Where to Invest $100/$1,000/$10,000 in Art Right Now

Or Art Market Advice for People Like Me

Posted on May 14, 2019, 11:00 am
7 mins


I recently read an article on Bloomberg titled “Where to Invest $1 Million in Art Right Now” and I thought, “I don’t know many people wondering what to do with a million dollars.” The article bases its recommendations on perspectives from insiders specializing in classic and contemporary art. Most of the works suggested for this theoretical million-dollar portfolio run six figures. The least expensive item on the list is a photograph by Agnes Denes, documenting her 1982 “Wheatfield” in Manhattan.

What if you only have $10,000 to spend? Or $100. Even at a three-digit budget, people are not excluded from collecting art.

How do I know? I’m an Art Advisor and Curator who specializes in emerging, contemporary art. Finding affordable, rising stars is my expertise. I research art constantly. I attend gallery openings, artist’s studios, art fairs, BFA/MFA shows, biennials. I read reviews and blogs, follow artists and galleries on social media, pay attention to auction records and awards. My clients are passionate about learning and growing in their patronage of the arts, and I help them find work that speaks to who they are.

I love a good investment, but I don’t want anyone to bet their entire 401k on my advice. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Another piece of advice: The more you buy, the better your chances of making an amazing investment. So here are a few recommendations for those who cannot purchase that Denes photo or anything else on Bloomberg’s list, but who want to start building their collection.

Art Collecting At $100

From Robert Hardgrave’s Baggleridge series. Image courtesy of the artist.

Robert Hardgrave
Baggleridge, 2014
3-4 layer risograph prints on ivory paper
10.5 x 16.2 inches each
Edition of 140
$60 for 13 prints

If your budget is under $100, here’s what I think: Risographs! A step up from those poster prints you had on your college dorm walls, they’re artist-made prints, not reproductions. Robert Hardgrave is one of my favorite Northwest artists because he’s incredibly prolific and the work is diverse. I love how it speaks about the body, a universal theme. Incredible news: You can buy an entire suite of risograph prints by Hardgrave for 60 bucks. The edition size is large, so don’t expect these to jump in value; however, you’re getting a lot–13 gorgeous prints–for your money.


Art Collecting At $1,000

Alexander Reben, “Your dreams are worth your best pants when you wish you’d given love a chance.” Image courtesy of the artist.

Alexander Reben
Your dreams are worth your best pants when you wish you’d given love a chance
, 2018
Pigment inkjet on double weight cotton rag baryta paper
17 x 22 inches
Edition of 5 + 1 AP

I trust Charlie James. He’s a former Seattleite/former Microsoftee who moved to L.A. and opened a gallery, championed artists like Ramiro Gomez and Amir Fallah and Sadie Barnette, and had the foresight to know whose careers were about to skyrocket. Now he’s representing Alexander Reben, who fed an AI deep learning program thousands of different fortune cookie messages. The artist then asked the program to generate new fortunes based on that model. These are small, under $1k editions by an artist doing amazing things with artificial philosophy, synthetic psychology, and technological magic. I can’t wait to see what he does next.


Art Collecting At $10,000

You already know about Anthony White, our rising star in a new generation of Northwest artists. His pieces are selling faster than he can make them. Are they priced too low? Yep, those pieces will go above $10k soon. If you want to buy one before that happens, you’ll have to get on a waiting list at Greg Kucera Gallery.

Muzae Sesay, “Untitled Skeleton #5.” Image courtesy of the artist.

Muzae Sesay
Untitled Skeleton #5, 2019
Acrylic, gouache, graphite on canvas
40 x 40 Inches

For the Bay Area, the rising star to watch is Muzae Sesay, and you’re in luck: He has work available now. Just featured on Hulu, in a Nike campaign, and with a mural at Art Market San Francisco, everyone’s crazy about Sesay’s paintings about cities and spaces and color. He’s inspired by his hometown Oakland and what it means to be a black artist in the Bay. Brock Brake, the super impressive curator of Part 2 Gallery, introduced me to Sesay. The work Brake has been exhibiting at the Juxtapoz Clubhouse during Miami Art Week has been stellar and surprisingly affordable.

Wendy White, “American Bleach Effect (Corner Rainbow).” Image courtesy of the artist.

Wendy White
American Bleach Effect (Corner Rainbow), 2019
Recycled bleached denim on canvas, UV print on Plexiglas
24 x 24 inches

After buying a Sesay piece, you have money left over! Why not pick up one of Wendy White’s brand-new denim paintings from Shulamit Nazarian. I fell in love with Wendy White in 2016 when I saw the piece We Go High at Expo Chicago. The New York-based artist has had SO MUCH PRESS and attention since then. The denim series is ongoing, and although it speaks about being American, the number one collector of White’s denim works is Japanese: Takashi Murakami. And if there’s anyone who knows what’s good in the art market, it’s Murakami.


Lele Barnett is an Art Advisor and Curator based in Seattle with 20 years of experience in the art world. Most recently, she served 8 years as Curator of the Microsoft Art Collection. Prior to that, Barnett curated independent exhibitions and worked in galleries across the country. She was also co-founder for McLeod Residence: a home for extraordinary living through art, technology, and collaboration. Barnett is a member of the Association of Professional Art Advisors. She loves working with new collectors and budgets big and small.