Put yourself in the frame by buying art this Christmas


When I ran women’s development programs all over the city, I really enjoyed designing and delivering the personal finance training. I told clients how my mom used to budget on the back of an envelope.

No matter what time of year I did the training – January or August – there would always be at least one woman who had already finished her Christmas shopping. This would usually make the rest of the class roar in surprise or laughter.

If you’re like me and leave some shopping behind until now (someone else just ends up sitting at a computer on Christmas morning buying tickets for someone as a gift?), so there is still time to support our artists.

If you want to get into buying art, there are two tips I like to give. The first one I picked up at the London Art Fair: Decide on your art budget for the year, even if it’s £ 100. It’s amazing what you can accumulate in a few years. Each year you can increase or decrease the amount set aside for original art. This way, you are less likely to make costly mistakes. If you are fed up with your purchase, there is a second-hand resale market in art auctions.


AFTER THE DELUGE: After the Rain by Majella Clancy in gallery 545

The second tip comes from Susan Abraham who worked at a successful gallery: “buy something you like”.

At this time of year, many galleries have group exhibitions, so you may have the opportunity to see a selection of some of the available works. The more you look, the more things can grab your attention and the easier it is to decide what you would like. If it’s for someone else, bring them over and ask them what their favorite piece is, then come back later and pick it up. Some galleries have an online facility. This can be useful if you are pressed for time but there is nothing quite like choosing a piece from an exhibition or seeing it first in real life.

The Fenderesky Gallery at 31 North Street was established in 1983 and offers a temporary exhibition of small works (open Wednesday through Saturday until December 23 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.), including beautiful small paintings by established artists. He represents among others Ronnie Hughes who has just opened a major exhibition at the Mac.

On the same street at number 59, The Engine Room Gallery has three floors of paintings and sculptures. Around the corner at Cotton Court, Belfast Print Workshop holds its annual exhibit for its members, some prints are available online, but there’s a lot more to choose from if you step down and watch with expert printmakers on hand to guide you . Or if you have an aspiring printmaker around the New Year, there are classes scheduled. Gift certificates also available.

The Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery at 23 Donegall Street has a truly fascinating Paul Seawright exhibition at the moment. Entitled Beasts of Burden, it focuses on the Rwandan project “cows of peace” where, 25 years after the genocide in which a million people were murdered, the perpetrators are paired with their victims to raise a cow together in order to reconcile. There is a limited edition photographic print for sale that supports the project and upstairs a selection of works by photographers for sale. The market for photographic art is worth several million pounds worldwide, but there are generally fewer opportunities to see a selection of works. Classes are also available to book online.

Artisann on Bloomfield Avenue is open to visitors and also sells online. Uphold is the online platform representing a new generation of artists in the city, including the Array collective, which belongs to a generation that wants to create opportunities for themselves because more traditional galleries do not represent them.

Francesca Bondi from Gallery 545 is also online, which offers free delivery of artwork over £ 500 to UK and Ireland with an interesting selection of artists.

If all of this makes your head spin and you think, ‘I could never own a work of art’ then there is the ‘own art’ that can help you buy between £ 100 and £ 2000 and the pay over a ten month period. (the same way you might buy furniture or a car). There are currently eleven galleries in the north of Ireland that are part of the program.

You can purchase works from the Royal Ulster Academy exhibition through the program – the exhibition runs at the Ulster Museum until January. All works are online. The Vault pop-up store at Portview Trade Center is open Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Some artists now reach out to audiences directly with online websites, including Rosie McGurran. Finally, the Katie Lindsay gallery presents a major first exhibition with Colin Watson.

So this is it. Professional artists appreciate a sale. Let’s not make arts administrators the only ones making a living from art in Belfast. Merry Christmas.

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