The Inside Man: Buying art in London needn’t be scary – here’s where to go and how to do it

It can be daunting to buy art. It can be daunting to buy art. I was an art commitment-phobe for years, afraid to risk a painting because of the possibility of being called clueless by my friends who are artists. One day, however, something changed. I marched into a gallery declaring, “I want some art,” and haven’t stopped buying artworks ever since. An antiques market is the best place to buy your first piece of art. Spitalfields is a great market in London. Lawrence Prentice is a great eye for the unusual and wonderful. The last thing I bought from him, a green and yellow glass engraving of dancing figures, was his. It’s the energy and passion of a subject that grabs my attention. Lawrence is the man to call if you are concerned about provenance. Ask lots of questions and be sure to look for signatures or labels from past galleries on artworks. A painting I bought from a charity shop turned out to be well-worth the money. After recognizing the Mayfair Gallery label, I suspected it was. Apart from the rare, expensive masterpieces found in charity shops, it isn’t cheap to buy’serious’ art. I think Gertrude’s new scheme by The Sunday Painter is brilliant. The south London gallery’s platform is named after Gertrude Stein. She was undoubtedly the most influential figure in the early 20th century European art scene. It allows subscribers to borrow serious artworks for as low as GBP50 per month. The artists include the rising star Jill Tate and the legendary Paula Rego. You can hang one of these on your wall to show your bragging rights. It’s impossible to predict who will make it big, but I would put my money on Ben Burgis. He is a prolific painter based in north Wales. In 2020, I had an exhibition of his work in my showroom. He’s also been in many group shows in London and around the world. I love his paintings of Marcel, his pet pig. Artist’s prints and editions can be a great way to get into contemporary art, even if you don’t have the funds for a proper painting. Kate Boxer’s charming drawings can be purchased in limited editions signed by the artist and hand colored. This makes it easy to distinguish an artist print from student posters. Her charming Hercule Poirot portrait is a great way to indulge my penchant for Agatha Christie.