The Art Of Gifting Art

General tips and guidelines to help you manage the gifting process for family, friends as well as business relationships.

by A. Richard Langley

The famed surrealist painter and filmmaker Salvador Dalí once said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”

Though the quote revolves around an artist’s level of satisfaction with their work, it also applies to the challenging experience of gifting art. In establishing a creative bond with the recipient, you want to choose a suitable work—no matter the occasion—that reflects well on your artistic taste and your knowledge of theirs.

With myriad subjects (e.g., portraits, still life, and animals), mediums (e.g., digital art, paintings, photography, and sculpture), and movements (e.g., abstract, modern, and contemporary), you should be informed and confident before gifting art. Following are general tips and guidelines to help you manage the gifting process for family, friends, and business relationships.

Look and Learn

Sunset in Maine | Acrylic on Panel by Pia Sjölin

Before gifting art, you should feel secure that the recipient will enjoy your choice. When you’re inside the recipient’s home, look and learn to collect invaluable information on their art-related likes and dislikes.

  • Who are the main artists, and what are the subjects, mediums, and movements?
  • What are the styles (including frame), colors, size, and location of the art?
  • How much wall space or other display space is available and where? Generally, a smaller work of art is best. (Paintings should be no larger than 20″ x 30″.)
  • What is the style of the decor? Is it traditional or modern, or does it have a retro vibe?
  • What is the color and pattern of the walls and furniture?

variety of mediums on view at Agora Gallery

Personality Profile

Whether you’ve been in their home and know if they’re an art collector, you need to understand the recipient’s personality and their attitude toward receiving a gift of art. The following tips will help you determine if they’re open to suggestions on collecting art and, most important, if you should risk gifting art for them.

Useful Article: Why Buy Original Art

Gauge Their Interest In New Areas

If you know that they have art in their home, show the recipient pictures of works by other artists, subjects, mediums, or movements. Evaluate verbal response, facial look, and body language for their receptivity.

Invite Them To Visit An Art Gallery With You

Even better, choose one with artists, subjects, mediums, and movements that the recipient doesn’t have in their home but that you have discussed with or shown to them.

Know That The Sexes Judge Art Differently

While both choose a work based on the artist’s talent and renown, women appreciate and carefully evaluate the aesthetics, quality, and merits of the work. Conversely, men focus on the artist’s background, talent, and reputation.

Engage Them In A Brief Conversation About Art

Whether you know the artists, subjects, mediums, and movements that they prefer, you may learn if the recipient is open to suggestions on collecting artwork in other areas.

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gifting art

Search And Buy

Now that you have done your due diligence to know the recipient’s taste in art, you’re ready to choose and gift art. Go with your instinct and be objective. Remember, you’re buying for them, not yourself.

Gifting Art To Family And Friends

  • Set—and stick to—a realistic budget. Base the budget on the art in the recipient’s home and on what you can afford. If you overdo it, you could make the recipient uncomfortable.
  • Choose an original work or a reproduction. Your choice depends on your budget and knowing which one will show the recipient that you understand and appreciate their taste. Keep in mind that the quality of mass-produced reproductions, which use commercial inks, does not compare to the vibrancy, immediacy, and uniqueness of an original work, even if the artist is not well-known.
  • Where to buy original work? You can buy original work online and from the artist directly; from a gallery; or from events such as art fairs, craft fairs, or outdoor markets. If you buy from the artist or at a physical venue, inspect the quality and condition of the piece, and ensure it’s signed, original, and includes a certificate of authenticity.The in-person buying experience will also help you gain connections and insight on how, what, and when to buy art. Most galleries enjoy establishing new patron relationships and sharing their knowledge.
  • Ensure the piece is presentable. The piece should be in a ready-to-hang state (a photo should be mounted) when you present it to the recipient.
  • Understand the return/credit policy. No matter from whom or where you buy the artwork, you may have to return it. For example, the recipient may want to exchange the piece for another, or it may have an imperfection.

Gifting Art To Business Acquaintances

A challenging consideration is gifting art for a business relationship (e.g., colleague, boss, or client). While you want to give the recipient a gift with more personal meaning than the typical office present (e.g., gift certificate or drink mug), you don’t want your choice to make the person—or others in the office—uncomfortable.

Follow the tips above for searching and buying for family and friends, as well as those below.

  • Choose an office-appropriate piece. Even if you have been to and viewed art in the recipient’s home, choose a piece that is suitable for their workspace. For guidance, note the styles, colors, and themes of objects—especially pictures and coffee-table books—in their area.
  • Use common sense and prudent etiquette. No matter the recipient’s taste in art, it’s best to choose a conservative yet creative work that everyone in the office can study and appreciate.

Presentation and Reaction

On the big gift-giving day, be sure to include a brief note with the work. The note should describe the work and your reasons for choosing it. For example, you studied the art in their home and wanted to give them a piece that complemented their collection, or that it complements the decor or furniture. When gifting art to a business relationship, choose an office-appropriate piece and tell them it’s for their workspace.

Viewing a piece of art is an ongoing, evolving experience. Even if they don’t initially embrace your gift, fear not. Some people need more time to warm up to a new piece of art, especially if they didn’t choose it. To help ease their apprehension, choose a work that, at first sight, the recipient will understand. As they spend more time and analyze the work, they will uncover and appreciate its many meanings.”

Whether you are looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, need to impress a colleague, or want to give a friend something they will always remember you by, you will find the just the right piece on ARTmine. Need help? Contact us at

There is no greater gift than giving a piece of art to an avid collector. Your choice will open eyes—theirs and yours—to visual and emotional pleasure.

One comment

  • I like what this article mentions about where you can buy work. It makes sense that it could be good to buy it online or even at dealers if you want to see it first. It’s something to remember to make sure the piece is what I expected. Thanks for the post!

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