Buying art as a gift? Read our 10 simple tips first

We mark some of the most important moments of our lives with a photograph or keepsake, helping us to treasure these memories forever. Art is an incredibly special and affordable way to celebrate the things that matter, big or small. It could be life-changing: a new home, wedding or graduation; something familiar yet exciting like a birthday or anniversary; or simply a heartfelt thank-you. Whatever your reason for buying art as a gift, this detailed guide will help you to choose something unforgettable. 

Featured art: Bob Barker, '12 Bars Past Midnight', £850. Hand-varnished canvas on board. Also available as a boxed canvas, £1,350. 

Speak to an expert 

Not everyone feels confident buying art, and that is absolutely fine - it's what we're here for! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the choice available, it may be time to talk to an art consultant. As it's their job to have their finger on the pulse, they are best-placed to talk you through the different finishes and styles, and help you to discover emerging contemporary artists, or international, diverse and indigenous artists whose work may not be in the limelight. 

The more you view and engage with art, the more fun you will have making your selection. You could also listen to podcasts or follow artists, curators and critics on blogs and social media. Subscribing to galleries' mailing lists is another great way to keep up-to-date with all of the latest art. 

Decide your budget 

Quality art costs more than mass-produced prints, as it is created with high-quality materials by the artist or a specialist team. Contemporary art doesn't have to break the bank, however: thanks to new printing technologies, limited edition prints can rival the quality of original works, with hand-embellishment capturing subtle details. Hand-signed by the artist, this affordable option gives the recipient ownership of a unique piece of art. No two are exactly the same, and the small edition size makes them even more exclusive. 

Original art can also be incredibly affordable, especially if you are buying on a smaller scale, in a different format (for instance a sketch rather than a painting), or from an up-and-coming artist at an art fair or graduate show. Most galleries offer an interest-free finance option, or have an archive collection of older works. When shopping online, consider filtering the results by price, or exploring options like Instagram 'Shop', and don't forget to consider the framing cost if this is not included in the price. 

Featured art: Alfie Bowen, 'Call of the Wild (Set of Three)', £995. Framed giclée prints on museum paper. 

Make it personal

The beauty of art is that it is so subjective, but that does mean that it can be tricky to guess what people will like. When choosing an artwork for someone else, you could consider a range of details, including their home décor, hobbies and interests, and any shared memories you have. You could also think about how you want the art to make them feel: do they want to remember fast-paced nights in the city, or feel tranquil in their living space? 

A 2007 study on personality and art preferences published by the British Psychological Society suggested that agreeable people tend to like representational art (works that resemble real scenes, such as figurative and landscape paintings by Claude Monet and Edward Hopper). In contrast, more free-spirited people - and men - prefer abstract pieces, like those created by Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. 

Size matters 

Amazing art comes in all shapes and sizes. Consider where your giftee could place their art: do they have space for a statement piece above the mantlepiece, or would a sculpture on their bookshelf be better-suited?  A frame will also affect the size of the artwork, while unusual presentations such as a triptych (a painting made of three sections) or a circular shape will allow them to get creative with their display. 

Featured art: Nigel Humphries, 'Episode II Collection of Five', £1,350, canvas on board. Also available as boxed canvas, £2,850. 

Ethical gifting 

With so many of us now making sustainable choices when it comes to our shopping habits, buying high-quality art as a gift can be a thoughtful way to combat the harmful environmental effects of mass-production. Many artists use foraged materials or recycled glass and metal, while reputable art publishers work with companies credited by organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that wood and paper are sourced in a sustainable way. 

Ethical art publishers also work with small local businesses and offer artists a platform to share their social and environmental concerns. As the artist is involved in the process from start to finish, their message remains genuine, and their work unexploited. Art publishers may also donate a percentage of their profits to a charitable cause, meaning that your purchase will also be helping to make a difference. 

Select timeframe

High-quality limited edition artworks are created by a specialist atelier team and framed and mounted by hand to order. This means it can take up to four weeks for a piece to be delivered if you're ordering online, so if you're working to a schedule, be sure to start looking in advance. However, many online art retailers - especially those with physical galleries - will be able to quickly source a piece for you if requested. Buying straight off the wall in-store is another option; don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Featured art (L-R): Nic Joly, 'You Just Are', £995, and 'Honest Love', £2,250, 3D wall sculptures. Also available as a set of two, £2,850. 

Framing choices 

A frame can completely transform a piece, complementing metallic accents, or adding a warmth and depth to the artwork. As well as changing the dimensions of an artwork, a frame can also become the focal point: ornate details can draw the viewer's attention, while a rustic finish will make a room feel cosy and inviting. If the artwork comes with a frame included, this has often been chosen by a specialist; however, many galleries will offer a choice of frames. 

Keep it discreet

Keeping your art gift under wraps doesn't have to be a spy-worthy mission: many art galleries will work with you to make special arrangements for your delivery, or allow you to click and collect in-store. Alternatively, you could bring your recipient to a gallery or art fair and enjoy the experience together. 

Featured art (L-R):  Disney Vintage, 'Fantasia Color Storyboard', £2,995, and 'Pluto & Judge OPD', £1,800. Original artworks. 

Gift vouchers 

Not just for last-minute shoppers, gift vouchers are a thoughtful way to let someone buy art for themselves. This way, they can choose what they like at their own pace and really invest time in thinking about what they want. Vouchers can also give someone the opportunity to work with their own budget, perhaps considering works that may not have been financially viable otherwise. 

Easy returns

Check the returns policy when buying online or in-store. Reputable art galleries will offer a cooling-off period (usually around 30 days) and a full refund if you change your mind. 

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