How to Collect Art

by Melissa Macker, Executive Director

We had a wonderful lecture last week titled, "How to Collect Art." Three local art collectors--Jean Bragg, Jan Beeland, and Alexis Gregg--spoke about their experiences and journey in collecting art. In addition to telling some interesting stories, they also offered advice for someone who might be considering art collecting, but doesn't know where to start. In case you missed them, here are 5 takeaways:

1. Collect what you love. Unless you're a dealer purely collecting art to make money on it, art collectors can agree that it is ultimately about enriching your life with art. Whatever you decide to collect, buy art first and foremost because you love it and it makes you happy. Whether it is a painting from your travels, a quirky piece from your favorite local artist, or a richly handcrafted mug for you to drink your coffee from, collect what you love. That will look different for each person. You may find yourself unintentionally becoming a collector of paintings of doors because that is what you are drawn to! But for an art collector, art isn't just fluff, it's a deeply rewarding part of their life that is worth every penny.

2. Buy original pieces. While prints of paintings can be a more affordable way to enjoy the work of your favorite artists, they cannot really replace the original piece itself. There are some high-quality canvas prints available, but only the original will show every brushstroke that went into the work. Buy as many original pieces as you can afford, even if they're smaller. If your budget is small, watercolors, pastels, and ceramics can be a great way to get started collecting at a more affordable price point. Most collectors start out with a small budget, and then buy more expensive pieces over time as their budget grows. Unlike prints made from originals, original pieces can keep their value and even go up in value, depending on the artist. If your collection gets larger, you can cull your collection occasionally and sell original pieces that you have become less attached to in order to make room for new work. Also, if you do buy an original, make sure the artist has signed it.

Artwork in The 567’s gallery

Artwork in The 567’s gallery


3. Study the artist. If you're interested in collecting art as an investment, learn as much as you can about the artist and each individual piece. Buy a book about the kind of art you want to collect, Google the artist, talk to galleries and dealers, and visit and revisit the pieces. If it's a living artist, reach out to them and ask to visit their studio. Many artists would be happy to meet you at their studio and tell you more about their work. Once you learn about the artist and their work, then you will get a sense of which pieces could potentially go up in value over time. For example, rarer pieces are more valuable because they are harder to find. If a piece is much larger than everything else that artist painted, it could potentially have great value because there are no other pieces like it.

4. Find art from different sources. Galleries and art dealers are a great place to start when you art collecting art. Even if they do not currently have exactly what you are looking for, they know art and artists and can sometimes help you find it. Galleries are not the only place to buy art, though. For more well-known artists, there are art auction houses such as Neal Auction Company where you can find higher-end art and more hard-to-find pieces. (Make sure you set a limit for yourself before you go to an auction, though!) You can even buy art on eBay, but you have to be careful about sellers being dishonest. For example, sometimes sellers on eBay claim that a piece is by a different artist than who actually did it. Events and shows like Fired Works, which just took place last week, can be a wonderful place to see a lot of work by different artists, discover new artists, and find pieces you love. If you visit the artist's studio, you can also buy artwork directly from the artist. Sometimes artists have work in their studio that is "seconds," which means work with minor defects, that you can purchase at a lower price than what it would normally be worth.

5. Use your art collection. If you collect handmade ceramic mugs, use your mugs. Just because they are art does not mean they have to sit on a high shelf to never be touched. Pottery, in particular, is meant to be handled to be enjoyed. Using original pottery changes your experience of food and drink. If one of them breaks, then you have an excuse to buy more pottery! It will enrich your life so much more to use your pottery or hand-blown glasses in your daily life than to only look at it. Hang your paintings where you can enjoy them. If you have an oil painting that does get damaged, it can be repaired by a professional. The important thing is that your art collection is part of your life.