Frequently Asked Questions on How to Buy Contemporary Art | Limna


Our Results

Have you ever fallen in love with a piece of art, and felt that you couldn't justify the purchase -- whether through lack of information on the artist or purely because you didn't know how much it should cost? In the dialogue of “heart versus head”, art lovers who purchase a piece for their personal collection can now be confident they're making a savvy investment.

By pinpointing prices of original artworks entering the market for the first time, you'll know what the work you love should cost and why, before making a purchase.

Independent research is particularly important when buying artwork online, as you may not have the opportunity to meet the gallerist or artist face-to-face. Our advice should serve as an engine to help you achieve your goals in collecting the artists’ works that are right for you.

Simply enter an artist's name and the size of the painting or photograph and, upon matching a search with one of the c.700,000 artists in our records, we'll share an estimated value you should expect to pay. If you have already received a price from a gallery or dealer, we'll give you the confidence to know whether that price is in line with our data.The final step will be to contact the artist’s gallery, armed with all you need to know in order to make your dream purchase a reality.

Using machine learning, Limna analyses millions of data points in seconds – tracking every exhibition and every art fair, along with more information than we can list here. This is how we're able to give you an accurate valuation on the paintings and photographs that inspire you.

The algorithm augments the user's input, and takes into consideration factors from the start of an artist's exhibiting career to the present day (and even planned activity for the future), their sales history, and the size of artwork to provide an expected price estimation.

Currently, under 20% of our estimates disagree with the gallery price quotes. This is when you should consider your own motivations, review at the underlying data in the artist's profile more closely, and if it seems complete, then the quoted price might be too high — or perhaps it's a fantastic opportunity!

In short, anyone with an interest in art -- and specifically painting and photography right now.

We can be used by both new and existing collectors who crave data-informed insights to support their emotive purchase desires.

We're loved by those buying art on behalf of others, such as art advisors and interior designers.

We've listened to what's needed most, and so currently we're focused on the stage when you've found an artist's work you love, and are looking for reassurance before taking the step of purchase from their gallery.

During this Appraisal process, you can also find other Associated Artists to continue your search and discover those who may have exhibited alongside your originally interested artist to further broaden your horizons.

In the near future we'll be introducing more tailored discovery opportunities, meaning that finding a new artist to suit your tastes (and budget) will be even easier and more personalised via Limna’s AI-driven technology.

Basically, Limna can be used throughout the art-buying process -- from exploration through to evaluation!

We're proud to track the careers of more than 800,000 artists across the leading 16,000+ global galleries.

We do, however, recognise that we don't know everything, so are grateful when you let us know if we don't have an Artist or Gallery that you think should be listed here. Have your voice heard!

Please let us know any input you may have here.

Most artists will specialise in specific mediums or materials, such as sculpture, video, or painting to name a few. This is often referred to as a "typical" piece.

Many artists, however, will work in multiple or mixed mediums, meaning we can expect artists who are known for sculpture or installations to also produce paintings -- for example, Yayoi Kusama or Not Vital -- which would be known as an "atypical" work.

Limna is able to provide accurate valuations for an artist's atypical foray into paintings or photographs, which would still be associated with their profile to date across all of the areas we track.

Our primary focus is on living artists, both in terms of our model and our focus to ensure that more people are supporting those involved in the visual arts today.

Our scope does include artists who have passed away, as well, but we are most accurate for living artists.

Limna's price estimation is most effective for new photographs and paintings from the artist's studio, being sold by a Gallery or Dealer for the first time (often referred to as the "primary market"), rather than those being sold at auction (known as the "secondary market").

Buying on the primary market is accepted to be more affordable but historically with more risk, as the works have not yet been "tested" by the market.

Beyond a lower price, buying a new piece of art also offers a higher guarantee of authenticity as there is a clear record of ownership in coming direct from the artist (described as "provenance"). We do not currently take provenance or period of creation into account in our estimations for this reason.

In our Photography Feature, we are initially using a default edition size of 10 without allowing the user to indicate the edition-size themselves. However, we will soon be adding the ability to take into account specific edition size, and this feature is already being tested.

By default, we are adopting the European approach to pricing, where all pieces in the edition have the same price, rather than the American approach where prices change even within the same edition size.

