Last week I wrote about the importance of collecting art and why everyone should start as soon as they’re financially able. This week I wanted to provide a few tips on how to start the collection process for those who might be interested but feel a bit overwhelmed or intimidated by the idea. Rest assured that anyone could start collecting art as long as they are committed to doing the necessary research and they understand that a collection doesn’t happen overnight.
First of all, it’s important to understand the fundamental difference between casually buying art and collecting art. The casual buyer acts on impulse, meaning that there isn’t really any serious consideration given to the purchase besides their initial emotional connection/response to the artwork in question. That person isn’t thinking about the overall narrative of their collection or even assessing how that purchase would fit in with their existing works of art. These, however, are all things the serious collector must take into consideration. The serious collector understands that “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
With the Christmas season upon us it’s a great time to buy art, as most artists would’ve reduced prices in their end of year studio sales. What’s even better is that Christmas bonus you earned could be put towards making a deposit on that work of art you’ve wanted for a while now. You’ll also most likely have a wider range of options to choose from, as the artist would’ve been making work all year long. Although as an artist I would obviously encourage everyone to buy art year round, as a modest collector myself I understand the limitations of working within a budget. And so whenever someone asks me about the best time of the year to buy art I would always say December. The collector has more spending power and the artist is trying to clear out the studio to make room for new works in the New Year. Everyone walks away a winner.
Start with what you like
As I mentioned in the last article, a good place to start is with what you like. This would provide a solid enough foundation for you to gradually build your fine art collection. Think about what you would like your collection to communicate to viewers. Understand that you’re not merely a collector. Your role, in many ways, mirrors that of the artist. While they’re using their own art to communicate a message to the viewer, you’re using their art together with works from other artists to make an even greater statement about something that is dear to you. Whether you choose to collect landscape paintings from the 60s and 70s, contemporary abstract portraits or indigenous pottery, the choice is yours and yours alone to make. Just ensure that the theme is something you can envision yourself still being passionate about years later and that there is room for expansion.
Do your research
Now that you’ve figured out the general aesthetic of the art you’re hoping to collect, what next? What follows is crucial to your acquisition process. At this point you should commit to spending a significant amount of time doing some research (yes, it’s that serious). If you’re very new to art then you should familiarize yourself with the art terms, styles, techniques etc. You don’t want to be “that person” who doesn’t know head from tail about anything. Ask around about local art practitioners. Most of us are really not that hard to find. Check their websites, social media accounts, or any platform that would allow you to see the work they’re producing. Before you consider collecting their work it’s important to understand what fuels their production. Check for artist statements or any text that serves to give the viewer a better understanding of what the artist is trying to communicate, what inspired the work and a general idea of how the work was intended to be read.
Visit art exhibitions
It should go without saying that if you’re looking to collect art then visiting art exhibitions should be a priority in your schedule. It’s always a good idea to go early so that you can preview the exhibition before other collectors start scooping up pieces that you might’ve had your eyes on. Visiting art exhibitions is also a great way to meet creative practitioners, writers, curators and other collectors who could give you some helpful tips about collecting art and even put you on to emerging artists whose works you should consider.
You could never ask too many questions and very rarely could you ask stupid questions. If you’re considering adding a work of art to your collection then in addition to asking about the price you should also ask about framing (if the piece is unframed), shipping (if you are overseas) and delivery (if you are local). You should also ask about previous owners if you’re not buying directly from an artist and about the history of the piece (if it won any awards or was shown in major exhibitions as these can increase it’s value). Be sure to ask if the piece is an original or a print and if they intend to make prints of the piece in question. This is especially important if you want the pieces in your collection to have as much value as possible in the future.
Make room and organize accordingly
It’s important to consider the space that will house your collection. The last thing you want is to have a huge collection locked away in your garage. In the more modern parts of the world collectors have the option of housing parts of their collection in temperature controlled storage bonds. While I doubt we have this option here in Guyana, it wouldn’t hurt to ask the relevant persons a question or two. Just remember that the unit must be temperature controlled as extreme heat or cold can severely damage your art. But for those of us who don’t have that option, it is crucial that you study the available wall space in order to make the most of it. You may have to rearrange some items for a better fit whenever you make a significant addition to your collection so be prepared to put in some muscle work! You will also find that some works of art “speak” to others much more effectively when arranged in a particular manner so pay close attention to how the works relate to each other.
And finally, keep everything. Receipts, documents, certificates of authenticity or anything that proves you are the owner of the work of art should be held on to for obvious reasons.
With that said, I hope I was able to provide some useful tips on how to get your collection started. All the best on your journey as a collector!