8 Art Market Terms New Collectors Need to Know

Posted in Inside Scoop by Ruth Millington on 23rd October 2018

What’s an A/P? How important is provenance? What is flipping? The art market has a language of its own. Even if you’re already an art lover, as a new collector it’s easy to get confused. Are you on the way to finding your perfect piece of art? Here are 8 terms you need to know.


Rise Art x Areteos pop-up exhibition in Hong Kong.


1. Primary Art Market

This is when an artwork is sold (and the price established) for the first time. Art on the primary market often comes directly from an artist’s studio.


 Icelandic artist Kristjana Williams in her London studio, holding a sculptural piece.


2. Secondary Art Market

This is the world of re-selling artworks, through galleries, dealers or at auction. The secondary market usually occurs when an artist is established and sought after.


Prospective collector looking at Before Religion by Louise McNaught at a National Youth Arts Trust charity auction, supported by Rise Art. Photo credit: Alexandra Tilling Photography.


3. Blue Chip

Within the art world, ‘blue chip’ refers to artworks which are expected to hold or increase in economic value regardless of other market conditions. Artists like Picasso, Rothko and Monet are Blue Chip.


Claude Monet, ‘La Grenouillére’, 1869 (Wiki Commons).


4. Artist's Proof

Artist’s proofs are signed ‘A/P’ and are considered a status symbol in the world of art collecting. They come about when an artist is creating a series of prints and receives proofs to check quality and colour. If the artist decides to sell them, they will come at a premium price, due to their limited number.


Poise – Artist’s Proof by Hush.


5. Flipping

Art ‘flippers’ buy and sell art to turn a profit. Most flipping is done by art collectors as a way of making money to reinvest and expand their art collection.


Women looking at a show catalogue at the Rise Art x Areteos pop up exhibition in Hong Kong.


6. Provenance

An artwork’s provenance is the record of its history, ownership and origin. Provenance is essential in confirming its authenticity. Ideally it will trace the object right back to the artist’s studio, and might include ownership documents, gallery invoices, inventory numbers and inclusion in catalogues.


Composition B (No II) with Red, 1935 by Piet Mondrian.

Artwork provenance may include inclusion in exhibition catalogues.


7. Private collection

This is a privately-owned collection of artworks, usually by an individual art collector. However, it could also refer to the collection of a company or other organisation, such as a bank.


St Tropez Boats by Tommy Clarke. A private collection might be loaned to a museum or gallery for an exhibition or even for a long-term period.


8. Appraisal

An appraisal is the evaluation of a work’s market or insurance value. Appraisals can be offered by galleries, experts and auction houses.



Ruth Millington is an arts and culture blogger, freelance writer and art historian.