How to build a great art collection on the cheap…

Garage or estate sales:

I purchased this lovely abstract painting at a garage sale 20 years ago; it was my first original art purchase. It was lying face down on the floor, and the seller was thrilled when I offered $100. She would have taken far less. I still have no idea who the artist was…from the look of the painting I would guess it’s a study by a student artist – but that never really mattered. It’s pretty and well composed, it’s original, and I still like looking at it.


My grandfather, after he retired, spent every weekend hitting the yard sales and picking up old frames for as little as $2 so he could refurbish them and use them for collages. This striking numbered lithograph by Israeli artist Tumarkin was hiding in an ancient dusty frame he brought home. It now hangs in my kitchen.



I have traded art for spa services, chiropractic appointments, and even a week-long vacation home rental. Do you provide a service or sell something? Ask an artist about barter! (Especially if you’re an Orthodontist…my kids need braces).

Unexpected Places:

If you keep your eyes open, you can find good art in totally unexpected places. The basements of elderly relatives, for example, can be a goldmine if you can look past dust and old framing.DSC_0020

Last month I found this hand-printed serigraph dated 1973 lying by the side of the road. The frame was ancient and cobwebby, and so brittle I had to break through it with a sledgehammer … but the print inside, signed by Canadian artist Margaret Peter, was pristine. I can’t wait to treat it to a new mat and a crisp white frame.

So the next time you’re complaining about your empty walls, remember two things: 1. If you must have new art, see if you can barter with a working artist. Some artists won’t do it, but some will. What have you got to lose?  2. If you’re not particular about where your art comes from, there is a lot of good art out there that will get tossed in the trash if a hero like you doesn’t rescue it and give it a good home. So use your magic eagle eyes today and go find some art to save from languishing in your great-great aunt’s mouldy basement.

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. (Roald Dahl)

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