Buy What You Like
Art is meant to be displayed and enjoyed and it will more than likely be in your collection for some time, perhaps even your lifetime, so make sure it appeals to you. You can’t go wrong as long as it gives you pleasure and it is within your budget. Art is a personal choice so explore and let art be an expression of your personality.
Look at art regularly and develop your eye, so that you learn what you like and why. The more you look, the more you'll come to understand the difference between what is good and what is not. This might not change the kind of art you like, but will help you distinguish between the good (of what you like) from the bad.
For serious collectors who are interested in building a collection with investment value, research the art market before you put your money down; what style is currently yielding the greatest returns, past sales records, which markets are affecting art prices and why etc. As with any serious expenditure, the more you know about the subject, the better. You don’t need to have an art degree to make smart decisions about art. Anyone can become a wise collector with patience and discipline.
If you’re planning to collect art seriously, ask yourself what makes a collection superior to others and, therefore, more valuable?
Who is the Artist?
Why do they stand out?
How important is the particular piece in the artist’s body of work?
What is the artwork’s history and documentation?
What is the sales history and record for the artist’s work?
Does the artist have high profile collectors?
Does the artist have any works exhibited in museums?
Is the asking price fair?
Know the Art Market
Great collectors keep themselves updated in an ever-changing marketplace. Be informed and get plugged into the grapevine! Cultivate a good relationship with art retailers and let them know that you wish to be informed when choice art pieces become available.
• Attend art auctions and special events.
• Visit and join your local art museums and non profit art centers. Curators sometimes give lectures on collecting art.
• Attend National and International Art Fairs and Art Expos whenever possible.
• If you know art collectors, talk to them and find out what they know and what they've learned about collecting art.
• Read books on art history and books about collecting art.
• Subscribe to a few art magazines.
• Read reviews by local and national art critics, keeping in mind that reviews usually just reflect one person’s opinion.
• Working with a professional art advisor / art consultant is a good way to learn about art collecting, and they will guide you through the process of purchasing art. A good dealer will advise you, bid for you at auctions, and let you know when sought-after works become available.
• Once you've educated yourself and have fallen in love with a work of art, buy it, take it home and enjoy it.
Determine Your Budget
Know how much money you can spend. According to an article in Business Week, if your budget is no more than $30,000, you'll get better results shopping in the contemporary category (art of the past 20 to 30 years) than for Old Masters. At $5,000 or less, prints and drawings, instead of paintings, are your best bets.
Develop a Master Plan for Collecting
Collecting is really about focus and building a meaningful group of pieces, rather than just randomly acquiring and displaying pieces. Smart collectors plan every acquisition with purpose. Once they’ve decided what they like, they start planning some sort of order or characteristic for their collection so that all the pieces in the collection relate well to each other and have an overall concept. Everything in the collection should work together to strengthen the collection, and not be out of place.
A good collection should illustrate a point, or address a question. A good collection enhances understanding of a certain area of art, or even a certain period of an artist’s life. It should have fine and, ideally, rare specimens of the subject. Brought together in a meaningful collection, each piece has more value.
Have a ‘script’ in mind. Just like for museums, you should aim to present your collection in a logical, meaningful way, so that it educates and enhances appreciation. Because of your diligent ‘curatorial’ efforts, viewers should walk away with a better understanding of the subject.
Care for your Art Collection
Handle and store your art with care. Protect your collection from hazards such as pollution, humidity, heat and light, and take precautions against natural disasters like hurricanes and fires if you live in an area affected by these phenomena.
Plan your Legacy
Your art collection is a valuable legacy that will be enjoyed by future generations. Ensure that it is not decimated when you are no longer around to take care of it by making detailed and clear plans for its future ownership. Many of the world’s great art museums that we enjoy today started as private collections.
Building a good collection takes time, but you will derive much satisfaction with each acquisition, knowing that the effort will be worth it. In fact, the process of developing a good collection is often as fun as it is rewarding, as you hunt down choice pieces. A whole new world will open up to you! Irrespective of whether your knowledge and time will pay off in the form of increased net worth, you can be assured that it will broaden your horizons and beautify your surroundings.