Green Living

A quick guide to buying secondhand art

Art doesn’t have to be new to be exciting. Some of the best pieces can be found at auction houses and vintage shops. Art+Object’s Leigh Melville shares her advice for new collectors of secondhand art

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Beautiful artworks are timeless, so it makes sense to hunt for art in the secondhand sector. You can find quirky options at op-shops, but for collector’s items it can be a good idea to visit a specialist vintage store or auction house. Leigh Melville, one of the directors of contemporary auction house Art+Object, gives us an insight into the art-buying world.

Tell us about some of the most collectable secondhand art
New Zealand has a strong and vibrant auction market for contemporary art. The New Zealand artists who fetch the highest prices are the household names like Colin McCahon and Charles Goldie, but these are out of reach for most people.

Internationally, artists such as Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami have produced high-quality, limited-edition artworks which sometimes feature in our auctions. This can be an affordable option if you’d like to enjoy art by a famous contemporary artist in your home.

There are also some lovely vintage French advertising posters around; just keep an eye on the quality and do your homework to be sure you are purchasing a genuine example.


How can people tell if secondhand artworks are genuine?
If you are buying art online or by similar means, it is always a case of ‘buyer beware’. We do everything we can to authenticate artworks and only offer those that we know are genuine examples. Art dealers and auction houses are always willing to discuss potential purchases and offer advice. The best advice I can give is to buy from reputable sources and to do your research. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

What is an affordable way to start collecting art?
We sell art at all levels; some more modest pieces may sell for a few hundred dollars while others may sell for hundreds of thousands or, in exceptional circumstances, millions of dollars. Our New Collectors art auctions offer a wide variety of artworks priced under $10,000.

These auctions cover many genres, from traditional landscape painting to contemporary photography and everything in between. There can be anything from 50 to 350 artworks, featuring different artists and styles. This wide exposure can help if you are short on time or want to learn more about art in New Zealand.

All the auction houses have comprehensive websites where you can browse their latest offerings. It is possible to watch an auction live and buy online – a wonderful option on cold winter nights or if you live out of town.

How to get creative with your art

  • Don’t be put off by a shabby frame. Often an artwork purchased at an op-shop or flea market will need reframing. Equally, it can be worth purchasing a piece because you love the frame then swapping the artwork for a cool print.
  • Vintage photos, wallpaper, posters and even fabric can be found for a bargain online or in secondhand stores. These can make great pieces for a gallery wall in your home.
  • Think outside the box. Wall hangings, tapestries and pottery can make effective statements. Unframed tapestries and pieces of embroidery can often be found in op-shops and are easy to frame.

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Eve Kennedy.

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