Whether it’s a landscape painting, a portrait or an abstract piece, it can be a challenge trying to determine whether you should invest in that particular artist and whether the work is actually worth the price. You can be better informed about your purchase if you keep in mind the following:

Don’t use your ears when you buy, use your eyes!

It’s very easy to feel that a piece of contemporary art must be worth buying, because everyone tells you so, and there are many people in the art world who seem to know who is going to be the next great artistic discovery. Good publicity and a large following can turn many artists into stars almost overnight, and you can’t help but feel that all these supporters must be right. But of course, the most important thing for you if you are buying a piece of art is to look and decide for yourself; in other words, use your eyes and don’t listen to what everyone else thinks or tells you. Ask yourself what the work means to you, whether it evokes a feeling and compare it alongside other works you are interested in.

Find out more about the artist

Discovering more about the artist is important too when it comes to making a buying decision, and it allows you to ignore much of the talk and the hype. And meeting an artist in person is also recommended if practical, especially if you find yourself buying several works by that artist. Your response to a piece of art is more informed once you know a little about the artist’s conceptual framework, the work’s aesthetic source, any reference points in the work, and how and why the artist became an artist in the first place.

Don’t buy it as an investment

If you like a piece of art, you should buy it for that reason and not look upon it as a chance to sell it to make a fortune. Realistically that’s probably not going to happen anyway, despite all the stories about works of art, both historical and contemporary, being sold for huge sums. Buying a work of art will support the artist, and your purchase may mean the difference between them continuing doing what they love or having to give it up.

Look at art whenever possible

Your understanding of art becomes a lot deeper the more time you spend in galleries and museums looking at it and trying to understand and appreciate it. You become more proficient in responding to art, the longer you spend looking at it and studying the stories behind the piece or the artist. Connections, references, and insights will all start to occur to you over time, once you allow yourself to take the time to look and immerse yourself in art. Some contemporary art may not do anything for you; set yourself the goal of trying to understand better or appreciate what you are looking at.

Support your local non-profit museums and galleries

Supporting organizations that collect or commission works for public collections is often the best way to support the arts. The major London galleries, such as the Tate and National Gallery welcome patrons, although you can settle for being a patron of your local contemporary gallery. Becoming a patron also makes it easier to meet curators, artists and art critics, not to mention all those invites to exhibitions and other social events. Consider supporting the Contemporary Art Society, the Art Fund, and other organizations that buy work for museums and galleries.