Where to buy art when you can’t afford a Bronzino

What’s your view on printing services that reproduce work that is either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive? Do you have any other tips for finding affordable art for your walls?

To be honest, when I look at art reproduction websites, I’m left very confused — there is so much choice, I flounder around and give up after a few clicks. I also don’t really see the point in printing reproductions. It feels odd to me. I sympathise, of course, and completely understand that you might feel strongly about certain works of art that you (almost definitely) won’t ever be able to own.

I found myself wandering the hushed corridors of the loveliest galleries and palaces of Florence a few weekends ago, and over lunch one day I began a list in my head, counting off the paintings I would have loved to have tied to my back and sprinted off with through the Boboli Gardens, past the fountains and pools and mossy statues. This list didn’t pain me, though. I’d love to own a Bronzino, obviously, but I really don’t mind that I never will. There are plenty of other wonderful things out there.

In Florence, just around the corner from the Pitti Palace, I bought a 19th-century painting of a sleeping ancient Greek mortal. I have to admit that I audibly shrieked when I found it hidden in the gloom of an antiques shop on dusty Via Maggio.

The next day I was back in the same spot and noticed around the corner another very beautiful painting of the same chap in a smart gallery’s window. It was clearly much older than mine, much bigger, much better, and no doubt worth about 30 or 40 times the price I paid for my humble little version.

Rosie Harbottle’s ‘Summer Flowers’ © Glassette

The smart gallery was closed, thank the gods on Olympus, so I couldn’t even check. Yet, the painting I came home with I still find extremely beautiful; it called to me, and it suits me perfectly.

Wouldn’t it be better to buy works that won’t break you financially and that you still connect with? I much prefer the idea of hunting down things that make you fall madly in love (like my sleeping mortal), as opposed to choosing a famous Da Vinci from some media library and clicking “print”.

Plus, why have a cheap reproduction on your wall that isn’t worth a cent? My advice? Load up on postcards in the museum shops, stick them proudly on your fridge, but collect proper art for your walls.

Where to start? There are so many brilliant options out there. Let’s begin with old things. There are many websites to turn to, either to buy or window shop. One such place is Foster & Gane, a mother-and-son duo who source and sell decorative antiques and 20th-century design. On my wish list? A framed, finely cut silhouette of a black cat on blue card, from the late 19th or early 20th century.

For modern British, I recommend Zuleika Gallery, whose headquarters are in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. (I’m currently lusting after one of their wonderful Howard Hodgkin hand-pulled silkscreen prints.)

Silhouette of a black cat on blue card, late 19th or early 20th century, Foster & Gane
Silhouette of a black cat on blue card, late 19th or early 20th century © Foster & Gane

Check Glassette, which mostly acts as a curated platform for a multitude of designers to sell their tableware, lighting and soft furnishings. Co-founder Laura Jackson recently launched the website’s Art Kiosk. Jackson, writing on Instagram, says she is working to bring customers affordable original art that feels inclusive and attainable. My pick? I very much like Rosie Harbottle’s “Summer Flowers”, made with gouache and oil pastels in the artist’s Dartmoor studio.

Where else to look? Partnership Editions, a great source for affordable originals and prints, is continually evolving, and now offers artist-made homeware as well as photography. I’m a fan of photographer Lily Bertrand-Webb’s work, and have my eye on “The Ice Cream and the Green Car, Ireland”.

I also suggest doing good research using tools such as Instagram. For all its failings, Instagram is still an excellent place to come across things, places and people that will inspire. Find artists whose work you like — I know many that will sell pieces via direct message, others sell via galleries or have their own online shops (such as my friend Gavin Houghton, who paints, draws and makes wonderful ceramic plates, mugs, vases and decorative bits and pieces).

Step away from reproductions. Buy art that speaks to you on an emotional level. Look for old pieces with character and warmth, and support living artists by buying their work. This is all going to be much more rewarding for you. Enjoy the process!

If you have a question for Luke about design and stylish living, email him at [email protected] Follow him on Instagram @lukeedwardhall

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Anita Shire

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