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Art Collecting 101: Buying Art for Beginners

Art Collecting 101
Art Collecting 101

In pop culture art collectors are always played by affluent, mustachioed, bespectacled men who walk around galleries head cocked to the side in pompous consideration. These characters have unlimited funds, know the gallerists, and the artists by their first names and seem to collect art for the sake of collecting…and for the sake of making others know that they’re a collector.

The real life practice of art collecting; however, is not reserved for the posh upper set, but rather is accessible to anyone who is looking to bring art into their lives and their spaces. Still, there is a difference between bringing wall art (the kind you can pick up at a big box store) and fine art into your space.

Finding the perfect artwork at Patrons' Show
Finding the perfect artwork at Patrons’ Show

But why buy art? Collecting fine art, made lovingly by an artist instead of mass generated by a computer, can be more about the journey than the destination. It is for this reason that an art collection isn’t clutter, but instead becomes a series of prized possessions that spark joy (to borrow Marie Kondo’s term) for generations to come. Don’t know where to start? Here’s how get started with your own art collection.

Identify your taste and budget

Not sure what you like? Time to visit your local gallery and start looking at art (may we suggest The Art League Gallery!) Unlike art museums, the art here should list how much it costs, as well as the materials used in the piece. Track your favorites by taking photos (in galleries that allow photography) and keeping an album in your phone, or links in a spreadsheet. Do you notice any similarities? Are you instantly drawn the pastel washes of watercolor, or the depth of oil, or do are you more taken by 3D work? Take note of these similarities. Typically, mediums like watercolor and drawings are a priced a little cheaper than large scale oil works or sculptures. If you’re just starting out, consider an original photograph or paper work (which tend to be cheaper), or think about starting out with a print from your favorite artists.

A gallery wall in a small space is a great way to display a growing collection
A gallery wall in a small space is a great way to display a growing collection

Get your home ready

Art takes up space. But even if you’re in a small space, artwork can take a center stage in your home design. Do you prefer a minimalist abode? Modern art might work best to add color to your space. Is your pad more color-filled and eclectic? Look for a variety of art that fits your taste and interior decor. You’ll also need to make sure that your walls are ready to hang art, or that you have the proper infrastructure to display your artwork.

Milton Shinberg Solo Exhibit 2018
Milton Shinberg Solo Exhibit 2018

Research Artists

It’s the dream to walk into a gallery and fall in love with a piece and take it home that day! In reality though, finding artwork to fit your budget (unless you have a very sizable budget) is quite the research process. Getting involved in your local community of art will help you not only to identify emerging artists whose work you admire, but it will also help you to hear of insider events and openings that will save you time, effort and frustration.

Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser 2018
Ice Cream Bowl Fundraiser 2018

Attend shows in your local community

The Art League Gallery features monthly shows featuring local artists as well as solo shows highlighting an established, jury-selected artist’s work. Visiting monthly is a great way to get to know local artists’ work, and identify emerging artists whose work you can find out more about. The Patrons’ Show, on February 17, is a great way to get started (or continue) your art collection on a budget. With over 700 works of art to choose from, every ticket holder walks away with a piece of art valued at $225 and above. No wonder tickets sell out so fast for this fast paced and fun event!

A happy collector at Patrons' Show 2018
A happy collector at Patrons’ Show 2018

Document your purchase

Congratulations! You’ve finally purchased your artwork! What you need to do now is document your purchase. The gallery should include a receipt with your work, or if you’re buying it online, make sure to save the receipt or any email correspondence you have with the artist. Should the artwork be worth more than you purchased for it in the future…you’ll need to make sure that you can authenticate the purchase and the work.

Art Gallery
Make sure to protect your home collection

Protect Your Investment

Not only do you have to make sure your beloved art is safe at home from the residents of your home (like your crayon wielding toddler and hyperactive pup) it’s also a good idea to think about insuring your art collection should something happen to it.

Happy collecting!

The Art League Patrons’ Show tickets are on sale now while supplies last! The annual Patrons’ Show Fundraiser will be held February 17, 2019 at 6:00 pm in the Torpedo Factory Arts Center. Stop by our gallery February 8 – February 17 to view the available artwork before the fundraiser itself! 

Additional reading:
The Secret Life of Us,” The Guardian, November 25, 2002, Jeanette Winterson

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