Where to Begin Collecting Art

Someone recently posed the following question: I have worked really hard over the past few years, and I finally have some money to spend on artwork. But, at the risk of sounding uneducated, I don’t know where to begin. Do you have any suggestions?

I do! Some of my favorite (and most rewarding) projects are those in which the client does not know what he/she likes or where to begin. No matter what amount of money you are prepared to spend, buying a work of art can be intimidating. A work of art is often a major expense (and usually an “extra”) and because most people are not fully versed in the art market they are afraid to make a costly mistake.

If you really are about to invest a significant amount of money in something you know little about I would recommend that you consult a professional and do some research, just as you would were you to buy a house, an engagement ring or a car. One place to start is with an art consultant. Basically, art consultants are independant advisors who represent collectors. A good art advisor will FIRST determine what it is you are interested in buying and organize a collecting plan that is right for you. The art consultant or advisor should then take you to a variety of sources like artist studios or galleries to make your purchases. We act as art world guides, so to speak. An art consultant will also work with you to assess how many pieces you are interested in acquiring, how much money you wish to spend, your time-frame for building your collection and how the works will function together as a collection.

Other good ideas are to just forget buying for the immediate future and get out there.

Start attending your local gallery exhibitions, museum shows, art and antiques auctions, and visiting local artist’s studios.

When you travel take a look at the art in the places you visit so that you see something different than what is available at home.

You should also try browsing through the art section of your local bookstore and see what artists appeal to you. Buy the books or write down the names and keep adding to the list over time. You will likely start to see a pattern on this list — something common among all the different artists that you jot down. You may discover, for example, that you are continually drawn to impressionism or to abstraction.

You can also subscribe to some art magazines and add to your list as you flip the pages of each issue. Go to a big bookstore and you will generally find their newsstand loaded with all sorts of art magazines designed to appeal to different audiences, artists, collectors, dealers, academicians, etc. You should be able to find one that is right for you.

Once you know a bit about what you like, buy the books in that area of interest, and read them! Get on the mailing list of every gallery or museum that deals with your area of interest. Buy and read the gallery and museum exhibition catalogues, too. And get out there and keep seeing the art itself. The more you look at art the more you will start to understand and appreciate what you are seeing.

When you have done all of that, you are well on your way towards having a comfort level with the type of art that you enjoy. At that point you should begin to identify reputable dealers or art consultants in your area who might teach you more, and help you to make a wise purchase.