Beginner's Guide

How to Start an Art Collection



I bought my first original piece of art from a gallery shortly after I graduated from college.  Up until that point, my apartment consisted mostly of mass-produced posters with the work of famous artists because I believed that was all I could afford.  When I spent some time immersing myself in the art world I realized that I was so wrong.  Once I got my first job and began earning a consistent paycheck I made a personal commitment to begin collecting art that was unique and original.   

To be honest, buying my first piece of art was pretty intimidating; I didn't know where to begin or how the art buying process worked.  Over time I've learned a lot about buying work and building a personal collection.  Since making an intentional decision to buy original art, I've built up my collection to include over 25 unique pieces, many from local visual artists.  And now I want to pass along a few of my personal takeaways on how to start an art collection.

1. Look at a lot of art. 

Spend time looking at art and going to galleries, studios and museums.  Over time you will begin to better understand your likes and dislikes and the type of work, mediums and styles that match your personal interest.  To get started, suscribe to gallery or artist mailing lists so you'll get invitations to openings and special events.  If Facebook is your thing, see if an artist you like has a page so you know about upcoming exhibitions or what they're working on.

2. Get to know artists personally.

Some of my most favorite pieces in my art collection are from artists that I have met and know personally.  When you find work that you really like, make a point to meet the artist.  Imagine if you were that artist. Wouldn't you love people expressing an interest in your work?  Ask them about their techniques, inspirations or the story about a specific work that you like. Most of them will be more than happy to tell you all about it.

3. Make sure you feel strongly about the work. 

Don't buy art that you are not sure about. Trust your instincts.  There is nothing wrong with buying art on the spur of the moment but if you are spending a bit more for a piece, then it's important to be patient and make sure that you really like it.  If you've found something that you really like but are not 100% positive, ask the artist if they would be willing to loan the piece to you for a couple of days to make sure it is the right fit for you and your space.    

4. Don't let price scare you.

If you found something you really love, don't be immediately deterred if the asking price is outside your price range or budget.  While having a conversation about price may seem uncomfortable, be honest with the artist about your interest in the piece and what you can afford.  Generally speaking, there is room for negotiation.  I've also known some artists who were willing to set up a payment plan if you can't purchase a work immediately on the spot.

5. Create a personal art fund.

The reality is that most people can't just go into a gallery or studio and buy something off the wall.  If you are committed to buying original art, try saving a little each month to go towards an original art purchase.  Having an art fund makes visiting galleries and studios a lot more fun and also it gives you a lot more  flexibility to buy something you really like that you will want to keep for a long time.  

Being a collector doesn't mean you have to pay thousands of dollars for a work or own hundreds of pieces.   If you are interested in art, then the thought of collecting is a natural inclination.

My challenge to you this year:
1.  Put those framed art posters in your closet.
2.  Identify three new local artists whose work you really enjoy.
3.  Have a conversation with an artist at the next gallery opening or exhibition you attend.
4.  Buy at least one original piece of art .

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