10 Tips for Aspiring Art Collectors

Start this marvelous adventure with your best foot forward

If you’re reading this, you must be considering entering the passionate world of art collecting, but you still have doubts and could use some advice. You’re right, the art world can be intimidating and buying your first artwork is a big decision.

Nowadays, the art world is evolving, adapting to the reality of this new global era we are living in, and things are changing. Not long ago, art collecting was restricted to those with great fortunes or who belonged to privileged social groups; whose position also allowed them to fulfill the role of patrons (people who sponsor artists), and therefore decide which artists were given the opportunities and which were not.

This is now history, and the contemporary art world is currently immersed in a much more optimistic atmosphere in which galleries, museums and art fairs are promoting diverse, innovative and quality art, that connects with people and is accessible to a wide variety of budgets.

You can either buy clothes or buy pictures. — Gertrude Stein

Let’s see some important tips to consider before leaping to the exciting journey in the art collecting world.

Have a look at an art book, go to museums and discover which artists and styles connect with you

However you feel and however you respond to a work of art is your way. There is no 'supposed to' when it comes to looking at art.

Jeanne Frank, writer and art dealer

If you are starting from scratch in the art world, you should feel lucky because you are going to enter a universe of sensations that is in constant change and will take you through a process of both, artistic and personal discovery.

A great way to start this journey is by opening a good art history book and get steeped in the different artistic styles. Through its pages, you will start to discover the kind of art that connects with you the most.

And go to museums! The more art you see, the more you’ll learn to define your own taste.

Go to art galleries and fairs, and don’t be shy

An art gallery is in business to sell art. Ask the same questions you would ask if buying a sofa: 'Have you other work of the artist to show me? How much is the painting? Have you a biography of the artist? Thank you, I'll think about it.'

Jeanne Frank, writer and art dealer

Galleries and art fairs are two places that every collector must visit. In addition to offering the possibility of discovering a wide range of works of art, you will be immersing yourself in the best environment to learn from experienced specialised people in the arts field.

Keep your eyes open and don’t hesitate to interact with gallerists, artists and other experts of the sector; approach them and ask any information you need. You can also ask prices right away, and it’s common for a collector to ask for a 10 percent discount. Do not feel intimidated! They are there to sell art.

Trust your taste, buy what you like

Trust your own judgment, and don’t assume that everything in a museum or a gallery is great art simply because it’s there. Taste in art, like all tastes, is personal, and it continues to change throughout our lives.

Adapt to your budget

Don’t judge an artwork by its price; good art doesn’t have to be expensive. Set a budget you feel comfortable with, and stick to it.

Prices in art hold a lot of information related to both, the artwork itself and its author. Think that the status of an artist is always going to make a difference in the value of a piece, so don’t hesitate to ask information about them -cv, exhibitions they’ve taken part in, galleries that have represented them, etc.- in order to better understand the value of their art.

Find out about the story behind the artwork

Artworks aren’t only what you see, they all have their own stories behind and they can be decisive in the way you perceive them. You may very well end up buying a piece of art with which you didn’t fall in love at first sight, but with which you did after finding out its message.

Also, take interest in knowing who is the artist behind that piece of art. Ask the gallery or do your research in the Internet, and even ask to personally get to know them. It makes it much more intimate and special to take a piece home after having gotten to know its author.

Buy to keep

Don’t buy just because it’s trendy. A piece of art is going to be part of your home, and you will have to live with it.

Geoffrey Smith, chairman of Sotheby’s auction house says: “Art is not about love at first sight or a one-night stand, it’s about bringing something into your home and continuing to be stimulated by it.”

It’s really important that you buy what you truly love. Your art reflects who you are, your interests and personality; your collection is like your visual diary, a chronological map of who you are and how you’ve evolved as a person.

Don’t rush the purchase

You’ve connected to an amazing artwork, but after walking around the piece for an hour and leaving and coming back to where it is, you still can’t make up your mind. That’s perfectly normal, don’t panic, there’s no rush. The best thing you can do here is to sleep on it and the morning after when you wake up, ask yourself “am I going to regret not getting it?”; if the answer is yes, just go get it.

The beginnings are always tricky, but don’t give up! Things will get easier for you as you gather more experience..

Find about a payment plan

Did you fall in love with the artwork with the wrong price tag? Yes, it happens more often than we’d like to. The good news is that galleries often have payment plans which allow you to pay the full amount in different installments. Always ask them.

Ask for the receipts

When buying your artwork, make sure to document the purchase in as many ways as possible. This will ensure that what you’re getting is an authentic work, and will also become important if you choose to sell or trade the piece in the future.

The history of where the work has been, the exhibitions it was a part of or the note the artist wrote you, will always increase the value of your piece.

Enjoy your purchase!

Delight yourself in front of your artwork, open a bottle of wine, make a tea or a coffee, or just stare at it. You made the right decision, and I hope this piece is your first of many.