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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brett

Driven to abstraction: the best art to buy right now

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

If you've been toying with the idea of buying art, perhaps even musing about building a collection, you are not alone.

But having resolved to illuminate your living space with an original work of creative expression, the question then moves to what type you should plump for: sculpture, prints, drawings, photographs or paintings? They all have their merits.

Paintings are perennially popular. While not everyone has the capacity in their living space to accommodate a Henry Moore, we do all have walls. Again, this is only part of the decision-making because there are still many styles or genres from which to choose.

Naturally, we all have our own taste — but what if you want to go a little further, catch a current trend, be patron of a defined movement, one that is buoyant and in demand. Well, in that case, you could do worse than follow the crowd.

How to be a dedicated follower of fashion

And the crowd is quite definitely heading at this moment in time towards abstract painting.

The website has recently published its report on art collector insights for 2023 — and it makes interesting reading.

By far the biggest medium sought by art lovers is painting, chosen by a whopping 94 per cent. Of that number, a huge 50 per cent prefer to buy an abstract work above any other genre.

The next nearest subject is expressive figurative at 34 per cent, followed by realist figurative works on 22 per cent, contemporary surrealism at 17 per cent and landscape at 16.

So what is driving this trend?

two abstract paintings of trees, one red, one yellow, hanging on a studio wall
Shape of the new: two canvases on the wall of my studio from my latest collection entitled Stop Press

Why buy abstract art?

Abstract art no longer presents the shock of the new, having been around for this and most of the previous century.

So the public at large is now more open to its visual language. Having moved away from the stock 'my eight-year-old could have done that', we're comfortable with its non-figurative qualities.

With this acceptance comes, I believe, a popularity that owes to the fact that the collector can build their own relationship with a piece, liberated from the literal meaning of representation.

The appeal, then, is something more universal. Whether you share any of the associations with the subject matter as the artist is no longer important.

Underpinning this phenomenon, internet galleries can hit markets around the world and it stands to reason that works that touch on themes that are widespread yet essential will be most popular.

Based on colour, form and texture, abstract paintings tend to engage on an emotional level.

Not only are they a vehicle for an artist to portray how they feel, but they are also about a process of mark-making that engages in a purer way with the medium.

The decision is made, now you're ready to act. But where do you start?

The best place to buy abstract art

Entering the search terms 'abstract art for sale in London', or wherever, into Google might be the easiest place to start in your quest to find the perfect piece.

There are plenty of reputable online galleries these days; ranging from artists' independent websites, to large collective sites such as to those run by the major galleries.

It is at least a great way of familiarising yourself with what's available, but more than that, as revealed in the Artsy report, online platforms have disrupted the traditional industry.

As many as 80 per cent of collectors in the findings have bought via the internet.

This does not mean the traditional real-life outlets should be discarded. Open studios, where collectors can meet the artist and buy directly; fairs, which gather big-name galleries under one roof; and the plain old high street operations are all great places to see artwork up close and personal.

They also offer good opportunities for the novice buyer to ask questions to experts. After all, research is a key element of the process and it can take time to gain the knowledge to feel confident in one's art choices.

What makes a good abstract painting?

Some may still think they are looking at a series of splodges and that anyone on their worst grubby-fingered day in art class could do better, but they would be wrong.

Good abstract painting has an intelligence and complexity.

The knowledge and techniques behind the creation do not need to be explained rationally because, hopefully, a good abstract piece appeals to the viewer on an intuitive level.

Behind all such works is a concept. And further still, a full-blooded commitment to that idea. It should have a clearly intentional narrative and conform to some pretty robust artistic principles.

Strong design, clarified values, harmonious or inharmonious use of colour (if that was the intention) all go to forming a great piece.

In conclusion

Abstract art has stood the test of time and its chief original proponents are among the most sought-after and expensive artists in history. Try getting your hands on a Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko or Willem de Kooning and you'll find your piggy bank won't quite stretch to it.

It's no surprise that big-money organisations invest in such art: it's visually appealing and confers a cultural intelligence with which they wish to be associated.

The good news is that abstract art can do the same for you too, whatever your budget!

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