When thinking “art dealer” you are probably thinking various high-end connotations, but there is a way to buy and sell artwork as a small business owner. Here I look at some of them.

The business
Art dealing is the business of buying artworks from the artist (or gallery or reseller), possibly framing it and then reselling it. On the high end you will deal with collectors, galleries and even museums, on the low end (where I’m talking about) at you usually deal “amateur” collectors, interior decorators and home and business owners that want nice artworks to hang on their walls – if it’s the work of an “up-and-coming” artist even better.

This is a business where you can generate a 10x return on investment, if you can find the right artist and buyer.

Sourcing artworks
When I speak about “artworks” I speak about paintings (whether acrylic or oil) or other type of sketches and not digital reproductions. Yes there is money to make made in digital reproductions as well, but I am looking to today at unique artworks.

Now you must be thinking where the hell can a small business owner purchase unique artworks and then possibly have to frame it and generate a 10x return on investment. Here is how.

1. Mental Health Art Exhibitions
Various organizations that work with mental health patients often have art exhibitions featuring artworks done by the people they work with. This helps people suffering from a mental illness to earn extra income to supplement their measly grants as well as give them a sense of accomplishment it also helps raise some funds for the organisations they work with as they take a commission. There have long been studies about the link between a mental illness and creativity; these exhibitions often feature interesting works of art.

Here is some artwork from an exhibition I attended in Cape Town:

Richard Lawrence’s “Conversations while a tsunami is happening” was priced at R500

Richard Lawrence’s “Conversations while a tsunami is happening” was priced at R500

Another two pieces by Richard Lawrence

Another two pieces by Richard Lawrence

I purchased this artwork for R50 and had it framed:

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

Sigmund Freud by Paul Martin

2. Buy from struggling artists
Creativity knows no race or class and there are a lot of talented artists out there living in poverty who sell their art simply to survive. You can have two artists with similar talent; one that has been featured in galleries, the other undiscovered and the one will sell their painting for R2000 and the other R200. This opens an opportunity to purchase artworks from struggling artists and resell it.  It’s the way of the world, some will get discovered while others with remain in obscurity, but by supporting struggling artists you allow them to live another day and hopefully get discovered one day as every artwork they do is like a promotional piece for their talents.

Framing your artwork
The second part of this business is to find an inexpensive picture framer. To increase the value of the artwork its best to have it professionally framed especially if you don’t already have buyers that it will be shipped to (it is easier to ship an artwork unframed). The key to inexpensive professional framing is to avoid the “high street” picture framers in malls or the CBD, these people are very expensive and the majority of the cost is probably for the shop space they are renting. There are lots of picture framers that work out of their garage that do similar quality jobs for a fraction of the price of high street picture framers.

Reselling artworks
The third component to success in this business is to find a market for the artworks you have purchased and framed. Here you have a few options, one is sell it via art shops, websites or sell it directly to interior decorators of even home or business owners.

How to Start a Buying & Selling Business in South Africa

A buying and selling business is one of the easiest businesses to get into; it requires little skill (besides basic mathematics) and can be started with very little capital. There are two underlying components to a successful buying and selling business: 1.


You have a business idea, where to next?
How to Start a Business from Business Idea