A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Art

There are many reasons George Lindemann and others become interested in art collection. Perhaps they inherited a small sampling from a relative, or perhaps they move into a space with a lot of walls to fill. Regardless of the original motivation, the search for artwork should be an exciting and fulfilling experience. But it can be overwhelming, with the unending selections and sources out there. Where does one begin?

Know Thy Art, Know Thyself!

Education is the key to creating a solid, well-planned art collection. Scan through the history, check out well known contemporary artists, or do a quick and easy internet search of specific styles (surrealism, realism, constructivism, etc.)

Once you have done your research, it is time to define your collection. Is there a general theme to your envisioned collection? Is there a specific era and style you like? Is there a specific palette to which you wish to adhere?

For instance, George Lucas (of Star Wars fame) decided on American illustration and now has one of the most comprehensive collections. In fact, his collection of works by Norman Rockwell has been loaned to the Smithsonian Institute! Oprah Winfrey (talk show goddess) has a collection of African American pieces such as “Little Mother” by Hovsep Pushman, and Madonna (pop music diva) has a collection of feminist pieces from such artists as Frida Kahlo and Tamara de Lempicka that have been valued at $160 million. The key to their success? They defined the target of their focus. Once you have done the same, you can begin your search.

Where to Begin?

A good place to start your collection at a good price is to visit pre-season auctions. Research local auctions to see a piece in person, or there’s nothing wrong with bidding remotely. Keep in mind the cost of shipping and insurance if you decide to go this route.

Shopping Around

The strongest art collectors are the ones who keep their eyes and ears open to the changing market. Familiarize yourself with those that sell the style you like. Stay cognizant to breaking news, and be the first to act on it. Know the names of your art dealers, and make sure they know yours. Continuing education is what makes the difference between the art collector and the art buyer.

Selecting the Right Pieces

One of the biggest follies a beginning art collector makes is to try to get the most pieces for the lowest price. It would behoove the beginner collector to avoid a “bargain basement” approach to colleting. It is better to spend the entire annual budget on a finer piece than collect bits and pieces that, in the end, will amass into little more than a pile of knick-knacks. However, you don’t have to go for the most expensive pieces, either. Look for lesser-known works from major artists. Or, look for pieces from artists whose work has fallen out of fashion. Most importantly, choose pieces that you like! There is no point in collecting pieces simply because they are the status quo. Collect your passion!

That being said, it is also important to know what not to buy. A piece may be of great interest to you, but how does it fit with your collection? If there is no clear answer to that question, it would benefit you to pass it up for a better fitting piece.

While there is a lot to learn about art collection, it certainly doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Just remember:

• Do your research
• Define your collection
• Shop around
• Know when not to buy
• Avoid the “bargain basement” attitude
• Look outside the status quo

And remember, collecting art should be a fun, exciting, and fulfilling experience. Even on a budget a serious collector can amass a respectable collection over a lifetime, and have a lot of fun doing it!