The Ugandan art scene is thriving. There are galleries all over Kampala. There are now two art journals and good arts presence in most of the daily newspapers. Makerere University’s churning out young, talented artists that are making names for themselves throughout East Africa. You want to buy but don’t know where to start. Here are five tips to help you get started.

  1. Buying vs. Collecting: There’s a big difference between ‘buying’ a piece of art because you like it, it matches the paint in your front room, or makes you smile and ‘collecting’ art. There is no shame in either and, in fact, if you ask most serious art collectors they have a great number of art pieces purchased simply because they liked them and not because they add significant value to their collection. Buying is just as important as collecting. Just recognise as you buy that some pieces will not appreciate in price as time goes by. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t important to you or aren’t worth purchasing.
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  2. Get to know the artist: If you want to be a true collector then get to know the artists that you appreciate. Uganda has a small and open community of artists. Send the artist an email and meet for lunch to talk about their art. It’s likely that they’d love to discuss their art with you.   Look for artists that have a unique and distinctive style that is easily recognisable in their pieces and are committed to their art. If an artist’s work is affordable you can buy several pieces at once – or negotiate payments over a period of time if it’s not.
  3. How is the value of a piece determined? Just like with most other products the value of a piece of art is determined by the market – or what someone is willing to pay for it.  Usually, this is done by looking at the artist’s sale history, their reputation, the value of their other pieces, and the value of like art created by other artists in the same genre and medium. Most artists have a ‘base’ price for their art and then evaluate each piece against that – depending on the size, their own reputation and the sale of past pieces. As artists become better known or sell more artwork, their art becomes ‘premium priced’ meaning that it exceeds what other artists are paid for their work. This is usually the point where their earlier pieces begin to have greater value when resold. It is a myth that an artist’s work gains value after they die as there are far too many other factors at work for that to be the sole determinant.
  4. What type of art appreciates in value quickest? Oil paintings? Photography? Sculpture? Wood carving? Everyone loves to make an investment that doubles or triples in price over a short period of time. However, there is no one type of art that appreciates most quickly. It is usually dependent on the artist’s talent and their commitment to producing quality art and making a name for themselves.
  5. Help artists become popular:  If you’re serious about your art gaining value the best way to do that is by helping the artists become better known and encouraging them in their craft. If you love an artist’s work make sure that others know about them as well.

While there are hundreds of tips, tricks for buying and collecting art the most important thing is finding appreciation in all the art you purchase for the sake of the art itself.  Whether you are already a serious collector or a first-time buyer it is most important to have fun and enjoy being surrounded by beautiful pieces. Remember that art is subjective and not everyone will appreciate what you’re buying or collecting – but if you do, that’s what’s important.

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