During my time working with Port Jackson Press Australia (PJPA) and meeting and chatting with many lovely print and art enthusiasts, I began to realise that many were keen on starting their own art collections but did not know where to begin. I offered to write an article for the PJPA gallery blog to assist their clients in a better understanding of how to start and what to keep in mind when purchasing art. It’s a beginners list of tips that I thought may also be of interest to my Canvas & Co. readers.
For avid art enthusiasts there’s a big difference between buying art and collecting art. Buying art involves purchasing artwork based on what you like or what attracts you, whereas buying for a collection takes the process one step further – selecting the artwork to fit within a greater objective involves controlled purposeful buying.
Making good collecting decisions requires research, evaluation and ultimately deciding on what attracts you to a work and if that attraction has any feasible longevity. It’s all about being able to choose individual artworks to complete a meaningful grouping. And thus a collection is born.
You can of course buy art individually, one work at time, but to create a collectioninvolves a master plan that keeps in mind how those single acquisitions accumulate over time. It means sifting through what attracts you in a systematic way, with a clear collection objective.
So how do you decide what direction to take? How do you organize or group your art together in a way that makes sense?
Here are a few techniques that may be of some help.
STEP 1: EDUCATE YOURSELF
Get educated by speaking to gallery professionals, artists or other collectors. Read or subscribe yourself to any of the numerous blogs, websites and social media platforms devoted to art. These are great ways to keep up to date with exhibitions, art events and new emerging art that may grab your interest. You can also get up to speed with art trends and what’s resurfacing in the auction houses.
Take every opportunity to ask questions, discuss your selection with as many art professionals as possible. That way, when you see something you like you can make an informed decision about whether you should buy it for your collection. Who knows, there may a more suited artwork hiding in a gallery stockroom, out of sight. The more knowledgeable you are the better you will be at selecting the right work and the more protection you will have from being taken advantage of in the marketplace.
Remember that the educational process is an ongoing one, no matter how many years you have been collecting.
STEP 2: UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE COLLECTING
As you gain experience you will become more aware of what attracts you to specific artworks and as a result, when you evaluate a potential acquisition you will become increasingly discerning and confident, equipped with a strong checklist. To gauge what your collection checklist might include, have a look at what’s in your collection to date. Ask yourself: What do the individual pieces of my collection have in common? Why do I like the art that I’m buying? Is it the colours, the techniques, the composition, the reputation of the artist, the history or the meaning behind the work? Am I collecting artworks from a specific era? Do the artists have anything in common? Is there a relation between the works or the concept behind their creation?
Knowing why you have chosen each piece for your collection and understanding it’s purpose within it can create a sense of fulfillment. Just like the joy of finding the missing piece in a puzzle, finding the right artwork to add to your collection can be incredibly satisfying.
STEP 3: BE TRUE TO YOUR TASTES
This means following your own objectives and not just buying into current trends current fashion. Of course, works that that sit within art market trends can make valuable additions to a collection, but do not let them dictate an entire collection – the general rule is to include them, not to plan around them.
Regardless of how long you have been collecting, if you have any doubts about a possible artwork for your collection then it’s good idea to look at what else is around before you commit to it. Go to different sources for new inspiration and widen your purchase platform. Look on the internet. Many galleries now have e-commerce which enable you view artworks and even buy online.
Try looking at artists that have previously spiked your interest but who you didn’t end up buying. Who knows, their work may have grown on you. It’s important to any good collection to reassess what attracts you because your tastes can change over time and this adds to the breadth and depth of what your purchase. That way your collection is always evolving and fresh.
STEP 4: DOCUMENT YOUR COLLECTION
Keep good records of every work of art you acquire. You will need it for authentication but it can also add value to your collection. Also, the more information you have on an artwork or artist the more it can add to your appreciation of it. Find out the history of the artwork. Has it ever been exhibited or written about, featured or discussed publicly?
Everyone loves a good story and it’s great to be able to tell people an interesting tale related to the artwork or the artist that created it – how and when it was made and using what methods. Take note of any artist statements and biographical information about the artist. If you are fortunate enough to meet the artist in person, ask them what the work means or what its significance is. Perhaps the gallerist has some insight from the artist about this.
Keep all invoices, receipts, certificates of authenticity and other relevant materials you receive with your artwork. You may not automatically receive this when you make a purchase so you need to ask for it as it all adds provenance to your artwork. This includes any related books, exhibition catalogues, gallery brochures, reviews, web pages etc. If you are constructing your collection as a future investment, the more provenance you have can make works more appealing to potential buyers and possibly help it fetch a higher price.
These are just a few techniques you can use to maximise not only the value of the art you collect, but your own personal enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of it. You don’t need heaps of cash to start your own collection because interesting artwork can be found for as little as $100. The more you hunt around, the better your chances are of finding your next treasure. Enjoy the process of purchasing artwork that both captures your imagination and enriches your collection. But be aware, collecting art can be highly addictive!