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The ROA Guide to starting an Art Collection

Collecting art can be one of the most rewarding passions. It not only lets you surround yourself with beautiful pieces suited to your taste and home, but also gives you the opportunity to support and foster talented emerging artists and to exercise influence in the art market. However, starting off your collection may seem like a daunting task, especially now that we have easy access to work by up-and-coming artists from all over the world. Therefore, our team has assembled a few tips to help you get started on any budget, as you learn to navigate the ins and outs of the art world. 

The art one chooses to collect becomes a self-portrait. 

— Dennis Heckler

START YOUR COLLECTION

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. Whatever the reason, here are a few things to keep in mind:

SET 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 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. 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 just love an artist whose works sell for millions? Then take the time to look at up-and-coming artists who work in a similar style.

 DEFINE YOUR TASTE

Whatever your reason for collecting art may be, we recommend only to 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 traditional pieces or rather work by provocative contemporary artists? Do you love oil paintings or are you captivated by modern sculpture?

At the end of the day, your art collection will be a highly personal statement on your personal interests, style, and personality, so purchase a piece you love, rather than a piece that is in line with 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. Your collection is like your visual diary of who you are and how you’ve evolved. So buy with the intention to keep, even if you may decide to sell later on. 

TRY ART MATCH

DO YOUR RESEARCH

The idea of going to a traditional art auction can be quite daunting for many. Luckily, there is now an alternative way to purchase art you love and you can do it all from the comfort of your home. 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 a gallery owner. Transparent pricing and easy tools 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 to discover art you love the very moment it becomes available.

SUPPORT EMERGING TALENT

Collecting art is not only a great hobby or passion, it also comes with great responsibility. As a collector, you 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 and sold their work for just a few hundred $ a piece. 

DISCOVER OUR PROMISING TALENT

COLLECT LIMITED EDITIONS

If you are new to collecting art, purchasing Limited Editions 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.

BROWSE WORKS ON PAPER

CONSIDER SCULPTURES

When starting an art collection, most people gravitate towards purchasing paintings. However, sculptures and other three-dimensional works can be incredible statement pieces and a great addition to your home. Do you have a bit of dead space, one of those sad, unused corners? A sculpture can turn it into a highlight! Including three-dimensional works adds great variety to your collection and prevents you from getting stuck on one artistic medium only. 

EXPLORE THE SCULPTURES COLLECTION

CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY 

Collecting art can quickly turn into a real passion. However, we recommend not to get too excited at first, and take some time between your purchases to really define what your collection is about. Sometimes, purchasing one higher priced piece every half a year or so is more worthwhile than quickly filling up your home with lower priced artworks. Also remember to take the condition of a work into account when purchasing, especially if you have an interest in older artworks. 

COLLECT STATEMENT PIECES

LEARN THE STORY

Each artwork has its own story and each artist their highly personal vision. Take some time to get informed on what a piece you may be interested in is actually about and it may resonate with you even more - or not at all. Knowing about the artist behind the work will make your purchase feel more personal and it is great to know whose artistic career you are supporting by making their work part of your collection. You can browse online to find interviews and artist statements to learn more about their concepts, and, in rare cases, you may even have the opportunity to be in touch with the artist directly. We however do not recommend using social media to contact artists, but to let your communication run over the gallery you are purchasing through instead. 

READ ARTIST INTERVIEWS

Whatever 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 to 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.

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

START YOUR COLLECTION TODAY

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*sources: The Artling, The New York Times, Artzine, Esquire