If our predictions result in prices over or under the expected price, it might be because the gallery follows the American approach.

Limna has access to the most comprehensive curatorial database in the art industry, having been compiled over 20+ years from publicly available and verified submissions, with the strongest base of knowledge to build from in the entire industry. Crucially we also have the skill in how to apply it to your queries.

We have tracked more than 700,000 artists across their 1,000,000+ exhibitions that have taken place at 45,000+ institutions (from galleries, to museums, to non-profits and art fairs) from 1863 to the present day. This number of exhibitions is increasing by roughly 1,000 per week, and even includes planned activity for the future. This is all supplemented by more than 2,300,000 price points across both the gallery (or primary) and auction (or secondary) markets.

We believe that transparency builds the foundation for fairness, as it allows expertise to circulate widely, helping to eliminate gate-keeping. Transparency removes barriers, changing the art world from opaque to accessible, and is highly valuable no matter what end of the art market you are interested in.

We constantly work on our data and model to improve the price estimations we produce.

Currently, under 20% of our estimates disagree with the gallery price quotes. This is when you should consider your own motivations, review at the underlying data in the artist's profile more closely, and if it seems complete, then the quoted price might be too high — or perhaps it's a fantastic opportunity!

We are aware that there are various potential sources of bias, especially in the art world, and we try to minimise their impact as much as possible.

We live in a post-modern world, (or maybe a post post-modern world depending on who you ask...), and so bias is a ubiquitous topic. No one believes in such a thing as unbiased advice, and although it is seen as fundamentally unachievable since everything is filtered through a chosen lens we still aim to be as transparent as possible in how we communicate with all of our users as to how we reached our conclusions.

We aren't suggesting that galleries are untrustworthy, but rather look to predict what the price of an artist's work should be based on our wealth of data and AI-powered algorithm.

For example, under 20% of our estimates disagree with the gallery price quotes. This is when you should consider your own motivations, review at the underlying data in the artist's profile more closely, and if it seems complete, then the quoted price might be too high — or perhaps it's a fantastic opportunity!

Despite holding record of more than 700,000 artists, we know that not all of them will be known by all of our users. However, we hope that in having them available to access and search that we'll prompt further interest in artists you may have previously been unaware of.

We also recognise that that gender, skin colour, and the level of access one has to a handful of prestigious institutions, are often the most important factors in developing a successful career as an artist. With this inequity in mind, we're working hard on on bringing more underrepresented artists to the forefront based on your interests and other artists that have caught your eye.

If you've seen Artfacts mentioned anywhere, that's because it's the official name of the incredible database which we have access to -- we also share co-founders and a CEO.

Currently our focus is on the primary, or gallery/dealer, market meaning our value estimations will not be as accurate for auction or re-sale.

One can, of course, still use Limna during an auction-setting to view the profile of an artist and gain further information -- including how much a similar sized painting or photograph might be when fresh to the market. One can never be too informed!

We review an artist's peers, just as a physical art advisor would, and suggest artists that have been exhibited together, or share a gallery.

This means that all Associated Artists should be conceptually connected, rather than simply visually similar, which is a key distinction.

We cross-reference decades of amassed data across the art world with the living artist in question – from the start of their exhibiting career to the present day (and even planned activity for the future!) – their sales history (if any), and the size of painting or photograph. This last one, size, may seem odd but for first-time-sold artworks price is calculated to be proportional to their height and width.

This allows us to provide an estimated value by simply entering an artist's name and size, as so often these prices aren't publicly available (or only after conversations with the representing gallery, which many don't feel comfortable with!).

It's worth noting that our price estimation does not reflect an artwork's personal value to a particular user – we'd never discourage you from making a purchase if you love an artwork and can afford it!

Just as with 'Expected Price or Value', if you know the price you have been quoted, or are willing to pay, for an Artist's work then we can cross-reference all of our available data to supply an accurate 'up to' size that the figure should afford.

Our model currently works on a square basis, with equal height and width, to give you a general idea of the size you might get for the quoted price. Larger paintings or photographs would normally be more expensive, of course.

