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Breaking Into the World of Art Collecting

So you've decided to start collecting art but you don't know how or where to start. Check out our step-by-step guide below for advice on how to make the move from art enthusiast to art collector!

Works by Alec Monopoly at Eden Gallery

1. The Big Why

Before handing over your credit card, it's advisable to define a collection goal. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to collect art and what do I want my collection to say?" In the case of the former, perhaps you are looking to fill the walls of a new home or office space, or maybe you are hoping to diversify your portfolio by investing in art. As for the latter, you might choose to support artists of a certain demographic or to collect works of a singular style, subject matter, or even color palette depending on your project.

The art world is vast and constantly growing. Narrowing your parameters serves to weed through the many choices so you can find the pieces that best fit your needs and interests.

2. Money, Money, Money

The next step is to determine what your budget looks like. This can be an annual amount you are willing and able to spend towards growing your collection, or a lump sum to finish a project like decorating the walls in a new home. Regardless, I believe you can collect art at nearly any budget. Some of my own favorite pieces are silly little cartoon prints I picked up while strolling down Portobello Road in London. Worth about £5 GBP a piece, their value is entirely emotional. Even so, these cartoons are irreplaceable. They carry some of my favorite memories from traveling with my mom and are cute to boot. Whether $5 or $5 million, pick a starting point.

Notably, the higher your budget, the less you will be limited in your selections. Blue chip artists and works that require a significant amount of logistical planning will come with larger price tags. If you plan to collect works from Mark Bradford, place a 9 ft Hunt Slonem in your garden, or ship an 8 by 10 foot framed painting from halfway across the world, account for these costs in your budget.

3. Time to Research

With your collection goals and budget in place, it's time to crack open the textbooks. True beginners should start by learning the mediums, styles, and techniques used in art. (I have compiled a list of significant terminology in a separate post for your convenience.) Once you have a working knowledge, check out editorials like The Art Newspaper and Artnews, where you can read about leading exhibitions, up-and coming artists, and art market trends.

A significant part of your research should also include looking at artwork. Instagram is a great jumping off point to find mid-career artists you might not otherwise come across. Additionally, I highly recommend new collectors expose themselves to artworks in-person to get a sense of the effects different mediums produce. Physical works will never fully translate through an image on a website. Great places to learn about art and discover what styles and mediums you prefer - aside from museums - are galleries. Galleries frequently hold artists talks where attendees receive more in-depth understanding of an individual artists inspiration and techniques.

As with anything, the more you expose yourself, the more you will know.

4. Where to Look


Sites like Artsy, Artnet, and Saatchi Art make buying art easy. Purchasing "site unseen" is increasingly popular, as technology eases communication between distant parties and allows higher quality imaging. Buyers can sort available artworks by price, size, style, and color to find pieces that fit their preferences and requirements.

Brick and Mortar

While online art stores have undoubtedly simplified art sales, buyers still won't be able to see the work "in the flesh" until it arrives on their doorstep; and artworks always read a bit different in person. Accordingly, art fairs, local art galleries, and artist studios are great places to search for new artworks.

5. Oh for the Love of Paperwork

Let's go ahead and assume that while browsing a local Contemporary art gallery you found the perfect artwork to purchase. After settling on a price, you should always request both a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) and a Valuation Document. The former will verify the authenticity of the painting should you ever be interested in deaccessioning (selling) the piece, and the latter will verify the value of the work for insurance purposes. Save both the CoA and Valuation, along with your bill of sale.

If you purchase a work from the secondary market, you'll want to request additional documentation. A Condition Report records the physical condition of a work of art and lists any damages to the artwork (and/or the frame if applicable). This protects a buyer from undisclosed damages, and protects a seller from false damage claims. A Provenance Report records past transaction and exhibition history to authenticate an artwork and verify legal ownership.

6. Logistics

Following your purchase, you'll need to arrange transportation, delivery, and installation. These days many galleries and online art platforms factor delivery and even installation into their services, but not all! For certain media, you may also want to hire an electrician to install a clock outlet to hide electrical cords.

7. Tips on Protecting your Investment

  • Protect your investment by ensuring your paperwork is in order and always stored in a safe location.

  • Insure your artwork. Don't let a natural disaster, burst pipe, or thief leave you in the lurch.

  • Frames not only elevate the visual impact of your artwork, but they protect your investment. Unframed canvases are liable to warp. Works on paper should be framed behind UV protective glass or acrylic and hung out of direct sunlight. Acid free mats are the only acceptable mats.

  • Ensure you are storing undisplayed works correctly in order to avoid damaging your art.

  • Keep abreast of artists from your collection to see if their market appreciates. If so, have applicable works appraised and adjust their insurance value.

How Art Consultants Can Help

As you may have noticed, properly building an art collection can be quite the time commitment. Fortunately, it's a commitment you can outsource and still end up with an entirely personalized art collection. The role of an Art Consultant is to guide clients towards quality artworks that fit their collection criterion, ensure clients pay a fair market value for their art acquisitions, and help my clients manage and protect their collections.

If you're interested in 812 Maplewood's fine art advising services or would like to learn more, contact us to set up your initial consultation!


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