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Estelle Dogbo: Your Guide to Purchasing your First Artwork

Estelle Dogbo

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Art by Anedu Edozie

One of the key trends of the new year that isn’t peculiar to 2021 is the goals we set in anticipation of what is to come. One goal you’ll find on nearly everyone’s list is to enrich their lifestyle experience. This is the underlying inspiration behind today’s story.

I get asked very often, “How do you know if an artwork is worth purchasing?” I have always been a fan of collecting objects. Anyone familiar with the concept of collection will tell you it boils down to aesthetics and connection. We collect pictures, postcards, coins, or magnets from travels but investing in a first major work can feel overwhelming, especially where that industry isn’t properly understood. Buying your first important artwork has to be a fun experience. Ultimately, you are bringing something into your space that should trigger positive emotions. It has to feel right!

To begin, when I started visiting galleries, going to exhibitions and art fairs, I found that it was a great way to train my eyes and understand my personal taste. I wouldn’t purchase any artwork at those events, instead, I would “collect” monographs, art books, catalogues or brochures. I found them very valuable for self-education on ongoing trends in the contemporary arts. Of course, you can ask curators and gallery owners for advice, but you really have to do the homework yourself because no art advisor will understand what you like better than you. Every time I found an artwork that I liked, I would go online to compare styles, artists, and prices. You will be amazed at how much information is available on the artists’ social media pages and artsy profiles. This initial phase will hopefully help you establish your artistic personality until you decide on the type of artwork you want around you.

My second advice would be to opt for an original. Mine was not, but it was a limited print edition from a popular artist. I knew I wanted a statement piece from an emerging African creator. I had learned that not only are they more pocket-friendly, but a contemporary artist’s interpretation of the world is likely to be relatable to our everyday life experience. Also – and this is my favorite part- you get to meet the emerging artist you are buying from. Hearing the creative process that led to the masterpiece you are purchasing is an experience you don’t want to miss. Most artists are super excited to tell you about their journey, which forms part of the story of your artwork. Don’t downplay the importance of the story behind the work, not only will it help you build valuable relationships, but it will also help you appreciate the work. If you appreciate it, others will too.

Now, don’t be in a hurry to swipe your debit/credit card just yet, there are a few more steps to take before your acquisition. The third thing you’d like to do is to inspect the work. For a first major purchase – unless you are buying online – it is always best to see the work physically. Besides getting to see the textures and really connecting with the work, you need to have your artwork signed, dated, and (if possible), titled. In the past, I made the mistake of purchasing unsigned artwork, thankfully, it is a piece I really like to date, but your work has zero value if it is not signed and dated by the artist’s hand, preferably on the artwork. This is also why I would recommend any new buyer to purchase their artwork from a gallery. They understand this rule well and will even provide you with a certificate of authenticity if you ask for it.

 Now, my dear reader, you are officially ready for your first purchase. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you decide to opt for in the comment section.

Estelle Dogbo is an art benefactor operating with the vision to empower African contemporary artists and enabling them to operate at an equal scale to their well established western counterparts. It is this vision that inspired her founding the Yawoa foundation. With her foundation, she is working to promote contemporary artists in Africa through financial investment, education and business advisory. Ultimately, she is looking to contribute to the placement of African contemporary artists on the global map as it pertains to respect, acknowledgement and earning power.

2 Comments

  1. Taiwo

    January 9, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing valuable thoughts and experience. Sure provided some insights on things yo consider and keep in mind for first or subsequent purchases

    3
  2. Sar

    January 9, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you for this incisive piece. I recently started collecting artwork from my travels around the world (especially African art), and I think this is a handy guide to ensure it’s both a fun and valuable activity.

    1

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