This is one of the key components we track, denoting the curatorial status an artist has, based on their exhibition and institution activity from their first recorded example to those upcoming.

We take into account a wide range of factors, including the number of shows, where they were held and in which venue, and co-occurring artists if it was a Group exhibition.

To verbalise these numbers for ease of understanding, we expect these to range from Undiscovered right up to Blue-chip, with varying stages in between covered by Known, Renowned, and Important.

For instance, an iconic artist such as David Hockney would receive 90/100 (beaten by the likes of Pablo Picasso who would receive 98/100 or Andy Warhol at 100/100!).

Another key component is the reach an artist has beyond their home city, based on where they have exhibited globally.

Artists can range from Local if they have limited exhibitions mostly in their home city, National by showing across multiple cities within their home country, International in multiple countries, and are considered Worldwide across multiple continents.

Pablo Picasso, for example, achieves a 98/100 here thanks to his shows all over the world (beaten by the iconic Olafur Eliasson, William Kentridge, and Kader Attia who each show 100/100!).

This is a simple one (but often hard to find on your own!). This is the period of time an artist has been active, since their first recognised exhibition to their most recent, in years. The reason we don't calculate to date is that there are some artists who cease activity and may even change careers, whereas there are others who continue even beyond death with exhibitions!

With this, we can range from a Fresh artist for those who have been exhibiting for fewer than 1 year, Emerging for fewer than 5 years, Mid-career for fewer than 20 years, and Mature for those who have been active for more than 20 years.

A mature artist like David Hockney has been exhibiting since 1960, giving him a 61-year career length up until now, vs. someone like Jadé Fadojutimi who first showed in 2015. Some artists may show a figure of 100 to denote up to and over 100 years (likely exhibiting past their death).

Here we aim to visualise the market demand for the artist's works, based on their presence at the leading Art Fairs around the world.

For example, an artist known to sell well (both via their new and auctioned works) is more likely to be taken to Art Fairs by their representing galleries to ensure successful sales.

Andy Warhol is the artist with the leading Art Fair Presence, even after his death, achieving 100/100 from our data.

An artist's career & recognition changes over time is calculated here. We have a full view of an artist's data, but focus on the past three years to provide a view of their trajectory; why three, you ask?

This period of time ensures a balanced view of historical momentum vs. hype-of-the-moment which may be fleeting! We do, however, ensure that this momentum is tracked year-to-date to allow the latest insights possible.

We calculate this from the exhibitions and shows at different institutions, with Momentum showing the variation in this.

We recognise that the future is unknown, but with a firm grasp of all relevant activity to date we strive to maximise the probability of success despite a somewhat uncertain future.

Although many artists may not produce works that are exactly 100x100cm, we look to provide an indicative price as guidance for what to expect if they were to do so.

This is based on price being proportional to height + width, as is common in the art world when pricing an original painting for sale for the first time. It should also allow you to immediately gain a sense of affordability within your budget, and thus take further action or review conceptually similar 'Associated Artists' at a lower price range via each artist's profile.

We're working on a new feature which will show this, watch this space!

Absolutely where available, as only c.10% of artists actually have auction data; we cross-reference decades of amassed data across the art world with the living artist in question – from the start of their exhibiting career to the present day (and even planned activity for the future!) – their sales history (if any), and the size of work. Our curatorial database is supplemented through an exclusive data partnership with Artnet where we receive up-to-date auction data, which allows us to more accurately provide price estimations for more established artists.

We are therefore uniquely positioned to provide accurate price estimates for both blue-chip artists through to the most emerging artists; this is what differentiates us from many other services, as we are able to cover the entire range of professional active artists, and couldn't be more excited to do so.

Missing or Incorrect Data

Whilst our database contains more than 700,000 artists, there is a chance that we missed some. Our focus is on artists represented by the leading 16,000+ global galleries.

If you believe that we're missing an artist or gallery, please contact us via the Settings tab to submit feedback and we will get back to you with an update.

Like with other goods, art can sometimes be overpriced (or even underpriced). We, however, aim to reassure you of these doubts in our calculated value estimations.

For example, currently under 20% of our estimates disagree with the gallery price quotes. This is when you should consider your own motivations, review at the underlying data in the artist's profile more closely, and if it seems complete, then the quoted price might be too high — or perhaps it's a fantastic opportunity!

