Tips for Starting an Art Collection

Tips for Starting an Art Collection

Trust your instincts and collect what you enjoy.

Most Art Dealers and Consultants will tell you as much.  It is important to find work you connect with, and want to live with, even if this is for an investment.

Quality and Condition.

It is far better to own a top quality work of a lesser artist, than an inferior work by a great artist.  Quality is to art what location is to Real Estate.  It is important to know what is out there, and part of the fun of art collecting is the research and planning stages. Many art collectors I know will do this together as a couple or a group and it becomes not only an enjoyable hobby but also part of their vacation and trip planning. Museums, Galleries and Art Fairs, Galleries welcome browsers and will gladly answer any questions you may have about a particular artist.  People in the art business, LOVE to talk about art!  It is the great big secret of the art world.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and gather information.

Investing vs. Collecting.

Decide what is most important to you, and be honest with yourself, it will help determine what you collect and how you approach things.  There is no doubt that art can be an investment, but that is not the only reason to collect, so think about which is more important to you?  Value or aesthetics and personal enjoyment.  The two may intersect, but also may not. Far too often, I am called in to appraise art for clients that purchased art at commercial galleries for large sums of money and I get to be the one to tell them their $10,000 “investment” will likely net $300 at auction.


Don’t be afraid of getting rid of art that no longer works for you or that you no longer love. Most people collect because they love art, and many do not want to part with any of their collection, but think about reselling some of your collection to either trade up or to refine a collection. Sometimes that old painting that aunt Emma owned and is now in your collection could be sold and they money then can be used to buy art that you Really LOVE!

Be wary of too good to be true.

The adage, “You get what you pay for” is most often true, especially in the collectible's market.  These days, it is rare to find a “masterpiece” which was undocumented, or undiscovered, and will be more than likely be a forgery.  Trust the experts and get an expert opinion.  Professional Art Appraisers and Reputable Art Dealers will be able to assess a particular painting’s authenticity.  Most Art Consultants and Galleries will stand behind all purchases made through them, and will give you a Certificate of Authenticity.  Be wary of people selling art on Ebay, often items offered much below market value are too good to be true, while items listed far above market value are often used to artificially inflate the prices for sales on other sites.  If it is from a reputable dealer, then it is represented as such.  


This is one area where it pays to get expert advice and to work with reputable arts professionals. Know whom you are working with, and what their background is.  Are they selling art out of the trunk of their car or the side of the road, or do they have a workplace and a background in Art? Don’t be afraid to say no, even if that Art Gallery owner spent a lot of time with you and educated you.  You are the one who must love it.  

Have A Focus.

There are two different attitudes about this in the art community, and I happen to believe it creates a stronger, more cohesive collection when you have a focus. Instead of trying to have as many styles as you can find, maybe start with a particular artist, genre or time period that you are particularly drawn to.  I have collectors in Texas who only collect Urban Landscapes, and another collector who mainly collects works on paper. A good friend of mine only collects minimalist named artists from the 1960s.  Whatever you are drawn to, will be a clue. This is important to keep in mind when you are offered and incredible “deal” on a piece of art that is not your style, but is thought to be a “great investment”. Every time I have strayed from this principle, I have regretted this personally. You will also get to know the key dealers and Galleries working in this genre, and you will become familiar with a particular artist’s oeuvre and will more likely be able to detect forgery.

Know Your Budget

Be honest with yourself, and how much money you can afford to spend on art, and don’t pursue a  $50,000,000 Picasso, when you can afford $5,000.  Original Prints by great artists are often a great way to get into collecting some of your favorite artists.

Have FUN!  Collecting art is a wonderful hobby for couples or individuals and many collectors plan their travels around great Art shows at museums and Art Fairs or Art Openings.  It is also something you live with and can enjoy and share with friends and family.  People love to hear the stories about individual pieces of art you have collected and where you purchased it, and if you met the artist. Your artwork collection says much about who you are and is a great way to:

See the world

Learn about history, art, and artists

Connect with a community

Support emerging artists

Ways to get started:

a. Visit Art Museums and Galleries

b. Read Art Magazines

c. Ask questions – find more about artists you are interested in, where have they shown, what is their inspiration

d. Search the Internet.  There are some great informational art websites on the web now, which will highlight the top stories in the art market and who the hot artists are.

e. Join a collector's group.  Most museums have a collector's group that gets together to discuss possible purchases and what they have and educate one another.  This is also a great opportunity to learn more while refining your sense of quality art. The more art you see and are exposed to, the better your eye becomes.

f.  Work with a qualified Art Advisor or Consultant