It took hundreds of years, millions of dollars and exhaustive research for the British Museum to acquire its enviable collection of art, including ancient Egyptian pharaoh heads and Goya's nightmares. But I am here to tell you, you can do it too.
A little bit of patience and people skills can work like a charm, but if you have neither, here are some tips that might work for you.
1. Purchase it. This is the main way to build your art collection. If you are an avid First Friday navigator, you will realize there is something for everyone out there. There are works of all sizes and price tags to match the income and desires of most art lovers. I once scored a framed two-inch-square drawing by Mark Miller (now known as Marck Ferrari) for $25, and when the gallery assistant placed the red dot sticker on it, there were a lot of sad faces in the room. It was all about timing!
2. Barter it. Many artists don't shy away from trading their work or using it as currency. If you are good at Classic French cooking, and I am good at making portraits, I don't mind following a dinner invitation with a watercolor session. Artists also like trading artwork among themselves as sign a of mutual respect and admiration, as both parties involved in a trade are aware of the work and value involved in their craft. Everyone has something to offer; do you know how to prepare taxes? Can you spare an evening to wash grubby paintbrushes? Do you have a really great bottle of wine in your cellar? Tradesies is the name of the game here.
3. House it. My friend Heather Stamenov is a painter who fancies working on double-digit-feet canvases. Safekeeping is an issue because of the amount of paintings she makes and because of the costs of storing them. Like the good friend I am, I offered the few large walls I have in my house to display her magnificent renditions. So next time you find yourself in a conversation with an artist, casually mention the measurements of your walls and lighting arrangements. You may only have the work "on loan," but keeping the art in a humidity-controlled environment (never in the attic or basement) helps protect it until a sale can be made.
4. Commission it. No, it's not the same as simply purchasing it. For my 21st birthday I threw an art gallery party where everyone had to bring an art piece with the topic "weird or strange." It was fun because family and art school friends alike brought fun things to the party, and because it was my birthday, I ended up with most of the art (I'm sneaky, I know). But more than that, having a permanent space for an artwork that includes a stipend for the artist is a win-win situation: you end up with artwork made specifically for you, and they get to make a living doing what they love.
5. Participate. Many artists are into exploring the relationship between art and audience. In fact, many of the artists who partook in Art in Odd Places in October last year gave their audience a token to remember their interaction by. My husband and I ended up with a song created for us by Fol Chen, a bouquet of flowers and a ribbon by Brent Aldrich and a magnet sculpture by Leslie Baker. Events where Big Car is in attendance are almost always guaranteed to feature some form of participatory art, so keep them on your radar and snatch up the goodies.
In addition to my suggestions, the IMA is getting ready to host its Inaugural Indy Art Swap as part of Summer Solstice Community Day on June 20th. People are invited to bring a blanket and treasures to trade with other enthusiastic locals. The possibilities are unlimited.
Do you have any more tips for the aspiring collector? Feel free to share in the comments, we would all like to know.