Currently our focus is on the primary, or gallery/dealer, market meaning our value estimations will not be as accurate for auction or re-sale. They will, however, provide a starting point depending on the curatorial importance of the specific painting/photograph within the artist's broader works.

As each of our Appraisals are current, there is a possibility that a past purchase date's figure may be higher or lower than today's, based on an artist's activity since then.

We recognise that we don't know everything, so are grateful when you let us know if you think some of our information is incorrect. Please contact us via the Settings tab to submit feedback and we will get back to you with an update.

By supplying any known listed prices of a painting or photograph provided by a Gallery, we can continue to strengthen our algorithm and provide even more accurate guidance.

Prices for extremely large paintings or photographs are very hard to predict, as they address a rather small market. We don't want to misguide you, so have decided to exclude these paintings from the app for now. We'll be working on this for the future.

Account Questions

If you've forgotten your password and are unable to log in, please click "Forgotten Password" on the Log in screen to be sent a secure email with which to reset your password.

If you would like to change your account password, please visit the "Account Details" section of the Settings tab.

Please contact us via the "Feedback to Limna" section of the Settings tab, or otherwise email us at

Please contact us via the Settings tab to submit feedback and we will get back to you with an update, or otherwise email us at

We can't believe you'd want to leave Limna, but if you really do then please email us on (and let us know if there's anything we can do to dissuade you!).

Absolutely; as each Appraisal is accurate for that date, start saving your Appraisals — which you can individually name and add photos to — via a clear button on each Appraisal Results page. You'll have to create an account to do so, but we think it's worth it.

Buying Art

As soon as you see some art you like, be it online or in a gallery, you can not only learn more about the artist in Limna, but can also use our Associated Artists list to find other interesting peers. The can be the starting point for some great discoveries.

Over time, you will come to identify the artists, galleries, websites, magazines, or Instagram accounts that will cater to your tastes — and for now, have fun exploring.

In the near future we'll also be offering a more comprehensive service to help you discover the artists that are right for you; both in terms of your interests, budget and available space. Then you'll be able to validate your findings with Limna too!

We believe that any investment in art, however small or large, should be fuelled by love for the work first and foremost. While many have started referring to art as an "asset" to be invested in, we recommend buying something you love vs. pure market speculation. As we're talking about original works, these artists have spent so much effort on their pieces that both they (and their gallerists!) will want to know that you're buying because you're truly interested rather than speculation; you may even be turned away because of this.

Furthermore, if this is an early piece in your art collecting process it's likely you'll be living with it for a while (and may want to hold onto it for sentimental reasons too!).

Money should still be of interest, but primarily with regard to making sure a seller's asking price is reasonable and in line with what similar pieces by the artist typically sell for. Instead of worrying about appreciation of value over time too much, the more immediate need is to ascertain if you'll be paying a fair price for it right now!

Limna's price estimation correlates with our expected list price for an artwork (before any negotiation, which is can be around 5%).

There are, however, other costs to consider in your budgeting as this figure will often exclude factors such as shipping (depending on where the gallery is based vs. your destination), customs duties (linked to shipping), tax if relevant, and even sometimes framing.

Don't be afraid to discuss the possibility of paying in instalments for you a piece you'd like to seriously purchase, as many galleries will allow you to spreads the payments over a year or so rather than supply a lump sum up front.

While it is possible to buy directly from some lesser known artists, most established artists will have representation by one or a number of galleries; this is because of the important role that they play in supporting, incubating, and uplifting their artists beyond simply holding shows, placement in group exhibitions, promotion, and the sale of the works. They also provide crucial administrative services such as financial management or book publishing, all which culminate in facilitating the artist to focus on their creativity and production of great work.

Many galleries will enable contact with the artist for serious buyers, allowing buyers to interact directly too, but will also ensure that all of the operational aspects of buying art (such as shipping etc.) are also considered.

We'd always promote conversation with a gallery, but before doing so it will be worth preparing appropriately. Have your desired budget and even potential space for the artwork (i.e. sizing) in mind and carry out research with Limna on the kind of artists they represent -- but above all, don't feel pressured into anything, which shouldn't be the case if you have the confidence from our app.

