Galleries may appear to be elite and reserved only for buyers with unlimited funds. “I would always advise, for example, to ignore all of that,” says Nicola Charles, who runs 11:Eleven in Washington, DC, a contemporary art gallery that covers a wide price range. “If you like the vibe, then this is where you should be. If you don’t like the atmosphere, leave.
Still, Charles can understand. Even as a gallery owner, she says she’s been frowned upon by art dealers who assume she can’t afford what’s on the wall, and she knows the lack of transparency in price in some places may seem like an obstacle. She lists all the prices next to the pieces in her space, where works currently range from $80 to $11,000. Charles recommends being upfront with gallery owners about your budget because once you remove the pump, what happens is just a financial transaction. She also shares another pro tip: “Something that isn’t advertised often is don’t be afraid to ask for a payment plan.”
Malls aren’t the only option either. Non-profit, artist-run, artist-centric galleries actively try to recruit newcomers to the art world, so they are often more welcoming. “We’re looking to really support underserved emerging artists,” says Victoria Reis, director of the nonprofit Transformer Gallery in DC “The majority of artists we work with…are BIPOC artists, queer artists, women artists .”
Transformer offers several ways to purchase low-cost artwork, such as their FlatFile program, which offers original artwork and limited-edition prints, all priced at $500 or less. Many galleries also sell small, unframed works on paper at affordable prices.