January 2020 5 Art Buying Tips for Collectors, by Curator Rose Fredrick
  Coors Art Curator, Rose Fredrick, has created a series of five art buying etiquette tips for collectors, released in our January 2021 newsletters. They will be added here as they are sent. Make sure to sign up for our mailing list in order to get the latest Coors Art news!


Art Buying Tip #1: Respect the Relationship

RULE: If you found something you like at a gallery, art show, or through an independent art dealer, that is where you need to conduct your business. 

WHY: When collectors circumvent the gallery–usually because they think they can get a deal by cutting out the middleman–what they are really doing is putting the artist’s business at risk. Yes, this actually damages the artist's career–the art community is small.

Faithless artists are usually dropped from the gallery as soon as this behavior is discovered. Losing this relationship can ultimately ruin an artist’s career, because they lose the stability and benefits of having someone represent them and explain their work and pricing system.

“Over the last few years,” artist Billyo O'Donnell says, “there have been many artists leaving galleries and going out on their own to sell their artwork. I have learned that there is a direct relationship to having a long-standing association with a respected gallery and being able to maintain solid prices for your work.” 

ETIQUETTE: Work with the dealer, be transparent, and ask lots of questions; it’s their job to educate you and help guide you through the process. If meeting the artist is important to you and, in my opinion, should be part of your final decision, have the dealer facilitate the meeting.

Think of it this way, when you try to cut the gallery out of their rightful commission, it’s like asking your doctor if you can avoid paying the hospital by going to his house and having him perform surgery there, at a discount.


Art Buying Tip #2: Who Gets the Commission?

QUESTION: If you saw the work of art at a show, but the show’s over and the work didn’t sell, who gets the commission if you buy it?

RULE: If you saw something you were interested in but didn’t buy at a show venue, it’s still considered proper–for a reasonable amount of time after the close of the show–to either run the sale through the exhibition or have the artist send the commission to the show. 

WHY: Artists need shows and shows need reliable artists. It’s a great relationship when it works in harmony. Collectors help keep the harmony by understanding and supporting this vital business relationship.

ETIQUETTE: Juried and invitational shows do have an end date. Therefore, if it has been a month or more and/or the art has been sent to a gallery, the gallery would then take the commission, not the show. When enquiring about the piece, do tell the artist or gallery where you first saw it. Often national exhibitions are established to support a cause; consider supporting the cause no matter when you finally decide to make the purchase of a work you found at the show.

Collectors need to be reminded of the expenses incurred when putting together an exhibition, whether by a non-profit for a cause or a private gallery. Therefore, purchase the work directly from the show while it's going on (see Tip #1).


Art Buying Tip #3: Regarding Discounts

QUESTION: When is it okay to ask for a discount?

RULE: Discounts are for devoted clients who work with a gallery fairly exclusively, buying considerable amounts of art, works at higher prices, or numerous works at once. Galleries may offer a discount to new buyers with the promise of future sales. Galleries and non-profit shows like the Coors Western Art Exhibit must treat discounts differently.

WHY: Commonly, 10% is, the amount which would be split between the gallery and the artist. As the commission setup is typically 50/50 between artists and galleries, each side typically absorbs 5%.

Non-profit art shows like the Coors Western Art Exhibit typically get a much lesser commission than galleries while supporting a cause and managing the expenses of temporary show installation and management (while also giving artists a greater cut of their sales). Asking for a discount from a non-profit show will bring down the show's commission considerably, and therefore reduce the amount going to the cause.

The biggest problem with discounts, no matter where the art is purchased, is that they devalue the artist’s work across the board when done frequently. This means that everyone who purchased work without a discount has, in essence, overpaid.

"I remember a collector who commissioned me to do a painting,” recalls Dan Young, long time Coors Show artist. “It was back when I was starting out and really needed the money. I did the painting but then the guy asked for a discount. I wouldn’t do it. I walked away. Twice. Finally, he agreed to the price and bought it, but the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.”

ETIQUETTE: Before asking for a discount, collectors should understand how prices are determined.

Often, prices for paintings are calculated by the square inch; e.g. a 16×20 inch painting is 320 square inches, and at $10 per square inch, the painting will be priced at $3,200. Pricing editioned work can be determined by edition size, how complicated the work is (how many plates for a hand-pulled print or how large for a bronze) and importance or relevance, especially with photography. THEN, pricing structure is predicated on artist’s longevity, the stability of their prices, and what the market will bear. 

Questions to ask before buying a piece:

  • How long has the artist been working professionally? 
  • How do they price their work?
  • What national exhibitions have they been invited to and participated in? 
  • What kinds of publicity have they garnered, including magazine editorials, awards, honors, inclusion in major collections? 

"I don’t raise my prices every year,” Dan Young says. “I may bump them 10%, if I do anything. Sometimes I only raise them 5%, depending on the market. Artists have to know their market and raise prices in a smart way; collectors want the value of their paintings to go up.”

Talk to the dealer before buying a piece if you have questions.


Art Buying Tip #4: Commissions

RULE: No art directing allowed. The artist is not an extension of you.

