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What is an Art Buyer?

By Christy Bieber
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An art buyer is a person whose job it is to purchase art. Buyers commonly work for galleries or museums. They can also work for corporations or even wealthy private individuals.

A buyer must be able to do more than simply buy art. He or she must know and understand the value of artworks. To do this, he must both be familiar with prevailing market conditions, and he must have an eye for popular trends that are developing so he can determine whether there will be a market for art or not.

An art buyer who works for a museum may help acquire classic or museum quality pieces. This means he or she may be handling million dollar- or even multimillion dollar- budgets. A buyer in this setting purchases art to enhance the museum collection and to be displayed, not to be sold.

A buyer who works in a gallery serves a different function than a buyer for a museum. Most galleries, especially smaller galleries, aim to sell art to customers. Thus, a buyer must be able to project the type of art that will sell, and be able to determine whether he is purchasing a piece of art at a lower price than the gallery will be able to sell it for.

An art buyer usually has an advanced degree, such as a masters in fine arts (MFA). He may have a degree in art history, or he may specialize in a specific type of art. For example, he may have a degree in American Art, or some other specific field of art.

A buyer must also be aware of the audience and the gallery he is working for. For example, a modern art buyer must be educated on modern art. He must be able to fulfill the goal of the gallery by purchasing art in keeping with the tone of existing pieces, to cater to an existing audience.

Some buyers help to discover prominent new artists. Thus, an art buyer must have a strong eye for emerging trends, and must be aware of patterns in the art market. Joining professional organizations, attending conferences, and networking with other artists and gallery owners are thus an essential part of being successful as an art buyer.

Art buyers commonly attend auctions in order to acquire pieces. They may also purchase pieces directly from artists. Finally, a buyer may buy from other gallery owners, or acquire pieces from other museums in the event that he works in a museum setting.

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