Buying Art from a Gallery? Don’t Forget These Key Steps

You’ve found the artwork you want, and you’re ready to make the purchase. What’s left to consider?

To avoid any surprises, you might want to ask the gallery about added costs, such as shipping fees or value-added taxes. Then, do a final check to confirm you have all of the relevant documentation, from invoices to certificates of authenticity, so that it will be easy to resell or donate the piece later on.

When you buy your next artwork, you can reference this guide to make sure that you haven’t forgotten any of these key steps.

Shipping Details

WHAT IS IT?

Shipping details include the cost of shipping and insurance, the estimated time of arrival, and the method of delivery.

WHY DO YOU NEED IT?

Shipping is often an additional expense, and you may want to consider these costs before you agree to the sale.

WHEN DO YOU GET IT?

Before you buy the artwork, you can ask the gallery for a shipping quote and estimated time of delivery. Once you make the purchase, the gallery can provide further information about the shipment, such as the tracking number and the shipper’s contact information.


Added Costs

WHAT IS IT?

Artworks are subject to the same added costs as any other high-value purchase, such as value-added taxes (VAT) and customs duties. These expenses do not involve the gallery—and therefore do not appear on the gallery’s invoice.

WHY DO YOU NEED IT?

You can make a more informed purchase if you take into account all of the costs associated with the artwork. In general, you can expect to pay some form of import tax if you are shipping an artwork to or from Europe or Asia. You will not encounter import fees when buying an artwork from within the United States.

WHEN DO YOU GET IT?

Before you make your purchase, you can ask the gallery for information about these fees in your region—or you can do your own research on the subject.


The Invoice

WHAT IS IT?

The invoice is the lasting record of your purchase—and lists detailed information about the sale, such as the artist’s name, the artwork’s dimensions, and the gallery’s address.

WHY DO YOU NEED IT?

You need the invoice to demonstrate your ownership of the work and its monetary value. For example, you might need to provide a copy of the invoice when you buy artwork insurance or consign the work to an auction house.

WHEN DO YOU GET IT?

Once you are committed to buying the artwork, you can ask the gallery to send a preliminary or pro forma invoice for your review. This way, you can double-check the details of the sale before submitting payment.

After you buy the work, the gallery will send you another version of the invoice, which should be marked as “paid.” This is the document that proves your ownership—so you will want to save it for your records.


Proof of Authenticity

WHAT IS IT?

Any document that traces an artwork back to the artist is considered a proof of authenticity. Proofs of authenticity include gallery invoices, artist signatures, certificates of authenticity, and exhibition catalogues, among others.

WHY DO YOU NEED IT?

You need an artwork’s proof of authenticity to demonstrate that you are buying an original artwork. You might also need to provide copies of these records if you resell or donate the work—as the future buyer will also want proof that the artwork is authentic.

WHEN DO YOU GET IT?

It is essential to ask the gallery for proof of authenticity before you make a purchase so that you can factor these records into your decision-making.


The next time you buy an artwork, you can keep this guide on hand to make sure you don’t forget any of these essential logistics. If you have any questions along the way, you can contact our team of specialists at inquiries@artsy.net.