In our role as an art advisor, our focus is on the artists themselves, allowing you to find those that you really engage with (and can afford) before diving into the various paintings or photographs that you can individually fall in love with. We're here to provide guidance on the artists that are the right fit for your needs, acknowledging that connection to a specific piece is a personal endeavour.

It's common for more established artists to have representation, or have been exhibited, at multiple galleries if they've shown globally. We'd normally recommend speaking to the gallery where you've seen the piece you're interested in, or sometimes closest to you. All of the galleries that work with a single artist will be working together in the artist's interests, and will be willing to help point you in right direction if they cannot assist.

At Limna we track more than 16,000 of the world's leading galleries, that are reputable within the arty community thanks to the artists they work and have worked with. In providing the contact details for these galleries, we allow you to carry out your conversations directly and confirm that any method of payment is secure.

It will always be worth confirming a Certificate of Authenticity when approaching a purchase, which will detail the artwork's artist, date of creation, and provenance (i.e. that it hasn't been owned before you if buying a fresh piece). This certificate should be kept safe, especially if you might consider reselling the artwork in the future.

Once you've registered interest in a piece of work, you will need to agree on a price before proceeding any further; it is worth noting that light negotiation is generally accepted, normally resulting in around a further 5% reduction on the original list price. For loyal customers of the gallery, this can sometimes increase by up to 10%. Established collectors and Museums tend to receive larger discounts, as dealers are incentivised to place work in major, highly visible collections, since that will eventually raise the artists' profile — and, in turn, prices.

If you're serious about a purchase after discussing it further with the gallerist and agreeing a price, a positive next step might be to speak to the artist directly also; this not only shows that you're invested, but also respectful of their work.

It's sometimes accepted to take the artwork in question "on approval" in the space in question (i.e. home or office) for a short period of time to confirm it's really right for you, but this is always at the gallery's discretion. This is usually raised when discussing a returns policy.

Relevant for all, but especially for larger artworks, always confirm the shipping arrangement to avoid any surprises; will it require custom-made crates or specialist transport for example. Shipping fees will vary according to your destination country and the size of the work.

Insurance should also be discussed, with the expectation that more expensive works will have higher insurance fees associated.

Installation may be required, again especially for larger pieces, as well as guidance on the best way to care and maintain the artwork (i.e. non or anti reflective glass in framing).

Always ensure that the method of payment is secure, and that you will receive an invoice alongside the Certificate of Authenticity.

There may be a new show opening, or an international Art Fair on, so we'd generally allow for up to 5 working days for a gallery to come back to you. If you still have not heard we would recommend either emailing again or calling direct to re-raise your interest.

It can happen that popular pieces may be reserved or already sold by the time you register your interest; at this stage it is always worth enquiring about other available works from a similar time period or from a broader body of work to review. Who knows, you may stumble across an unexpected discovery!

Otherwise, the gallerist can always take your details and get back in touch when another show is being prepared in the future for new works.

Artists typically receive 50% of the selling price (after any discounts), which will have been pre-agreed with the artist along with the list price for the piece.

Limna do not take commission from the sale of artworks that we facilitate.

Our current focus is on original photographs and unique paintings on canvas, board or similar surface, and so will not be accurate for works on paper, Prints or Limited Editions (for now...), so please bear that in mind.

In future we will look to provide estimates for other mediums, however want to ensure that we are as accurate as possible before we do so!

Art Industry Questions

Buying on the primary market (AKA from galleries or dealers) tends to be less expensive but is accepted to come with an element of risk, as the works have not been 'tested' by the market, which can result in less buyers – however, Limna aims to remove some of that risk with the backing of all of our data. Further, buying from a gallery or dealer tends to offer better protection against forgeries with a clear provenance trail.

Artworks that are resold after their initial purchase will be via auction houses or dealers. This process is generally considered to be easier as there is a transparent price range estimated by the auction house and one may not require an established reputation with a gallery to be the first to hear of its sale (although this does still happen in re-sales of course!). The value of the piece is often influenced by its provenance (i.e. history of ownership).