WHY: Commissioning an artist to create a work doesn’t give you free rein to dictate anything beyond the size, medium, and subject matter you are interested in acquiring. When starting the commission process, always keep in mind that the artist doesn’t live in your head and you do not do the work that they do for a living. 

I’ve realized over the years,” said California landscape artist Kim Lordier, “that trying to get inside someone’s head to understand what they are feeling is very difficult. Now my process for a commission is to create that balance of sharing ideas then allowing for first right of refusal. If I’m presenting the collector with a piece that I am proud of, it will be worthy of one of my galleries. That has only happened once, that a collector didn’t want the commission. But, then they came back six months later wanting to buy the painting and it had already sold.”


  • Let go of any preconceived concepts and allow the artist to create. Once you agree on a concept, price, and timeline for completion, sign a contract.
  • You can ask for updates throughout the process but that’s it–no surprise studio visits, no emailing color suggestions or photos of your dog that you’d like the artist to slip in the painting.
  • Many artists won’t take commissions, so don’t expect everyone to jump at the chance. (Nearly every artist I know has a horror story about a client who decided, mid-process, to dictate changes and treat the artist like a servant. The end result: either the client was fired or the finished work was rushed just to get rid of the client.) 
  • Consider using a dealer or consultant to manage the process; they can work through issues that arise and can keep the project on target.
  • Expect to pay 50% down before the artist gets started. Enter this relationship knowing you won’t get this money back if you don’t like the finished work. 
  • Do NOT ask an artist to replicate a work of art that already exists, especially a work of art by a different artist! Original art, whether commissioned or not, is just that: original and unique.
  • A thought. If you’re really wanting a specific vision, consider taking art lessons. Who knows, maybe there’s an artist in you struggling to get out!

Art Buying Tip #5: Artist Studio Visits

RULE: Never show up unannounced to an artist's studio or home. Always confirm your appointment. Do not assume you can buy anything out of the studio and that you can get the work you see at “wholesale” or at a discount.

WHY: Artist's studios are sacred spaces. They are personal and creative, but also professional places of business. So, plan for an amazing behind-the-scenes opportunity by first researching the artist before you go. You’ll have a base of knowledge so you can jump right in.

"I rarely invite collectors to my studio,” said artist Kim Lordier. “Sometimes it feels like people are rummaging through my lingerie drawer. I feel judged, feel compelled to make excuses for why this or that is at a certain stage, even though that is not the visitor’s intent.”

ETIQUETTE: Keep judgements to yourself. Art in a studio will be in various stages of completion. The artist has a vision, whether he or she is struggling through a work, trying something new, or trying to make something work that, so far, has been fighting them all the way. Generally, artists will not have this work out for your to see, so don’t rummage around the studio. 

Ask questions. Seriously, if you don’t know something, ask. If the artist uses a term or refers to some aspect of the work that you’ve never heard about, have them explain. 

Tell the artist what you like and what interests you about the work. This is a great way to find out more about technique and what inspired it. Alternately, if there is a work you don’t care for, you could ask about it–without judgement–so you can learn why the artist believes it is successful.

Visiting artist studios is one of the best parts of my job as a curator; I always look at it as a privilege. If you’re invited to an artist’s studio, plan for at least an hour, do your homework, and don’t be afraid to ask questions–just keep it professional.

Still have questions? Send them my way. Chances are other collectors are wondering the same thing. (Emails sent to will be forwarded to Rose Fredrick.)

December 1, 2020   Cowboys & Indians Magazine, Online Feature
  Screenshot of Cowboys & Indians website
October 10, 2020      Press Release


DENVER, CO. On September 14, 2020, the National Western Stock Show CEO, Paul Andrews, announced the postponement of the 2021 National Western Stock Show until 2022. However, the 2021 Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale will proceed, albeit virtually, with online auction events.

As one of the flagship events of the National Western Stock Show and one of the largest fundraisers for the National Western Scholarship Trust, the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale is proud to continue the show’s dedication to contemporary Western art even during these uncertain times.

Events and Details:

  • January 5, 2021, virtual opening and online sale   
  • Show and sale runs through January 24, 2021
  • Featuring 71 contemporary Western artists 

Veering from the path, there will not be a featured artist for 2021. Instead, we will be spotlighting our past featured artists, including William Matthews (1994), Karmel Timmons (2008), Quang Ho (2014), and Sophy Brown (2020). For a full list, please go to 

New artists: Evelyn Gottschall Baker, Jay Moore, Dan Sprick, Jared Brady, S.M. Chavez, Chauncey Homer, Anita Mosher Solich, Ouida Touchon, Rick Young. To see the entire list of artists and their work, please go to 

As in the past, a separate show, the Young Guns of the National Western Stock Show, will also host an online event and sale on December 10, 2020. This event and sale is geared toward young professionals interested in art, philanthropy, and networking. Details will be posted on our website as soon as they are finalized, on the Young Guns tab.

In these unprecedented times, we are embracing technology to expand our reach. Though we will dearly miss the excitement of the National Western Stock Show, we hope that the reality of online events and new ways to experience art will allow us to reach larger audiences for these truly incredible “western-minded” artists whose work helps bring connection to and a greater understanding of the contemporary landscape and people, as well as the issues and challenges we face in the West.