Tips for collectors – The right way to start your art collection

Six tips for beginners on starting an art collection.

by Cat Weaver

The recent explosion of online art shopping options and art fairs growing even more affordable makes it easier than ever to collect fine art. But all the abundance can also be confusing and even intimidating. How do you know what’s good, what’s bad and what’s just uhm…ok? Is it possible for anyone wanting to start his/her own art collection to do it on his own and if so, what steps should they take first? galleryIntell put together six simple tips for the beginner collector that show that even though the means of collecting fine art may have changed, the underlying fundamentals remain. Here are our top recommendations.

1. Learn What You Like

Everyone has a creative side, so let yours come out and explore. Start by looking at a lot of art without buying anything. Get out, look around, be inspired and have fun! “Open Studios” where artists open their work spaces to the general public are a wonderful way to see work by emerging and mid-career artists. This is your opportunity to connect with the source of the art and to ask questions. Art fairs are another great resource as it allows you to see many galleries and many types of art in a wide variety in price ranges in one place.

Watch our video interviews from Art Basel Miami Beach.

2. Specialize

The best art collections are informed and cohesive. “It’s important to collect what you like—what you’re attracted to—but it’s also important to build a collection that has а direction,” advises Anne-Hélène Decaux of Artviatic.

Some collections are built around a specific genre – landscape or figurative art; some focus on a medium – like photography, or engravings; some on a movement – Impressionism, or the Hudson School; time frame – 1930’s – 1940’s, or a technique – watercolors on paper, or rayographs. These are general outlines – find what speaks to you.

3. Plan Ahead

However enthusiastic you are about owning new pieces, most advisors, galleryIntell included, encourage you to plan ahead.

As with any new endeavor, it’s best to start slow, have a budget and let yourself get used to the process. Discovering something new is always an exciting process, and more exposure to art will likely shape your tastes along some unexpected paths. Your tastes will change and mature and so will your collecting objectives. Works on paper: photographs, or limited edition prints, silkscreens and lithographs, are generally a great gateway to start a collection as they are typically priced lower than oils on canvas or sculpture.

Hint: Limited and signed edition prints on paper can be less risky and quite affordable. Smaller editions create rarity and usually confer greater value on the prints. Also, the lower the number within the edition, often, but not always, the more valuable it is. It’s an easy science to master early on.

4. Get Advice

Good advice is crucial for the nascent collector, both to assure that you pay the right prices and to keep your collection on course. Advisors’ costs can vary: some take a percentage of the purchase price, other charge for time and may require a retainer. You can also reach out to gallery directors, who are often experts in their fields. After you’ve spent some time going to galleries and asking questions you would have already developed a relationship with some gallery directors, so they may be able to offer assistance, but keep in mind of a potential conflict of interest, so consider your sources and use common sense. As for art advisors – look for someone who has worked with beginners and is willing to accommodate your budget and your specific goals.

5. Do Your Homework

With or without an advisor, it is wise to do your homework before making important purchases. The internet is a great source for collectors who wish to learn about an artist’s reputation and potential. Check the artist’s site for her show history: who reps her? Do they show her work at international art fairs?

If your artist is well-known, you can check the art indices, or previous auction results to learn what she/he fetches at public auction and if sales are consistent and strong. However, an emerging artist with potential may be off the radar, may be available strictly in the primary market and perhaps even unrepresented; in that case you should examine the artist’s statement; does she/he have an important idea worth pursuing? Most importantly, look at the body of work so far: is the quality consistent?

6. Keep it up

A good collection represents you. So keep it representative. Edit what doesn’t’ fit. Build on what does. And keep records! Where you purchased your pieces, from whom, and what you paid, is important information that will add provenance to your pieces.

This article ©galleryIntell2013