Paintings and photographs are usually measured by height first, followed by width. Sculptures and three-dimensional installations are measured by height, width, and depth (and some paintings too, if they have this feature, such as a specific frame).

The size of an artwork, especially a painting, generally correlates with the price as expected due to the level of effort required to produce. There are, of course, extremely detailed small artworks however so it does tend to vary depending on the artist.

Interestingly, back in Ancient Rome paintings were sometimes priced by weight (a nod to our Scales icon, too!), indicating that while size has always mattered we have at least recognised the greater value of the artist's identity and intellect in what makes an artwork desirable nowadays.

The value of an artwork can change significantly depending on whether it is an Original or an Edition.

When an artwork is original it denotes that it has been directly created as a unique piece by the artist. A one-of-a-kind. Simple, right?

Not so fast… while easier to understand when thinking about paintings or sculptures, this term can also be used when talking about ‘prints’ too! For this to be the case, it requires the artist to be involved in their production, and they normally come in limited editions that are signed by the artist and are numbered consecutively (i.e. a piece marked 5/20 is the 5th out of 20 prints which were produced, rather than an unlimited printing like a poster). The real deal normally come in the form of lithographs, woodcuts, or screen-prints, and have been produced by the likes of Warhol, Matisse, Tracey Emin, and and even back to the 1800s with JMW Turner.

It’s more difficult when thinking about mediums such as photography, videos, audio, or digital art. This is where the buzzword on everyone’s lips right now comes to guarantee originality - NFTs, as that utilises a technology of digital ledger, called a blockchain that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable.

Original works are normally much more expensive, due to the time and effort put into each piece, and if a painting is suspiciously affordable and also by a notable artist then it was more likely produced by a machine - created in high numbers, or a copy by another artist.

As a rule of thumb, if Limna predicts a price for a unique artwork, the corresponding price for an edition would be that figure divided by the edition size. For example, if a 50x100 painting by artist A is predicted to cost $1,000, then a similarly sized print from the same artist, with an edition size of 100 prints, would cost around $100. The confusing concept of "open editions" just means that it's not an edition at all, but more like a poster, then can be reprinted indefinitely. If you want to purchase an artwork try to avoid open editions!

For a term so widely used, it's one with so many different interpretations, meanings, and classifications. Let us try and clarify...

As a time period, it’s a term used to refer to present-day art, or that of the recent past, and often by living (or recently alive) artists. For ease, we tend to consider this as artists born from 1946 onwards, but others consider the 1950s, 1980s, or even 2000+! For these later dates we prefer the term “ultra-contemporary” for artists born after 1975.

A crucial distinction (and frequent confusion) is with the term “Modern Art”; surely “modern” means the most recent, right? Wrong. Despite being almost interchangeable in everyday English, in art-speak it refers to that produced from the 1860s to the 1970s… not so new. Many use the term "Modern and Contemporary Art", which helps to avoid this issue.

Stylistically, a further part of the confusion, there isn't necessarily one recognisable motif. Rather, it’s a manifold combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that continue to evolve as different theories do. United by being part of a culturally diverse, globally influenced, and technologically advancing world, notable themes often include: identity politics, the body, globalisation and migration, technology, contemporary society and culture, time and memory, and institutional and political critique.

In short, art fairs have historically been seen as trade shows — where people already in the art business can meet and make deals, with potentially hundreds of galleries from around the world showing their wares. This is all changing, however (especially with last year’s flurry of cancellations, postponements, and shifts online), as organisers are welcoming a much wider attendance. Albeit at reduced capacities, masked, and generally with a ticket fee of course.

Should you be going? Yes! It’s a wonderful opportunity to see some of the latest works made by the leading global artists of today across all mediums. The number and types of artists you're likely to see depend on the importance of the fair in the annual calendar (something we track closely at Limna, keeping an eye on who is showing where), but if you're looking for less expensive and more experimental artists then some of the smaller or more local fairs may be better suited.

There are now hundreds of fairs, with the most high profile being Art Basel and Frieze (in their various cross-continent outposts), FIAZ, Art Cologne, and The Armory Show. Most will now also offer an “Online Viewing Room” (or OVR), which became prolific over the pandemic, so if you can't travel then make sure you look these up.