“The collector attempts always to acquire the best, and his knowledge of what is best is always widening. His is the task of judging between degrees of perfection.”
-Arthur Davison Ficke (American Poet, 1883 – 1945)
Starting an art collection can seem daunting, especially if you are relatively new to the art of buying. While you have a love of art (why else would you want to collect it?), you may have no idea how to develop a collection or how to determine a good investment. While these things can take some time to learn, there are a few basic pointers that can help you get started.
Do Your Research
Learn everything you can about the type of art, era and/or artists that you wish to collect. Become an expert. The more you know about the artist, technique, historical significance and current market value, the more success you’ll have not only buying great art, but building an even greater collection.
Another good idea is to familiarize yourself with the art market and current values. Look at auction catalogues like Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Review the sold prices for the types of pieces that interest you as a guide for what to expect.
And finally, learn everything you can about art. Learn to tell the difference between bad and great art – it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes!
Build Your Skills
Assembling an art collection can be an art form in its own right, and it takes practice and skill. You can learn a lot from others along the way. Educate yourself by visiting art galleries and museums. Read art magazines and books or art critic columns in the newspaper. Visit websites like artsandcollections.com, blouinartinfo.com and americanartcollector.com. Talk to curators. Look at the great collections and analyze what they have in common.
Another smart thing to do is follow the market. Watch the pieces that you think will rise in value and see if they do. Discover what kind of art is trending. Learn from the buying and selling of others and apply that to your collecting acumen.
Find Your Focus
A theme is what gives an art collection purpose and differentiates it from the simple act of buying pieces of art. Of course a collector may collate more than one collection, but each collection will have a specific focus, which may be form, technique, era, subject, geographical area – or a combination of one or more of these. Collections should seek to provide a thorough narrative of the focus that you choose.
While much can be achieved with books and the internet, there’s no substitute for building relationships within the art industry. Get involved in the art community. From artists to dealers, curators, advisors and collectors, there are many people that can offer valuable information or access to the types of art you’re interested in. Galleries in particular are important to cultivate relationships with as they can introduce you to artists and let you know when art in your area of interest becomes available.
Another opportunity for networking is to support or join art non-profit organizations. Not only will it help emerging artists, it can expose you to new talent and social functions for meeting other art collectors and industry professionals.
Documentation Is Important
Proper documentation makes it easier for your art to be appraised and can also increase the value of a piece. The more that is known about a piece of art, especially if it has a unique history, the more value can be ascribed to it than a piece about which little is known.
There is no such thing as too much information when it comes to the details of your collection. Your archive can include biographical information about the artist and the specific piece, exhibition history, ownership and sales information, reviews and catalogues featuring the piece, along with sales receipts and your Certificate of Authenticity, which should be provided with any artwork purchase.
Love The Art You Buy
And last, but not least, the most important thing is to love the art you buy. There’s no point getting involved in collecting if you aren’t passionate about the art you’re collecting. Sure, you can do it for the potential investment, but art doesn’t always pay off, so you might as well love having it on your wall. And more importantly, you’re wasting your time and energy. You might as well hire someone to collect art for you if you’re purely collecting for financial investment.
To paraphrase the quote from Arthur Davison Ficke from the opening of this article, may you acquire the best on your art collecting journey, and may your knowledge of what is best be always widening.