It’s a big step into true adulthood: taking down the band posters, the op-shop landscapes, The Kramer and replacing them with works of original or editioned art. But cruising galleries looking for the right pieces can be intimidating, and above all expensive. The internet is the biggest art marketplace of them all, and it’s a huge source of affordable, quality work if you know where to look, with prices starting from under $100 for work by some emerging artists.

Here’s where to start.

Art Pharmacy
Art Pharmacy is a platform for up-and-coming and established artists, local and foreign. It curates its selection of artists very carefully, giving its chosen up-and-comers a nice prestige boost. There are 99 artists listed on the platform currently, and they make everything from sculpture, to painting, to photography. Art Pharmacy is having a Christmas sale right now, so it’s more affordable than ever. Bren Luke’s inkjet print A Light, currently on sale for $90 and in an edition of 25, was originally commissioned as a magazine illustration. For those with a few thousand to invest, take a look at Robin Clare’s vibrant, pop-y acrylic works on paper. If you’re looking for bold colour but don’t have $3500, David Wightman is an award-winning British artist whose digital archival prints of psychedelic mountain ranges range between $320 and $550. Art Pharmacy offers free shipping and returns in Australia.

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Version Editions
Version offers art editions from a selection of acclaimed contemporary Australian artists, including Zoe Croggon, Kate Tucker, Minna Gilligan and Jordan Marani. These are limited-edition prints, often with only a handful of copies in existence. Prices vary: our favourite work is Minna Gilligan’s vibrant Disco Round, and there are pieces by artists Peter Davidson and Jordan Marani for as low as $100. Delivery is free within Australia.

Bluethumb caught our attention during the Melbourne Art Fair in August, when it set up a guerrilla gallery in the fruit and veg section of the IGA around the corner. The point it was trying to make, its PR man Freddy Grant told me, was that buying art should be as easy as grocery shopping. There’s a host of emerging artists’ work on the website starting at $100 and going into the thousands, including work by finalists of the Archibald Prize (such as Sydney’s Loribelle Spirovski and other art awards. Bluethumb has also partnered with dozens of art centres in regional Australia, bringing the work of Indigenous artists to your fingertips. This work on paper by Jeremiah Garlngarr, from Gunbalanya in remote Arnhem Land, is going for $170. Shipping and returns are free in Australia.

Did you know you can get an original artwork by Australian art luminary John Olsen for less than $1000? Artbank is a vast art collection, available to rent. It stocks 11,000 Australian artworks, purchased since 1980, which are all owned by the federal government. (That is, owned by us, the taxpayers.) The collection pays for itself by leasing works – not just to galleries but also to any member of the public. Annual rental prices range from $165 to a few thousand. There’s a wealth of older work in the collection. This captivatingly simple image by renowned post-war photographer Ingeborg Tyssen, for instance, costs $165 for a year. If you want to splash out, a Brett Whiteley will set you back around $2000, or a Margaret Olley costs about $5500. It sounds steep, but what price would you put on getting a piece of Australian history on the wall?

Of course, the cheapest way to buy art is often to go straight to the source. There are hundreds of talented Australian artists without representation. Finding them can be the hard part, and also the fun part. Plenty use Instagram, and even world-renowned galleries have been known to discover artists this way. Somewhere among the web of hashtags is the piece for you. As an example, a quick look at #melbourneartists brought back more than 30,000 results. Also try a combination of #contemporaryart #instaart #fineart #instagallery #artist #artistsoninstagram #artwork #art and #artoftheday, or find some local galleries and gallerists on the social-media platform, and see who they’re following. People don’t always specify prices, or even if the work is for sale, but that information is only a DM-slide away. Use your discretion here of course, and ask lots of questions of the artist, from the materials used, to how many prints are included in the edition – you don’t want to find yourself with a supposedly original work, which was printed down the road at Officeworks.

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on December 12, 2018. Some details may have changed since publication.