There is a sort of pretentiousness around mass-produced art in the design world. You’ll find videos and websites advising you NOT to buy art from big box stores like IKEA or Target. In the same breath, they may tell you to buy originals from thrift stores and if push comes to shove, buy from Home Goods.
Ummm… isn’t Home Goods a big box store?
Anyways, what this advice fails to consider is budget and availability. Unpopular opinion alert: DO NOT RULE OUT BIG BOX STORES. Hear me out! Let’s explore why you should consider buying mass-produced art.
Original is best
In this rant, I want to be clear — buying original art is the best scenario. Artists pour so much emotion and soul in each piece they create. So much time, vulnerability, and high-quality materials go into an artist’s artwork. Because of that, you should expect to pay a premium, even for up and coming artists. If you are buying directly from the artist, you get the best of their work. Don’t underpay for that!
For those of us on small budgets, it is more affordable to buy small original works than larger ones. It is worthwhile to save up for original art as it is a great investment. However, when building your collection or a gallery wall, you may want to buy more affordable prints and paintings while you save for originals in the meantime.
A case for mass-produced art
Next, let’s talk about why mass-produced art may be the way to go.
Why not thrift original art?
I thrift quite often, but in my area, I rarely stumble upon original paintings for an affordable price. I live in a highly competitive thrift market where resellers scoop up all the good stuff and charge a premium at their booth. Basically, people in my area know that their stuff is valuable. The paintings in my dining room where garage sale scores with a beautiful story. It was a total coincidence. In my area, garage sales garner better results for affordable art while thrift is not. In conclusion, where you live affects your chances of buying affordable, secondhand original art.
An infamous design mistake we often make is hanging art that is too small. Depending on the size of the wall, you most likely need art larger than the 8×10 stuff you see in most places, even when building a gallery wall. You need art that is substantial in size.
Buying a large original painting can easily exceed $500 on average, and that is me being very conservative. There are always exceptions to the rule, but usually big original art is not my version of affordable. (Remember, designers will tell you something is inexpensive, but to them, inexpensive could mean $1000. That figure is inexpensive in their world, but may not be in yours.) If you want to enhance your likelihood of finding an affordable large piece of art that will look proportional to the size of your gallery wall, shop at a big box store.
What kind of mass-produced art should I buy?
The key is to not buy anything cliché. No IKEA Eiffel Tower prints. Stay away from the Chanel No. 5 print with actual glitter on the label. Rhinestones glued to a print of a painting? Absolutely not! These embellishments and overdone motifs tend to look cheesy and cheap in mass-produced art. (These could look fabulous on original art though.)
Instead, select mass-produced art with 3D brush strokes that look real. Let the subject of the art be one of nature or a simplistic abstract. No matter what, let the art be meaningful to you and not just whatever is cheapest.
If you see a piece of art you love in store, look at the back of the art and find the artist’s name. You can search for their website and purchase more art from them! Check Facebook and Instagram, too. Often, buying art prints directly from the artist can be affordable and help fill your gallery wall with cohesive vignettes that bring you joy. Support these fantastic artists by buying other smaller original or prints by them.
Please remember that those big box artworks began as a small artist’s dream. You are supporting them by both buying their mass-produced artwork from these stores and buying directly from them. Pick art that speaks to your soul, no matter if it is a one-of-kind or one in 50,000.