Just Getting Started Collecting Art? These Tips Will Help You Choose Wisely

Dave Grant, CFP

Enjoying your money, and decorating a home, can take you in various different directions. One of those place is to purchase art, sometimes with the hope of making an investment.

Getting started collecting art can be challenging. With such a wide range of pieces and artists, and the often large financial commitment, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. The truth is that anyone can begin collecting art, even if they don't have an artistic background or knowledge of fine art. The two most important factors when starting to collect art are to have an appreciation for it and the willingness to do a little research. Below are a few tips to help you get started on the right path.

Learn About the Artist

The artist is as important as the piece of art and when it comes to collecting, sometimes even more so. While it is easy to read about the background of an artist, you will also want to gather information from other sources. A few great sources of information include art dealers, gallery owners, and curators. If possible, you may want to discuss the artist with other collectors and even try and get some face time with the artist themselves. 

Make sure to get information from those not trying to sell or promote the art as well so that you can get a well-rounded impression about the artist and their work. You will want to find out:

  • Where they live and work
  • Who they have studied with or any formal education they may have
  • Galleries, museums, and other places that exhibit their work
  • Any prizes or awards they have received
  • What types of collectors currently have their work
  • Publications or catalogs that feature them

You will also want to find out more about what inspires them and their passions. You want to collect work from not only someone who is known and respected in the industry, but also someone whose work speaks to you. Most importantly - do you love the piece? It will be hanging on your wall after all! 

Is the Piece Considered Significant?

The best way to know if the piece is considered important or a significant piece of work is to look at all of the artist's periods. This can be a little difficult with new artists, and if you are considering purchasing from an artist relatively new to the scene, ask to see other types of their work to see their range. This can help you determine their inspiration and the context that it was created in. The other pieces can help draw together the message that is being conveyed, and you can better judge how relevant it is. One thing you will want to avoid is something that is considered too hip or too trendy. While the piece may be popular at the time, the craze is likely to fizzle out, which may make it a poor investment in the long run. 

Determine Whether the Work Is an Original Piece

It is perfectly acceptable in the art world to sell reproduced art. This can include digitally and mechanically produced prints. If the piece is sold as a limited edition work of art, it means that it is either a photographed or digitally reproduced copy. When looking to start a well-rounded collection, you will need to look for original creations. It is these pieces that are one-of-a-kind, and hold special value as being the piece that the artist originally created. 

Once you have determined that the piece is original, you will want to ask if it is considered a major or minor work. This is a term used when comparing it to the artist's other work. Major pieces are significantly more labor-intensive, more complex, and ultimately more valuable than minor work. Finally, you will want to determine if the piece is considered typical or atypical of the artist's work. This can include sizes, shapes, or mediums used. In this case, typical pieces are usually what the artists will be remembered for and the most collectible. 

By following the few tips above, you can get started collecting confidently. After choosing the perfect piece for your collection, the final steps are verifying the authenticity and negotiating a price. Once you get started, you will begin to enjoy your new collection for years to come. At the end of the day, make sure you truly love anything you buy, since you will be the one that has to look at it every day! 

By Dave Grant, CFP

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