreweatts were privileged enough to be involved with selling works from the estate of Clifford (1907-1985) and Rosemary Ellis, both prolific artists who worked during the middle of the 20th century. Before the war, the husband and wife team produced a number of tourist posters for companies such as Shell-Mex, TFL and the General Post Office. In addition, Clifford was also appointed Head of the Bath Academy of Art in 1937. During the war Clifford was also involved with the Recording Britain project as part of the war effort. The work was in good condition and had come directly from the artist’s studio. The cost was small but it is something which I will always treasure and a small piece of history to own forever.

Subject matter

Finally, subject matter is also something to take into account when buying a piece of art as some subjects are always going to be popular. For example in 2016 and 2017, I purchased two works by Anthony Jones, Canary Wharf, 1990s and later Underground Sign 1999, for £10 and £20 (+fees). They are again in good condition and with solid provenance, and the subject matter, London, is one which will always be in demand.

Inline Image - Anthony Jones (b. 1962), 'Canary Wharf, 1990s', Gelatin silver print, signed, titled, dated and editioned out of 45 in pencil verso
Anthony Jones (b. 1962), 'Canary Wharf, 1990s', Gelatin silver print, signed, titled, dated and editioned out of 45 in pencil verso

Remember, your ultimate goal when starting your own collection should be building up a group of works which you love and are going to cherish in your home over a number of years. Markets and tastes change, but as long as you love what you have, it will always be worth something. 

Dreweatts offers online and traditional hammer picture sales throughout the year. Please contact a member of the Fine Art department if you would like more information about buying or selling at auction. 

To consign to a future auction or to arrange a free auction valuation, please email pictures@dreweatts.com or complete our free online valuation form here.

Modern and Contemporary Art Image

Modern and Contemporary Art

19th March 2020, 10:30
View Catalogue

Dreweatts Auction Alerts

Sign up for auction alerts and our monthly newsletter to receive expert analysis and insights from our specialists and keep up-to-date on forthcoming auctions, valuation days and previews.

Select your interests