Collectors are happy people.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Collecting art is an age-old practice. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved to surround themselves with monumental sculptures, royal families would cultivate extensive collections of portraiture and landscape painting, and even modern-day celebrities like Sean Combs or Lady Gaga like to foster talented artists by purchasing their work and amassing impressive art collections of their own. However, it is a common misconception that you have to be wealthy or famous to pursue a passion for art. Many art collectors actually start out on a smaller budget as they learn to navigate the ins and outs of the art world.
Take Herbert and Dorothy Vogel for example; this couple amassed a collection of over 4,782 works while working as civil servants and living in their rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Today, their collection is considered one of the most important post-1960s art collections in the USA.
Due to the digital revolution, we have never been more aware of what is out there, which may make starting your own art collection seem like a daunting task. But at the same time, the art world has never been as accessible as it is now, and therefore there has never been a better time to dive right in and immerse yourself in this exciting practice!
There are many reasons why you could be interested in collecting art. You may want to start collecting as a form of investment, as a means of creating a legacy, or to support the arts. However, if you are thinking of starting an art collection of your very own, there are a few things to consider. Here are our 5 top tips:
1. Discover your personal taste
Art is meant to be enjoyed, so only invest in pieces you genuinely like. The first step is easy: start by looking at art. The more art you see, the easier it will become to identify and articulate your personal taste. Visit museums, browse art bookstores, listen to podcasts, maybe go to a local art fair, or follow artists and galleries on Instagram. Find out what styles or media you gravitate towards and try to picture what your collection would look like. Do you prefer more historical pieces or rather work by provocative contemporary artists? Do you love a traditional oil painting or are you captivated by modern sculpture?
At the end of the day, your art collection
will be a highly personal statement about your style and character, so it is
highly recommended to purchase a piece you love, rather than a piece that
adheres to current trends in the art world. By taking the time to familiarize
yourself with what is out there, you will develop an instinct, which is
immensely valuable to ensure that what you purchase is determined by more than
just fleeting market trends.
Buy art because you like it and because it moves you, and because it enhances your life.
— Dan Fear
2. Define your budget
It can be easy to get carried away when buying art. Therefore, first take the time to realistically examine your finances and decide what you can afford and in which time frame. By setting aside a certain budget for, let’s say, the next 6 months, you have the flexibility to operate within that budget. Maybe you will buy one amazing piece you just 'have to have' and spend it all in one go, or maybe you’d rather like to take it slow and build up a larger collection out of smaller, lower-priced artworks. However, a good rule to keep in the back of your mind is - quality over quantity.
Just because you are on a budget does not mean you cannot acquire something unique. The Vogel’s put together their amazing art collection by defining what they wanted to collect and staying within their budget and framework. A budget of $1,000 or less can already be enough to purchase a small, original painting by an emerging artist, and might stretch even further if you'd be willing to buy multiple edition works. Do you have a deep love for an artist whose works sell for millions? Then take the time to look at up-and-coming artists who work in a similar style.
3. Browse online
The idea of a traditional art auction can be quite daunting for many. But these days, there is an alternative way to purchase art you love, and you can do it all from home whilst wearing your favorite pajamas. Online platforms, like Return on Art, offer easy access to a curated selection of artworks by talented artists from all around the world. No longer, do you have to ask for - or negotiate prices with an austere gallery owner, transparent pricing and easy options for comparison between artists and other galleries make buying art online an exciting and economical option for new art collectors. You don’t even have to drive your artwork home, it will be delivered right to your doorstep, no matter where you are located.
Social media is another great tool to explore what's happening in the art world; just follow artists you admire and galleries that showcase a curated selection that matches your taste and discover art you love the very moment it becomes available.
4. Invest in new talent
art is not only a great hobby or passion, it also comes with great responsibility.
As a collector, you preserve a small record of our time, but also have
the opportunity to foster up-and-coming talent and thus to exercise your own
influence within the art world. By choosing to support an artist at the start
of their career, you allow them to continue to develop their extraordinary capabilities
and simultaneously gain access to their early works, while they are still at an
affordable price point. It is these works that have the capability to grow exponentially
in value. But get in quick, because once an artist’s career takes off their price trajectory can be steep.
Just think that Banksy or Jean-Michel Basquiat were once considered up-and-coming
artists, who sold their work for just a few hundred $ a piece.
I think the collectors have made an enormous contribution, not only to the market but to painters themselves... These people that buy, that set standards, make everyone else itch to emulate.
— Philip Johnson
5. Consider Limited Editions
If you are new to collecting art, Limited Edition prints can be a great place to start. These are generally much more affordable than original works and can be a comfortable way to ease into collecting. An original artwork by an artist you love may be just beyond your budget right now, but they may sell some Limited Edition works that will not instantly break the bank but are still valuable, especially if signed by the artist.
Producing a signed run of prints is common in the art world and dates back to the likes of Andy Warhol or Keith Haring, who wanted to make their work attainable for a bigger audience. Today, these works are just as much of a collectible and just as lucrative, because limited editions are limited (only a few pieces will ever be produced), which makes them a much better investment than ‘open’ editions. They will hold their value, and you will not come across them in your friend’s homes.
Drawings and sketches on paper are another great media to explore when starting out. These generally suit a smaller budget, but can still turn out to be incredibly valuable over time.
the reason you are considering starting an art collection of your own, we can assure
you that, in many ways, it is one of the most rewarding passions you can have.
So, join the ranks of those who like to surround themselves with beauty and see
value in the creative, those who foster new talent and take control of their
own legacy in a uniquely personal way.
The art one chooses to collect becomes a self-portrait.
— Dennis Heckler