Top tips for buying art abroad

Top tips for buying art abroad

The world of art knows no boundaries – so, whether you fall in love with a painting in a gallery while on holiday, or head out on a special trip to a high-level art fair, here are a few insider guidelines for making art buys abroad.

Get your eye in

Try to avoid impulse buying (other than for fun, inexpensive pieces). For anything that costs serious money, do your homework, researching prices, checking out the best galleries or art fairs, and generally ensuring you are getting a good deal.

Ask questions

Unless you are at a serious art fair where everything is vetted, check the provenance of whatever you’re buying. A reputable dealer will not object to being asked sensible questions about the background of a piece. And if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Set a budget

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying an amazing work of art – but setting yourself a budget in advance will help you to be sensible. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping and import taxes.

In the UK, original works of art are “import duty free”, but there will still be 5 per cent VAT to pay if they come from outside the EU. A good dealer will advise on how to complete the paperwork and will probably be able to arrange shipping, but it’s wise to shop around. Get several quotes and remember to take out insurance.

Buy because you love it

Will your purchase go up in value? Maybe. But the art market is a fickle and unpredictable thing. First and foremost, you should buy something because you love it and can’t wait to get it home.

Where to buy

If you’re looking for a piece of work at an international art fair, these are the biggest and best to check out:

Art Basel, in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong

Art Basel (above) stages the world’s premier modern and contemporary art fairs annually in its three locations.


The Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain takes place in and around Paris’s Grand Palais, showcasing leading galleries and emerging artists.

TEFAF Maastricht

Widely regarded as the world’s leading fair for art, antiques and design, at TEFAF Maastricht quality and authenticity are rigorously vetted.

ARCO Madrid

The single most visited art fair in the world, ARCO Madrid is an international meeting point between Europe and Latin America.

The Armory Show

New York’s premier art fair, The Armory Show (above) is a destination for the world’s most important 20th- and 21st-century artworks.

India Art Fair

South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art, India Art Fair is based in New Delhi.

Art Brussels

Known as a “discovery” fair, Art Brussels is almost 50 years old and one of the top European art fairs.


Artissima, Turin’s contemporary art fair, combines established galleries with a focus on experimentation and research.


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