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Buying Art: The Cafe Art Way

Updated: Nov 22, 2018

James (Roberts|) and James (Gray) at Grub on the Green.

When James Roberts wanted to buy some artworks to liven up his flat, here's what he did. We found his story so inspiring that he has given us permission to share his experience with all you art lovers out there. We hope that his journey strikes a note in your heART too and makes you buy art the Cafe Art way!

Below is his story in his own words ...

"Let me paint you a picture.

After a protracted dispute with my previous estate agents on account of the rats that had decided to move into my former house between Christmas and the new year, I had finally managed to move into a new, much nicer and rodent-free apartment in a more central location. Without wanting to overstate things, there's something about escaping a glorified rat hovel and moving into nicer, newer housing that makes one feel more dignified, optimistic and ready to start a new chapter in your life.

I set myself two goals for the next few months, in order to live up to my fancy new digs. The first was to own a fruit bowl (always set attainable goals, I say). My logic: I've never met someone who owned a fruit bowl who didn't have their life together. However, I felt that I should perhaps put that ambition on hold, given that I didn't own a table to put said fruit bowl on (as you can see, I have my priorities in order).

So I turned to my second ambition: own artwork. In my previous room, the only items on the walls were relics of my university days: a Welsh flag and a black and white canvas of Liam Neeson's face, which I had gotten as a joke housewarming present some six years ago. Somehow my new room seemed too nice to have anything other than proper artwork on its walls, and so I decided to buy some art.

Unfortunately my knowledge of the art world amounts to knowing that art is expensive. I didn't even know how to begin looking for a piece and so, as with any problem these days, I turned to was google. A search of "buy art" called up a few promising sites, but while I found a few pieces I liked, the reasonable price suddenly became anything but once it was multiplied by 4 to account for the addition of a frame.

My next search was "where to buy cheap art," and again I thought I was on to a winner when I discovered that the London "Affordable Art Fair" was due to occur in Battersea in a few weeks' time. With a name like that, how could I go wrong? I was on the verge of booking the afternoon off work in order to visit it when a more in-depth google search revealed that "affordable" was something of a misnomer; with a price range of £50-£4000, the only pieces in my price range would be in the very lowest rung of affordability and so I thought I would be unlikely to find any art that I really liked and could afford.

Before giving up on my ambition altogether, I had one final google search. I can't remember exactly how I found them, perhaps just thanks to some lingering half-forgotten knowledge that some people hang art in cafes that is for sale, but I stumbled upon Cafe Art.

The first thing that struck me was what a worthwhile cause it was. Through working with a number of independent cafes across London, Cafe Art provides a showcase for art painted by individuals attending sessions run by homeless sector organisations, helping people get back on their feet. With the majority of the money going to the artists, usually individuals with recent experiences of homelessness, and a portion being invested back into the project, it seemed to me an admirable cause.

 From thereon-in it was remarkably straightforward. I spent a Sunday morning visiting a few of the cafes that are part of the scheme, enjoying a coffee or two and viewing the art. All of the establishments were very welcoming, even if all I wanted to do was browse the artwork, much of which was clearly of a high quality, evident even to me, a self-professed novice of the art world.

My final stop was "Grub on the Green", a charming cafe in Farringdon, where several pieces caught my eye for their interesting depiction of nature, which reminded me of my childhood back in Wales. Having discovered the art, I sent Cafe Art a direct email, to which they promptly replied, telling me a little more about the paintings, as well as the price, which I felt was more than reasonable compared to some of my earlier experiences.

A handful of days later I met James Gray, the artist of one of the pieces I was purchasing and a part-time worker for Cafe Art. Over a coffee, I was able to discuss with James the art I was buying, what it meant to him and hear more about his incredible journey. I was also met by one of Cafe Arts directors, whose passion for the project was truly infectious.

Both paintings now sit proudly upon my walls and I can honestly say that I am delighted with the art I acquired and at being able to help do my part for the homeless community. As I've mentioned several times, I know next to nothing about art, but it seems to me that a large part of it is to do with human emotion and the meaning ascribed to its expression by both the original artist and the eventual owner. To be able to connect with the artist and the aspects of homelessness that effectively led to the creation of the pieces really did add to my appreciation of my new art.

Given that my decision to buy art in the first place was precipitated by a change of home, it feels fitting that my purchase would go some way towards helping those without a home at all. It's Cafe Art as an organisation that makes this possible and while they may fall under the radar of most, I would highly recommend them to both art aficionados and amateurs looking to liven up the walls of their home."

Thank you, Mr Roberts, from all of us here at Cafe Art!

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