7 Ways to Start an Art Collection
Many people don’t realize how easy it is to buy art, even on a limited budget. It might seem intimidating at first, but with a little research and creativity, anyone can purchase high-quality original artwork for less than the cost of some framed posters. Art collecting is a fun and rewarding hobby, and can really enrich your life. Here are 7 strategies strategies for starting your collection.
If this is going to be your passion then it’s a good idea to study artists and art history, which can easily be done online. You can start by looking up your favorite painter or movement and see where that takes you. Let’s say you like Van Gogh, or Post-Impressionism in general — search for information and try to gain a deeper understanding of the artist. Pay attention to what was going on around the artist in their life. Was there a war or major social changes happening? Who did the artist admire? What are the artist’s influences? These are the same questions and issues you should consider as you come across art to collect.
Learning about art and artists is like watching a fun soap opera, and it will give you knowledge and confidence as your taste grows. This knowledge will inform your views about the type of work you might want to collect. And like everything else, as your knowledge evolves, so will your taste.
Here are a few online resources:
- Khan Academy Art History Section
- The Mother of All Art and Art History Pages
- Professor Witcombe’s Art History Resources
- Art history on About.com
These sites feature contemporary art:
2. Gallery Hop
If you have an art district in your community, find out when they hold their gallery nights (or art walks). In New York it’s Thursdays. In Chicago it’s the second Friday of the month. Set aside that time to walk around and go to art openings.
Gallery art walks are exciting and have the feel of a block party. They’re also free. Usually wine and refreshments are served. You can get familiar with the neighborhood and the type of work each gallery shows, and watch interesting people.
Your local community college or meetup group might organize visits to galleries, museums and artist studios in your area. Take advantage of these events to learn more about the art that’s available in your community.
Notice your own reactions to the work. Does anything move you? What interests you about the images, colors, or concepts? Can you imagine the work in your home or would you get bored looking at it all the time? This is also a good time to check out price lists and get an idea of what different pieces go for.
3. Trust your gut…
As you walk around and look at work on gallery night, do trust your gut. It’s the best way to develop your own taste. Don’t get impatient if you don’t find something right away or if you find something that’s way out of your price range. Remember, it’s just a fun outing and looking is free. Trust your eye. It’s amazing how much you learn from just looking. If you do see something you can’t live without, and it fits into your budget, go for it!
If you think a piece is over your budget, be sure to ask yourself, is it really? Unless you grew up in a home surrounded by art, collecting probably hasn’t been a big priority, and the idea of spending a few hundred (or a few thousand) dollars on art might take getting used to. If it’s really not in your budget, keep looking and you’ll probably find similar work by a younger or lesser known artist interested in the same issues and that strikes a similar chord. This was the strategy that the legendary collectors Dorothy and Herb Vogel used to develop their massive collection of minimalist art–all on a modest postal worker’s salary.
4. …but not too much!
Trusting your gut and believing in your own taste is important, but it’s also important to keep an open mind. Your taste will evolve as you grow in your own understanding of art. In motorcycling we have a saying: “The more you know the better it gets”, and this is true in art collecting as well. Try to always expand your taste and keep your options open to consider all types of art.
5. College Exhibitions
College exhibitions are one of the best sources for affordable art. You’ll have the opportunity to meet and support young artists and watch them grow. Nurturing these relationships can lead to meeting other young artists, finding out about openings, and growing your art network.
6. Open Studio Tours
Many towns hold open studio tours where you can visit artists in their work studios. This is a great opportunity to hear the artist talk about their work and to see diverse work in a fun setting. Another plus is that artists are often able to sell work out of their studios for less than if they sold through a gallery.
Artist residency programs offer emerging artists studio space and time to work. Some of these programs are very prestigious, attracting top talent from around the world — and they regularly hold open studio tours. I’ve collected beautiful work for affordable prices by top emerging artists at exhibits held by the Sharpe Foundation Space program, for example.
7. Art Fairs
Art fairs are another terrific source of affordable art. Consider coordinating your travel or vacation plans (domestic or foreign) with one of these fairs and you might just fly home with a beautiful (and affordable) new piece of art. One of the best international art fairs is the Affordable Art Fair.
Artforum provides this comprehensive listing:
Creating an art collection takes some homework, but once you get started you’ll find it’s fun, enjoyable and enriching to your life.