First-Time Home Owners, Forget Galleries—Buy Art on Instagram

Art doesn't just spruce up an interior. It infuses it with life.

It distinguishes your residence, turning it into a place that feels lived in—comfortable and homey—rather than just a classless hovel where you sleep, eat, and watch TV.

Which brings us to the point of our post. Say what you want about social media, but it's made the process of securing high-quality art for your walls that much simpler (not to mention cheaper) in the digital age.

First-time homebuyers, you don't have to go broke paying top-dollar at a gallery anymore. The best gallery to view and purchase art is available for free right on your phone. Yep, you've probably picked up what we're putting down by now: we're talking about Instagram.

Here are a few general principles to abide by when embarking on an art purchasing journey through the app.

Use the platform's tools to your advantage

Unfamiliar with the range of artists out there, and the variety of artworks they're selling? Unsure of where to even begin?

Here are a few easy ways to get started using the (very powerful) search tools at your disposal.

Remember, hashtags are your friends

Make a list of subjects, styles, or mediums that appeal to you.

Maybe you're into vintage Polaroid photography or ceramic sculptures. Maybe you're partial toward landscapes—or still lives.

Once you've got your list together, proceed to the search area on Instagram, select the hashtag tab, and enter items from your list. That way, you'll be able to explore the work that artists (some of whom might be unfamiliar to you) are sharing online.

If you don't have any particular preferences about subjects or mediums, use a generic hashtag like #artforsalebyartist or something along those lines. You'll be able to get a feel for what's out there and start getting a better sense of your creative preferences.

Check out what other people are liking

Remember, with just the swipe of a finger, you can see all the things that folks you follow on Instagram are liking.

That's right. Select the heart icon from your menu, swipe right to the "Following" screen, and you'll have full access to a constantly replenishing stream of favorited items from the Who's Who of the folks you follow.

This is an especially excellent way to discover new talent, particularly if you already follow a coterie of established artists. Why? Because those artists follow other artists in turn, whose work you'll discover as a result of this helpful feature.

Avoid scammers: look for WIP shots

What is a WIP shot, you ask?

An artist posting a WIP, or work-in-progress, on their account should serve as affirmation for you that you're dealing with someone who's legitimate; not someone who's stealing images off of the Internet, printing them on an inkjet printer, slapping their signature on the bottom of said print, and then charging you $800 for it.

Purchasing tips

So, you've done your searching. You've found an artist that you like, and a particular piece that's for sale. What's next?

Well, first thing's first: direct message (or "DM") them for a price (this is the preferred mode of communication by most artists, ahead of communicating by email), unless it's listed outright in the text field beneath the image.

But remember, even if the price is listed, there's always room for a little good-natured haggling, which is a much less intimidating process when it's being done via direct messaging.

Here are a few crucial things you'll want to keep in mind, though, as you proceed to the next step in the art-buying process.

Don't overpay

Pay special attention to that follower count.

It may sound superficial, but hear us out: if it's in the low thousands or hundreds, you stand a much better chance of getting that piece you're eyeballing at a reasonable rate.

Why? Because artists with a huge following feel justified in charging top-dollar for even the most throwaway of pieces, whereas those that are just starting out are more receptive to dealmaking. Trust us, they're just happy that someone's interested in their work enough to consider buying it!

Plus, those "established" artists are usually mired in the mechanics of the industry, meaning you'd have to interact through a gallerist, or some other intermediary, at some point in the process, drawing out the timeline and resulting in higher prices for you.

Use PayPal or Venmo to complete transactions

Avoid the headaches of mailing checks, or—God forbid—wire transfers altogether. Opt for fast, easy, and painless. You know what that means, right? Yep. You guessed it. Use cash apps like PayPal or Venmo to complete transactions.

If you're making a deal with an artist for the very first time, however, you might want to make a payment plan of sorts, so you're not giving them all of your cash up front. You don't want to send them all of that money and then realize, months down the road when you still haven't received the piece in the mail, that you've been swindled.

Solution? Make a down payment, then offer to pay the cost of shipping and handling. Tell them you'll pay the remainder of what you owe on receiving the work in question.

The shipping and handling piece is an important element. Offering to cover those costs sweetens the pot for future purchases, and helps build trust between you and the artist. Some Instagram art collectors have even received an extra free art piece as a result of their generosity!

Ready to join the more than 51.5% of art collectors surveyed who say that they've purchased work through Instagram? Well, get started, then! As Karen Robinovitz—a seasoned Instagram art collector—notes: "Collecting art is an addiction. Instagram is the dealer and pusher that enables it." Enjoy your new creative addiction!