Helen Armon-Jones launched The Art Buyer to enable people to enjoy the experience of buying original, contemporary art without the ‘stuffy formality’.
What inspired you to launch The Art Buyer?
I had spent a lot of time watching people’s behaviour in galleries (hushed library tones, clinging to corners) and had many conversations with people who had blank walls or mass-produced prints because they either ‘didn’t know where to start’, where to buy, how to buy or what art to buy. It’s from this that the seed of The Art Buyer took root. I had studied the art business at Sotheby’s Institute, worked in a Surrey gallery and partnered with a London art gallery for The Affordable Art Fair, so setting up The Art Buyer just felt like the next step.
I noticed that many people find the rarefied white box atmosphere of galleries intimidating and others simply don’t feel confident in their knowledge or taste, what to put where, how to hang a gallery wall, what will go with existing artworks or room décor. I wanted to bridge the gap and bring collectors on the journey – by working with clients, creating a proposal and ultimately bringing affordable art to clients to try in their homes before deciding. Allowing people to experience the joy of buying original, contemporary art with none of the stuffy formality about it.
Is your background in art buying?
I’ve always bought art for myself and then started being asked to source pieces for friends and family at shows. But career-wise, despite having studied Art History for my degree I went on to pursue a career in commercial marketing for 17 years. A role for Hiscox Insurance, managing their art sponsorship (working with Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries) was the first cog turning me back to the path I think I was always meant to tread. I retrained at the Sotheby’s Institute and have now been working as an art consultant and art dealer.
Are you selling pieces to meet a variety of budgets – why is this important?
I represent what is deemed to be the ‘affordable’ end of the art market, generally working between £100-£5000. I feel passionately that art should be accessible to all and want to help spread the understanding that you can own a piece of original art from a contemporary UK artist/maker for the same price as a repro print. I work with first time buyers, those adding to their collections and those simply looking for art that works with their interiors.
How do you choose which artists to represent?
I travel around the country visiting degree shows, art prizes, exhibitions and Open Studios. I work with hand selected UK artists who are either recent graduates, emerging or established. I do lots of research, but fundamentally follow my instinct. I’m drawn naturally to certain aesthetics but have honed the art of looking with the clients’ eyes.
I keep a close watch on current trends but know that most of my clients want something they can love and live with in their homes for a lifetime. Working with knowledge of what’s been well received in the curated online gallery The Art Buyer and ensuring I have main genres covered is key. It’s all about relationships – with the artists and the clients.
Please describe how the process of buying art from you works?
There are three strands to The Art Buyer offering:
- The online gallery is a lovingly curated selection of affordable contemporary art. Simply click, checkout and the work arrives at your home within a week.
- The Art Finder service – I offer a free consultation, following which I create a proposal. From this I bring a selection of art to the clients home for them to live with and try in-situ before making a decision on which piece(s) to keep.
- Bespoke commissions – I work with clients to find the right artist, and working with their décor and style, we create original artwork bespoke to them.
Do you see this service benefitting interior designers as well as individual customers?
As well as selling to and working with individual customers, I also work with interior designers – and this is definitely something I want to grow and develop further. Just like working with a customer, working with interior designers allows me to offer the same level of expertise and service to help designers find the right pieces for their projects. It offers an opportunity for collaboration and I also believe allows me to present an array of UK artists that the designers may otherwise not be familiar with.
Tell me about the charitable link?
The Art Buyer donates a percentage of profits to UK charities all year round, having donated over £1000 to UK charities in the first 11 months: The Trussel Trust, NHS Charities Together, Women’s Aid and currently Young Minds (youth mental health charity). ‘Art with Heart’ is fundamental to The Art Buyer – fair commission for artists, low delivery charges and minimal costs passed on to clients all backed up with giving back to UK charities from every penny of profit we make.
(For a guide on how to buy vintage furniture click here)