Krrb is now part of the Apartment Therapy family! Check out the Marketplace for an even wider selection of furnishings and home decor.
Add personality and a sense of self to your home and office with vintage artwork. Whether you display an entire wall of vintage paintings and prints or focus on a single portrait, artwork give your surrounding history and character. So hit up your local thrift shops, flea markets and even Krrb for secondhand artwork. With the right guidelines, you’re sure to find treasures at affordable prices.
1. Look for Identifiers
Take a close look at the artwork. You’ll want to determine if it’s a painting, print or lithograph. If it’s an original piece of art that the artist painted, look for a hand signature. If you’ve picked up a print, you should be able to located a printing company label and/or numbers that identify what number print out of the edition. Perhaps you have a lithograph, so look for a lithograph publishing company stamp on any of the corners.
Take a look at both the front and back of the artwork. If you have to take the artwork out of the frame, do so carefully, protecting the image as you remove it from the glass and frame. When buying online, ask the seller for high-res images of the artwork from all sides and angles. Once you can identify your artwork, you’ll be able to do a little research on the artist and learn more about how the item was made and its value.
2. Assess the Condition
When purchasing secondhand artwork, the upkeep and repair can sometimes be worth more than the actual art. Look for the darkening of a painting’s color, making it appear dull—a sign of smoke damage. Water damage is also detrimental to artwork, causing warping, flaking and missing paint.
Be realistic about the condition of your artwork. Most vintage artwork will have craquelure, those crackling lines in the paint and if it wasn’t probably treated, it may also have rips and tears. Once taped up with adhesive cloth tape from the back—tears, creases and crackling really add character to a piece of art.
3. Have a connection
Only ever buy art when you feel passionate about it. It’s not so much about it fitting your personal decor but rather it fitting your personal interests. Get educated in the various styles of art by visiting museums and joining an art club. Knowledge and experience viewing and appreciating art will help you develop your own taste. Next time you’re at a flea market, you’ll feel confident picking up a few still life paintings or a folk art block print.