Where (& How) To Buy Abstract Paintings

Written by Nicole Nicholas


Posted on December 18 2022

If you've come to this page, chances are you're someone who can appreciate a nice piece of art. Abstract paintings are some of the most popular paintings sold today, and for good reason! 

From being featured heavily in popular culture (think: Hollywood film and TV), to being used as an up-scale focal point in many modern interior designer spaces, abstract paintings have become a tell-tale symbol of elitism and wealth. The truth is though, you don't need to be wealthy to buy an incredible abstract painting. You just need to know where to look!

In this article we'll be going over everything you need to know about where and how to buy abstract paintings - both online and in person.

In this article we’ll explore:

1) What is an abstract painting?

2) What types of paintings are available?

3) Where can you buy them?

4) Things to know before you buy.

5) Frequently Asked Questions

Let's get started!

What Is An Abstract Painting?

Abstract paintings are often defined by their lack of representation or literal meaning. Instead of representing a literal object or scene, the artist will use colors, shapes, lines, textures, space, light, and other elements to create a work of art that can be left up for interpretation by the viewer.

The elements the abstract artist adds to the canvas convey a 'mood' or visual message, but these messages aren't necessarily meant to be understood literally. For example, if an artist were to paint a red circle with a black border, it would not mean anything specific. It could represent any number of things, from love to death, or even simply the color red.

The beauty of abstract paintings is that they allow the viewer to interpret what they see in any way they choose. Some people find, the more abstract the painting, the easier it is to understand. Others prefer works that are more figurative and literal in nature.


What Types Of Paintings Are Available?

Originals vs Prints

An "original painting" is known as one that was painted directly by the artist, in physical form. A print is essentially a reproduction of the original painting, which happens when the original piece is scanned/photographed into digital form, then the painting is printed out onto another surface, such as a canvas or a piece of high-end photo paper.

At first glance, originals and prints tend to look the same from afar, the only real differences will be:

Certificate of Authenticity - With an original painting you'll get a Certificate of Authenticity, proving that you are the sole owner of the original version of that artwork.

3D Elements - When you move up close to the painting, you'll typically be able to tell that a painting is a print because any 3D elements (such as texture from the paint) won't actually be 3D. They may still look 3D from afar but once you're up close enough, you'll be able to touch the painting to tell the 3D pieces aren't really there (unless 3D texture has been added to a print after the fact).

The Price - The price tag of an abstract art print will be considerably lower than that of the original painting. This is because prints can be mass produced, so the cost per unit goes down dramatically. However, when buying an original painting, you're going to pay more because it's the only one in existence. 

The Size and Surface Material - Prints come in all sizes and can be printed onto various surfaces (like canvas, photo paper, wood, or metal), whereas an original painting will only come in the size and surface material used to create the painting.


Where Can I Buy Them?

Online/In Person

Whether you buy a painting in person or online is totally up to you and your preferences. The main difference between buying an abstract painting online vs in person is that when you buy it in person, you'll get a chance to physically see the painting before purchasing it. If this is important to you, you may want to lean in that direction, if not, simply choose to buy from a site you trust that has high quality photos of their artwork that you can view in detail before you buy online.

The main other factor I would say is important to note is the size of your painting. Generally, very large pieces (larger than 48" on each side) either can't be mailed or will cost you an arm and a leg to do so. So be mindful of this when making your decision.


Best Places To Buy Abstract Paintings Online

With the internet being as vast as it is today, there are a ton of great places to buy abstract paintings online (but remember to be mindful of whether you're looking for originals or prints!).

Here are some of the top places:

NicoleNicholasArt.com - I'd be remiss if I didn't add my own abstract painting gallery in here. Filled with high quality original artwork and affordable, high-end prints, sizes offered at all price points.

Etsy.com - Etsy is one of my favorite sites to recommend for buying art online because it allows you access the work of independent artists vs supporting big box chains.

Independant Artist Search - There are also a ton of independent artists out there who have their art for sale online. It's very similar to what you can expect to find on Etsy, just do a Google search for abstract painters/artists in your region and you're sure to come up with a great local artist to support. Cutting out the middle man (the third party vendor website) and purchasing your piece directly from an artist will be a huge help to the artist you're supporting. 

FineArtAmerica.com - They offer a wide variety of high quality paintings for sale at affordable prices.

GreatBigCanvas.com - This site offers original oil paintings and acrylics from artists all around the world.

Art.com - Art.com is another good place to buy art online because they sell a lot of different types of artwork including original oils, prints, and posters.


The Best Places To Buy Abstract Paintings In Person

Though buying abstract paintings online is convenient, nothing beats the experience of walking into a gallery or museum and seeing a beautiful, original piece hanging on a wall. Here are some of my favorite places to do so:

GalleryNucleus.com - Gallery Nucleus is a huge chain of galleries across the US that sells both original and reproduction pieces.

MuseumofContemporaryArt.org - MOCA is another great option for purchasing contemporary art. It's located in Los Angeles but they have locations throughout the US.

Local art shows - You'd be surprised how many cities have well-rounded local art scenes with very talented independent artists. Do a quick Google search to find out when the next local art show is happening in your city and make a day of it! (I actually used to sell my abstract paintings at local art shows when I first started out. It's where I won my first award! Many emerging artists start here.) 

If you don't live near any of these places, don't worry. Many people opt to buy affordable prints from local shops and department stores. Just be cautious when buying prints from department stores, as they could end up selling the same acrylic print to someone else you know (I know a few people this has happened to!).


Things To Know Before You Buy

Now that we've covered most of what you need to know about buying abstract paintings, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind before making your final decision:

  1. Measure First

Before making a purchase, always remember to measure the space you're looking to hang your painting (multiple times if needed), to ensure you're buying the right size for your space. You don't want to make any assumptions here and risk buying the wrong size.

