The Art of Giving: How to Buy Art as a Gift

Art makes a timeless gift for a loved one, but the ins and outs of giving art can be elusive. Artsy specialist Rebecca Bronfein Raphael offers five tips on how to gift art this season through her own experiences buying art for friends and family.

How do I…

1. … consider the recipient?

My parents love art that mesmerizes and delights, so their home is filled with bold abstract paintings and sweeping strokes of watercolor on paper. This season, I’m seeking to expand their horizon by giving them a three-dimensional work by Brooklyn-based artist Lauren Seiden, whose graphite works on paper literally jump off the stretcher bars.

2. … consider the space?

For a friend who recently moved in to her very own apartment, an industrial-style loft, I searched for an artwork that adds a soft and romantic reprieve from the exposed brick and copper piping that characterizes her space. Staying mindful that her walls all serve double-duty—there are book shelves, pot racks, and knobs for coats and scarves to hang—I hoped to find a small piece that has high impact, such as Rob Ryan’s Dreamed the Same Dreams (2013).

3. … find a work of art for someone who is far away?

Works on paper and photographs can be shipped easily and affordably. To my friends who will surely celebrate a white Christmas, Ranu Mukherjee’s sunning beauties and Sarah Hardacre’s Arms open to welcome the sun and tropical landscapes like Chris Ballantyne’s Parking Lot with Palm Trees and Souther Salazar’s Pender Island pack up easily and will warm up any home this holiday season.

4. … choose a work of art that can be framed easily and inexpensively?

Professional framing can start at $100 but quickly become more expensive. When searching for a gift, I look at the overall dimensions of the artwork, e.g. the size of the paper, and see if it will fit in a store-bought frame. Most frames come with a mat with a picture opening in a standard size—8 x 10 inches, 5 x 7 inches, etc. To properly present your gift of art, ask your local framer to cut a piece of mat board that fits within the store-bought frame, but has a window that works best with your work of art. For example, these works will each fit in West Elm’s Gallery Frames:

-  Michael Kenna, Chateau de Versailles, Versailles, France,1996

-  Ellen Babcock, Two Heads, 2012

-  Egon Schiele, Standing Female Nude [Handzeichnungen], 1920

-  Alex Katz, Maria II, 1992

-  Jeffrey Milstein, Alaska Airlines Salmon-Thirty-Salmon Boeing 737-400, 2006

5. … find a work that benefits a good cause?

A gift that gives back is one of the most fulfilling presents to give, and receive. Gifting a work that supports a nonprofit has never been easier—check out Artsy’s Give & Give Back Sale.

Learn more about How to Collect on Artsy.