The Art Lover‘s Guide to the Best Places to Buy Art Online

As an antique collector and art enthusiast for over two decades, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of the internet on the art world. Online art marketplaces have not only made it easier for collectors to discover and acquire pieces from around the globe but have also provided a platform for emerging artists to showcase their work to a wider audience. In this comprehensive guide, I will share my expertise and insights on the best places to buy art online, along with tips for making informed purchases that will enrich your collection and enhance your living spaces.

The Rise of Online Art Marketplaces

The online art market has experienced significant growth in recent years. According to the 2020 Hiscox Online Art Trade Report, online art sales reached a record high of $4.82 billion in 2019, a 4% increase from the previous year. This trend is expected to continue, with online sales projected to reach $9.32 billion by 2024.

The increasing popularity of buying art online can be attributed to several factors, including:

  1. Convenience: Online art marketplaces allow buyers to browse and purchase artwork from the comfort of their own homes, without the need to visit physical galleries or attend auctions.

  2. Wider selection: The internet provides access to a vast array of art styles, mediums, and price points from artists and galleries worldwide, making it easier for collectors to find pieces that suit their tastes and budgets.

  3. Cost savings: Online art marketplaces often have lower overhead costs than traditional galleries, which can translate to more affordable prices for buyers. Additionally, many websites offer free or reduced shipping fees, further increasing the potential for cost savings.

Top Online Art Marketplaces for Antique Collectors

As an antique collector, it‘s essential to choose reputable online art marketplaces that offer high-quality, authentic pieces. Here are some of the top websites I recommend based on my personal experience and research:

1. 1stDibs

1stDibs is a premier online marketplace for luxury goods, including antique and contemporary art. The website features a curated selection of artwork from top galleries, dealers, and artists worldwide. One of the standout features of 1stDibs is its strict vetting process for sellers, which helps ensure the authenticity and quality of the pieces offered.

Key features:

  • Curated selection of high-end antique and contemporary art
  • Stringent vetting process for sellers
  • Detailed condition reports and provenance information
  • Price range: $1,000 to $1,000,000+

2. Sotheby‘s Home

Sotheby‘s Home is the online consignment division of the renowned auction house, offering a wide range of art, antiques, and collectibles. The website provides a seamless consignment process, with free valuations and white-glove shipping services. As an established name in the art world, Sotheby‘s Home offers buyers the assurance of authenticity and expert curation.

Key features:

  • Consignment platform for art, antiques, and collectibles
  • Free valuations and white-glove shipping
  • Reputation for authenticity and expertise
  • Price range: $500 to $50,000+

3. Invaluable

Invaluable is an online marketplace that partners with over 5,000 auction houses and galleries worldwide, providing collectors with access to a diverse selection of art, antiques, and collectibles. The website offers a user-friendly bidding platform and the ability to participate in live auctions from the comfort of your home.

Key features:

  • Access to auctions from over 5,000 partners worldwide
  • User-friendly bidding platform
  • Live auction participation
  • Price range: $100 to $1,000,000+

Tips for Buying Art Online

While buying art online offers numerous benefits, it‘s essential to approach the process with care and due diligence. Here are some tips I‘ve learned over the years to help you make informed purchases:

  1. Research the artist and artwork:

    • Familiarize yourself with the artist‘s background, style, and reputation within the art community.
    • Study the artwork closely, examining high-resolution images and reading any available condition reports or provenance information.
    • Compare prices of similar works by the artist to ensure you‘re getting a fair deal.
  2. Understand the difference between original art, limited editions, and open edition prints:

    • Original art refers to one-of-a-kind pieces created directly by the artist.
    • Limited edition prints are produced in a fixed number and often signed and numbered by the artist, making them more valuable than open edition prints.
    • Open edition prints are reproductions of an artwork with no set limit on the number of copies produced.
  3. Verify the seller‘s reputation:

    • Check the seller‘s ratings, reviews, and feedback from previous buyers.
    • Look for information about the seller‘s background, expertise, and any professional affiliations or certifications.
    • Be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true, as they may indicate counterfeit or misrepresented artwork.
  4. Consider the total cost of ownership:

    • Factor in additional expenses such as framing, shipping, insurance, and potential customs duties or taxes for international purchases.
    • Inquire about the website‘s return policy and any restocking fees in case the artwork doesn‘t meet your expectations.

Personal Success Stories

Throughout my years of collecting art online, I‘ve had numerous positive experiences that have enriched my collection and my life. Here are a few notable examples:

  1. Discovering an emerging artist: In 2015, I stumbled upon the work of a talented young painter on Saatchi Art. I was immediately drawn to her vibrant, abstract compositions and decided to purchase a piece. Since then, her career has flourished, with her work being featured in several prestigious galleries and exhibitions. It‘s been immensely rewarding to witness her success and know that I played a small role in supporting her journey.

  2. Finding the perfect statement piece: I had been searching for a large-scale, modernist sculpture to serve as the focal point of my living room for months. After exhausting my local gallery options, I turned to 1stDibs and found the ideal piece within a week. The sculpture, a stunning bronze work by a renowned mid-century artist, has become a conversation starter and a cherished addition to my home.

  3. Connecting with like-minded collectors: Through my online art purchases, I‘ve had the opportunity to connect with fellow collectors from around the world. We‘ve shared our experiences, offered advice, and even arranged to meet in person at art fairs and exhibitions. These connections have enriched my understanding of the art world and provided a sense of community that extends beyond the walls of my home.

The Future of Buying Art Online

As the online art market continues to grow and evolve, I believe we will see an even greater emphasis on transparency, authenticity, and technology. Advancements such as blockchain-based provenance tracking and virtual reality previews of artworks in situ will likely become more prevalent, providing collectors with added confidence and convenience in their online purchases.

Moreover, I predict that online art marketplaces will play an increasingly important role in promoting diversity and inclusivity within the art world. By providing a platform for underrepresented artists and making art more accessible to a broader range of collectors, these websites have the potential to democratize the art market and foster a more vibrant, equitable community.


Buying art online has revolutionized the way antique collectors and enthusiasts discover, connect with, and acquire pieces that resonate with their tastes and passions. By carefully selecting reputable online art marketplaces, conducting thorough research, and approaching purchases with a discerning eye, collectors can unlock a world of possibilities and build meaningful, personal collections that bring joy and inspiration to their lives. As an antique collector and art expert, I wholeheartedly encourage you to embrace the potential of online art marketplaces and embark on your own journey of discovery and acquisition. With patience, knowledge, and an open mind, you‘ll find that the perfect piece is just a click away.

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