  1. Mind Your Profile Size

When buying an abstract painting on canvas, you'll often notice the 'profile size' option come up. This term represents the width measurement of the sides of the canvas. There are typically two options to choose from: 3/4" profile and 1 1/2" profile. Your choice will be preference-based for the most part, unless the painting is very large in size, then it will be mandatory to have a 1 1/2" profile size to maintain the stability of the frame/painting (the bigger the painting, the more support it needs).

  1. Consider Framing Options

With abstract wall art, many buyers opt out of having their paintings framed but you do always have the option. Some sellers offer 'float frames' which are a more modern version of the typical frame you'd see on a traditional painting. Honestly though, with abstract art, framing is 100% optional.

  1. Be Mindful Of Shipping Costs

Shipping costs can vary, depending on the size of the painting and where it's coming from. Make sure you do your homework and look up where the painting will be coming from, if any duties will be needed to cross any international borders, or if you need to be home when the delivery arrives.

  1. Take Adequate Time To Decide

Remember that buying artwork can be a big purchase decision. Sometimes you might fall in love with a particular piece, only to realize later on that you made a mistake (maybe it was too small or it didn't go with color scheme in your room). Take the time you need to really understand what you're getting, so that you can feel confident that it will match your style and personality in that exact way you're wanting it to.

  1. Ensure The Seller Is Reputable

Sellers who aren't reputable often offer poor quality products. They might even scam you by selling fake paintings, or just never send the painting you've already paid for. Do your research before purchasing anything from anyone. Remember, if you're looking to buy an extremely low priced painting, you'll likely get what you pay for.

  1. Make Sure It's 'Ready To Hang'

When buying a painting, a lot people don't realize that they don't all come 'ready to hang'. When making your purchase, take a look at the specifications in the product description to see if hanging hardware is included with the painting, if not, ask the seller. It's always better to know this in advance than to have the painting shipped to you, then realize you don't have what you need to hang it.


Frequently Asked Questions

What factors influence the price of abstract paintings?

The price of an abstract painting varies greatly depending on its size, medium, subject matter, and various other factors. Larger pieces also tend to cost more due to the materials needed to create them, as well as the amount of labor involved. You may also find that the work of certain artists tends to be more expensive than others due to their popularity (this usually plays a significant role).

Why are ugly paintings worth so much?

No matter how ugly you may think a painting is, there will always be someone who finds that same painting beautiful (possibly in a completely unique way to conventional beauty). Because our definitions of beauty are subjective, abstract art in particular garners a wide variety of opinions about it. 

Very much like different styles of music, depending on the stage you're at in your life, different music (and art) will speak to you differently. When we feel a magnetic pull towards a piece of art, we may not know why (because it's likely subconscious) but there's something in that painting that captivates us. Understanding this is the key to understanding ourselves and the world better. 

When 'ugly' paintings sell for a lot of money, it's likely that the person buying it simply doesn't see it as ugly, but more so as 'unique'.

What are the most emotionally powerful paintings?

Since experiencing emotions through art is very subjective (and very personal to the viewer), it's tricky to have a definitive answer to this question. However, throughout history it's typically be found that works depicting death, war, and violence tend to evoke strong emotional responses. These types of paintings are often considered to be among the most 'powerful' because they depict things that many people fear but that some people may subconsciously be drawn to.

What is the best way to understand abstract art?

Abstract artworks can be difficult to understand at first, especially when compared to other forms of art, such as figurative. This is largely because abstract art tends to focus on an obscure visual experience and conveying emotion, rather than the representation of objects. In order to fully appreciate abstract art, you must learn to let go of any preconceived notions of what art should look like, and instead allow yourself to be open to whatever response it brings up in you.

What things should one keep in mind while buying abstract art paintings?

There are a lot of factors that one should consider when buying abstract paintings, these include paying attention to what will influence the price of the artwork, such as demand for the artist, the quality or size of the piece, the materials used, whether you're looking for original abstract canvas paintings, limited edition prints, or mass produced abstract prints that come from a department store. All of these factors will play a role in the price of a painting. 

You'll also want to ensure you have adequate space on your wall to fit the painting you purchase, and that it matches your décor and color scheme. 

Why do crappy or weird looking artworks sell for millions?

Because the market has shifted away from traditional art, and has moved towards contemporary art. Contemporary art is defined by its ability to appeal to a broad audience. That's why modern artists today use techniques such as collage, digital manipulation, and even spray paint to create their work. It's an attempt to make their work more relatable to the masses, and to make it stand out as being more unique than traditional paintings. 

Why are “drip paintings” worth so much?

Drip paintings are a type of abstract art where the artist drips paint onto a canvas. They were popularized by various artists in the last century, and have since become extremely collectible. Because of the popularity of these various artists, their paintings became highly sought after, and now fetch high prices.  

No matter the medium or style, any type of painting can become highly sought after if the artist or the painting itself gains a lot of traction in popular media or certain social circles.

Why are abstract paintings so expensive and considered special?

The reason abstract paintings are so expensive is because they, firstly, require a great deal of skill and talent to produce. There's no set formula for creating them, and each accomplished artist has their own signature style, which you can't get from anywhere else. Also, the process of producing an abstract painting requires a lot of time and effort.

If a collector sees an abstract painting they really like, and they know that particular piece is one of a kind, they'll likely be willing to pay a lot more for it. That's why some of these paintings sell for millions, because when a contemporary artist becomes popular and they have a lot of eyes on them from all around the world, more people are likely to see their paintings. This will lead to more people wanting certain pieces, which creates demand and drives up the price.