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.  It is what location is to Real Estate.  Information and Browsing.  It is important to know what is out there, and you should browse 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.


Most people collect because they love art, and hate to part with any of their collection, but think about reselling some of your collection to either trade up or to refine a collection.

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 offered 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 represented as such.  


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 or 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. 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. go to 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.  I would not recommend pooling money.

f.  Work with a qualified Art Advisor or Consultant