Sourcing cool artwork often ends up at the bottom of the priority list when kitting out a new pad, especially when you rent an unfurnished property (and therefore worry about damaging the walls/kissing your deposit back?!) and have a shopping list longer than your arm.
It’s a great shame because there is nothing more important to finish off the look of a room than a striking piece of art. For me, it should be up there with the essentials, like a sofa or dining table... Prints, posters, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, whether you like street art, contemporary photography or abstract illustrations, art is the finishing touch that can make your home look totally unique and personal, especially when you rent...
However, sourcing art can be a very expensive exercise, even more so when you live in Dubai, as there aren't a million places to find affordable original art… I should know as I have been living in our pad for six months now and still have too many blank walls to count staring at me each morning... So I have done a bit of research over the past few weeks and basically done the hard work for you to find my top 5 virtual art galleries to get stunning original and contemporary art without having to win the lottery first. I obviously added some of my favourite pieces from each gallery in case you're interested, and there is a little freebie/discount code for each. Oh, and they all ship to Dubai of course...
This little gem of a place was brought to my attention by a lovely Instagram follower and my, oh, my I am glad she did.
Co-founded by art consultant (and #mumboss, which is always nice!) Liezel Strauss, Subject Matter is a virtual gallery whose motto is to 'make art buying easy'. They work mainly with contemporary photographers (I am literally in love with everything on their site!) and they offer a variety of framing, so all the pieces come ready to hang. Although you can buy prints only, and have them framed yourself here, of course. What is really great about their concept is all the support that comes with it: they offer free advice with their team of art consultants and you can even request a Skype called with the artists themselves. Totally genius if like me, you like to know the full story behind a photograph before buying it. Their mission is also to create more art buyers so that more artists can make a living from their craft.
Bonus points: Free shipping worldwide and free returns, with a 'no questions asked' policy. They even propose a handyman service to help you hang your newly purchased candy on your pad's walls.
Special offer: Stella + the Stars reader get an exclusive $100 off on their first art purchase. You simply have to enter the code: STELLAANDTHESTARSROCK at checkout.
2. Saatchi Art
Saatchi Art is an LA-based online gallery that was originally set up by artoholic Charles Saatchi but now sells only affordable art (with the majority of pieces selling under $1000). Charles kind of distanced himself from the gallery a couple of years ago... The reason is unclear although it may be because 'affordable' doesn't go hand in hand with the Saatchi name or it might have to do with this being sold on the site...?
Saatchi Art is probably one of the largest online art galleries you'll find. You can easily waste hours browsing the endless collection so I suggest you really narrow down your search (by type of art, price, and size for example) to avoid getting totally overwhelmed. My settings usually start with 'paintings', 'pop art', "under $500" which can rarely go wrong if, like me, you like artworks that are colourful, fun, and anything that doesn't take itself too seriously. You'll find artists from around the globe and the buying process couldn't be easier.
Bonus points: Free shipping worldwide and free access to your own personal art curator when you fill out their art advisory quiz. (I strongly suggest you use this freebie, it's beyond helpful.)
Special offer: You get 10% off when you sign up to the newsletter and use the promo code WELCOME.
3. Early Work
For transparency purposes, I should divulge than one of the co-founders of this genius concept is an old friend of mine based in Paris. It doesn't take away the fact that Early Work is such a clever idea, you'll wonder why no one has thought of it before. It is the first online gallery showcasing exclusively the work of art school students, giving them the opportunity, the tools (and the platform) to sell their artwork directly to the public -something that is not always taught in art schools. And for us potential art buyers, it's the chance to purchase high-potential artwork from up-and-coming art graduates, before they become properly established, famous and their work becomes inevitably expensive to acquire. So, essentially, you get to 'Meet Pablo before Picasso' - that's Early Work's motto by the way (I told you they were clever).
Bonus points: Unlike other galleries showcasing mainly paintings and photography, you can buy pretty much any form of art here, including sculptures, installations, videos etc. Almost everything on Early Work is priced under $1000 so truly ticks the affordable box.
Special offer: Stella + the Stars get an exclusive 10% on their any purchases made before 5 February 2017. Just use the code EW1017 at checkout.
Art should be for everybody. That's the motto of Lumas, a fabulous (virtual and physical) gallery that sells high-quality photo art, while ticking the affordable box, even in large formats. They're based in Berlin originally, but I discovered their London gallery back in 2015 when I attended a private viewing of their Vogue collection - a selection of fashion photographs handpicked from the archives of Vogue... Lumas offers selected works by artists as hand-signed original photographs. These limited editions usually range from 75 to 150 prints, which allows the gallery to offer the artwork at reasonable prices.
Bonus points: They also have two physical galleries in Dubai (one in the Dubai Mall and one in City Walk) so if online art buying is not your thing, you can see the photographs in the flesh before buying...
Special offers: None at the moment, sorry peeps.
Rise Art is another really brilliant online marketplace that not only sells thousands of artworks from hundreds of contemporary artists at the click of a button but also allows you to RENT art. Yes, you've read it right, they offer an art rental service where you can pay a monthly fee and try the pieces you like at home, see how you feel after living with them for a while and if you don't love them, then you can just return them. Each month, you'll earn credits from your rental towards any purchase.
Bonus points: The rental service is simply genius and starts as low as AED70 a month. Shipping to Dubai is not free but very reasonable.
Special offer: If you go for the rental service and decide to keep a piece within a month they'll credit 100% of your first month rental, and 50% thereafter, which you can use towards an actual purchase.
Hopefully this should get you started if you are on the market for some affordable artwork for your home especially if you're based in Dubai. Let me know if you end up buying (or renting!) anything in the comments below.
Happy art browsing!