When in Florence, you’re never far away from some of the finest art the world has to offer. But how about bringing it even closer to home? Or indeed, in your home? Florence’s artistic offering is not limited to that which you see in historical galleries and museums, with an abundant, yet underestimated, offering of private art galleries with contemporary exhibitions of purchasable artworks. With the holiday season quickly approaching, discover how the process of purchasing art for yourself or for a loved one works in practice, and how to find a piece that deserves pride of place in your home.
Private galleries are located all over Florence, welcoming visitors who solely want to view their current exhibitions, as well as those who may wish to purchase one of the works they find there. Through these galleries, contemporary artists from all over the world display their work for relatively short periods of time, of one to three months, meaning that there is a constant circulation of the art available to buy. Those who purchase one of the pieces do so for a wide range of reasons. Some are collectors of a particular genre of art, a particular form, or even a particular artist. In these cases, pieces of art may be bought as an investment or as an addition to a broader collection, and may even be purchased without the buyer seeing it in person. These types of transactions depend on trust in the artist and in the gallery and Florence’s strong reputation for the visual arts is something that helps create this level of assurance. Individual galleries work with international buyers throughout the buying process and usually do so through an online catalogue, or use a platform such as artsy.net or artnet.com.
Others come to the galleries out of curiosity and find themselves especially attracted to a painting, sculpture or otherwise that they then enquire about purchasing. Yan Blusseau of B.east Gallery reports that the majority of their customers are buying for themselves and are seeking a piece of art that they personally love. In these cases, it is advisable to view the entire exhibition in person before buying. This ensures that practical matters are considered, such as the size of the artwork, as well as the new owner’s enjoyment of it and its suitability for where they wish to display it. In Blusseau’s words, “finding a buyer means finding a wall”.
However, it is not only the work on display that is available for purchase at any given time. If an exhibition ends without every item being purchased, galleries will often keep work in storage to be bought on request in the future. If a gallery has exhibited a desired artist in the past, it may be possible to still purchase their work and enquiries are welcomed. Even in the case that the right item is not in storage, gallerists and artists work in tandem to help buyers find their perfect piece, and artists can be approached on an individual basis to find out what is available for purchase. Antonio Budetta of Aria Art Gallery estimates that 20 per cent of buyers approach them in search of a specific artist that has exhibited there before.
The possibilities do not end there. Given the strong ties between many galleries in Florence and the artists they work with, there is also the opportunity to commission art for specific buyers and requirements. “Site-specific” is the term for art created for an exact place and purpose at the behest of those who commission it. Depending on the artist, commissions are certainly possible, according to Antonella Villanova of Galleria Antonella Villanova, but it is important to respect the style and the existing work of the artist. Nonetheless, it is at the discretion of the artist as to whether or not they take commissions and which ones they accept. Some will stick rigidly to their own style, while others are reportedly more flexible, and it is certainly worth making the proposal.
In regards to the accessibility of the specific art market in Florence, there is a diverse range of entry points. Individual galleries operate at different price ranges and are catered towards their clientele, operating mainly between 1,000 and 25,000 euro per piece. There are also options at lower price points, including hand-finished prints, lithographs, ceramics and jewelry, and work by younger artists is generally more economical.
Due to the personal nature of many buyers’ wishes and the close relationships between private galleries and artists, much of the process of purchasing art is done on an individual basis. Gallery managers are considerate of the unique needs of each buyer, whether they are commissioning, collecting or purchasing for their personal enjoyment, and open to requests. One thing is for certain, Florence is a city of art lovers and its tradition in historical art does not detract from the potential of its exciting contemporary art market.
Expert opinion: Christian Levett, art collector
It’s really important to fall in love with a picture. Something has to grab you emotionally, either in the genius or expertise of its creation, or in a thought-provoking or provocative way. If you are taken by the composition, colour, beauty, narrative, or even the humour or political statement of the picture to the point where you think I really want to live with this picture, then it’s a picture that, price-willing, you should probably buy. Here in Florence, B.east is a fantastic emerging gallery that puts on great shows and Eduardo Secci also shows fantastic artworks on a major international level.