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Art Buyer's Guide: Buying Paintings vs Drawings

ByChelsea Coon
Art Buyer's Guide: Buying Paintings vs Drawings

Disillusionment I by Casper Kang

Art buyers continue to face the challenging questions of which works of art they should acquire, and in which artistic medium, as well as the additional concerns of where the purchase should be made and when. There are many factors and decisions that go into buying artwork. The ever-changing nature of the trends in artistic practices, which is reflected in exhibitions is then clearly seen as influential on the level of the acquisition. With hundreds of thousands of artists and their artworks to choose from at any given time, how does one proceed with confidence in their art purchases? More specifically, if an artist has been identified for purchase, how does one decide whether the artwork acquisition will be in drawing or painting format?

This art buyer's guide will focus on some of the key differences between buying a painting versus buying a drawing from a buyer’s perspective. Although this article is brief, it will also provide further resources for art buyers to consult to ensure they are up to date on the various strategies other art buyers are employing to ensure purchases that retain and rise in value over time. Further, the position of this article is to serve as a guide on items to consider around and acquisition and acknowledges that there are many other ways to purchase as well as collect.

Over There by Effat Pourhasani

Buying a painting vs drawing - key differences

Some of the key differences from a buyer's perspective on paintings and drawings have to do with variables of the artist and their career trajectory, as well as the buyer’s collection goals and if the work being considered for purchase will fit in the chosen context. For example, if the artist works primarily in painting it may be challenging to decide whether to collect a painting or a drawing at that specific point in time. It is important to keep in mind that there is a continuity in the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to art-making. To reiterate, it is more common than ever before for artists to work across a wide range of mediums to realize the full expression of their complex, multi-faceted ideas. 

From a buyers perspective, it is absolutely essential for a healthy art collection to include diverse works of artists, ideally represented through numerous artistic mediums. Often, if a collector is invested in an artist, then multiple works will be acquired over the trajectory of the artist’s career, meaning there is time to acquire both a drawing and a painting by the same artist if the investment in the long term support of this artist is there. If the purchase is for a building art collection then scale and material should be considered primarily. Additional concerns like the archival quality of the paper, canvas, paint, and other materials is essential. In locations where the environments have high humidity or exposure to sunlight, both drawing and painting acquisitions will need to be approached with special care regarding maintaining and preserving artwork. It is assumed that paintings would be more resilient to such conditions, but in fact, paintings are just as fragile as drawings in some cases. 

Why should you buy a drawing?


Confidential Custom by Youngseok Cha

Confidential Custom by Youngseok Cha

Drawings are often approached with the understanding that this medium is more fragile and ephemeral than paintings, etc. While this is true of older, more historical drawings, the archival quality of contemporary print and drawing papers today it at a higher standard than ever before, which ensures the artwork will withstand the test of time. Drawings are often produced in series which makes them suitable to collect for domestic as well as corporate spaces, among others. Drawing is traditionally thought of like the sketch to release a larger work—typically in the form of painting or sculpture. This emphasizes the process of content conception, making it a valuable document of a particular time in the artist’s career. For art buyers seeking to buy for personal collections, the acquisition of editioned drawings or one-off monographic works are a great place to invest. The monograph works are a unique, one of a kind print that incorporates elements usually seen in both paintings and drawings. Artists such as Tracey Emin and Chuck Close work with the monograph and printmaking processes as well as the more historical forms of drawing and painting.

Why should you buy a painting?


Composition B by Rikizo Fukao

Composition B by Rikizo Fukao

Buying a painting has traditionally been understood as an investment purchase on the art buying end. Universally this continues to be true. Often paintings are viewed as more durable works able to outlast duration. As mentioned in regards to drawings, paintings are also often created in series making them ideal acquisitions for personal and larger collections. If the paintings are authentic and are taken care of it is possible that the painting, over time, is an investment that would yield a higher rise in value—though this is difficult to say for certain considering the numerous factors that affect whether or not certain artists will rise in value while others do not.

Important considerations for art buyers



 Face Series #2 by Adhik Kristiantoro


    Tales Without Stories No:9 by Erna Ucar

    It is important to identify the intention of the buyer in order to advise on the purchase. The question first has to be asked: what are the goals of the art buyer? What is the specific motivation for collecting a selected artist at this moment in time? Making a strategic and effective purchasing decision is contingent on multiple variables including the context of the purchase. Is it a personal acquisition, a gift, for a corporate collection, for a museum donation? These are just a few among countless potentials that would motivate a purchase. We have outlined some additional tips and resources for art buyers, or those seeking to begin making art purchases.

    It should be strongly suggested that if the art buyer is uncertain or has questions about their intended purchase that they seek expert consultation. Art buying is a highly customized process because it is focusing on the individual buyer's goals. Because of the individual specific needs of the buyer, it is encouraged to seek the counsel of expert curators who can advise on acquisitions tailored to the collector's desires. Commercial galleries often have consultants able to be scheduled by appointment to assist in advising around the purchasing process. You can also avail of the Artlings’s art consultancy services or chat with our expert curators from any product page.


    Riverside blues by Georgina Leow Gray


    Burst by Tetsuya Fukushima

    Recently, podcasts have been launched as resources for buyers, including useful tips on how, when, and where to acquire works for personal collections. For example, New York gallerist Sean Kelly launched a podcast in 2018 aptly titled “Collect Wisely” which features interviews with collectors and field professionals that weigh in on their interest in collecting art. The discussion points focus specifically on the various approaches each has to the concept of a collection, and often the way that their personal interests are reflected in the collection itself. Additionally, a podcast recommended for art buyers at all levels who want to learn more about the artist’s motivations behind their practice while in conversation with another artist is “Dialogues: A podcast from David Zwirner.” Hosted by Lucas Zwirner, this podcast began airing in 2018 coinciding with the anniversary of 25-years of the galleries New York location, as well as the opening of the second David Zwirner gallery in Hong Kong. 

    Conclusively, there are several ways to approach the art of buying art, be it a contemporary painting or a contemporary drawing. Through identifying the goal(s) of the acquisition, it is important to then seek out works that fit the desired objectives of the buyer. Which works will add value to the collection? Having a diverse range of artistic works in a collection is essential to its health. Additionally, it is understood that the strategic purchasing of drawings and paintings can result in long term financial gain. To reiterate, buying paintings or drawings continue to be a viable investment for art buyers internationally. 

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