The first tip which we feel is of the utmost importance when considering any acquisition is, buy what you enjoy and which inspires you. No matter what your decorator, friend or art consultant says about a work of art and how it might fit in your home or collection, you are ultimately the one living with the work and seeing it on a daily basis. Make sure it is a piece that will bring you joy each time you view it.
Once you have identified what your tastes are and found the first piece you are considering; the next step is to get to know the market to understand what is a good purchase and a fair price.
Visit galleries and ask for price lists to get an idea of what things cost and why. Look through gallery websites to get an understanding of market trends. Read art collecting books to build your understanding. Visit art fairs to see a ton of work at the same time, and notice what other collectors are purchasing. Get to know the artists you like, what makes them special or what are they known for. This is also a great time to start establishing relationships with galleries. A good gallery should be there to help educate you.
Whether you are building a new art collection or a seasoned collector, take time out to look around and stay educated. It will help you make an informed decision when the time is right.
Building relationships is one of the best ways to fast-track your understanding of the art market. Galleries, curators, and designers have a finger on the pulse of the world and are tuned in to trends, breaking news, upcoming artists, etc. If something exciting is about to happen in the market, they are some of the first to know. If they are tuned into your preferences, they can help keep you informed.
Keep good records of your art.
Once you acquire a new piece of art, make sure to keep thorough documentation of it. There are several reasons for this: first for authentication and ownership purposes, but also in terms of long-term value.
Keeping documentation of when the piece was painted, purchase prices and dates, past owners, etc. is called a “provenance”. Provenance usually comes into play with older works being sold on the secondary market (ie. auctions, estate sales, etc.)
Imagine a scenario where two paintings by the same artist become available at the same time. The two works are the same size and depict a similar subject matter. With the first piece, all you know is the title and artist. But the second comes with a provenance that provides documentation on the title and artist name, what year the piece was painted, that it was shown at the National Museum of Wildlife art in 1977 and published in Southwest Art Magazine in 1990, and is recorded as originally purchased by Jane Doe for $500 in 1922, and then sold to John Smith for $1000 in 1955.
Considering both pieces are priced similarly and both are of interest to you, which piece would likely be the better investment? Most collectors, galleries, and museums would find the second one more appealing for its added value.
Keeping accurate and current provenance records for your art will add both intrinsic and monetary value to your collection.
Start with what you like, then refine your collection as you bring in new works.
At the beginning, it is important to start with purchasing what you like. However, over time start to refine your choices so that you develop a cohesive collection who’s sum is greater than its parts.
Ask yourself questions about why you like the kinds of art you are buying. What about it satisfies you? Is the subject matters, color palate, time period, techniques? Maybe it’s that it makes you feel something, or think about things in a way that you haven’t considered before? Or do you like it for the concepts, ideas, themes or philosophies it embodies, communicates or stands for?
Zeroing in on what is drawing you in will help you identify works that share those characteristics and build a collection that is cohesive.
Pay attention to condition.
As you are considering new works of art for your collection, make sure to pay close attention to what condition the piece is in. Older works may have had restorative work done to clean a piece and touch up cracks or chipping.
Inpainting, relining, and other physical aspects of a work can affect the value and pricing. For example, investing a bit of money into cleaning a piece that might not show as well due to dirt, grime or even nicotine can pay itself back in spades. Sometimes the best treasures need a little work. You are not only a good steward to the piece while it is in your possession but it can enhance the value substantially.