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Blog - Art Collecting--Hobby or Investment?

So, you have decided to collect art. Perhaps you found a few pieces that you like and purchased them, and now you are thinking of expanding. Or perhaps you have some pieces that a friend or relative made or gave to you. Whatever the reason, you will first need to determine whether your collecting will be ad hoc and subjective or deliberate and focused. Here are 10 steps for building a thoughtful collection:

1. Select artworks that touch and/or inspire you. You will likely have the piece for quite a while, so it should provide you with happiness and a connection to your spirit. You want to love it for you will likely look at it for a long time.

2. Learn about the artist and the art work. Why did the artist make the work? What is his/her practice about? What message is s/he trying to convey? What was s/he tackling or exploring?

3. Determine your underlying purpose for collecting. Is it work by local artists or people you wish to support? Do you like its intellectual challenge or cutting edge quality? Is it the subject matter that attracts you or is it a geographic interest? Is the piece to complement your interior/exterior design? Does it make a statement? Do you prefer abstract or realistic/representational art? Does it have ethnic or historic value?

4. Do your homework. Visit art venues and fairs to evaluate what appeals to you and the going price for the items that interest you. Speak with curators, art advisers, and art center staff about their recommendations. If it is a more renowned artist, check art auction catalogues, such as ArtNet, Art Sales Index, Blouin Art Sales, or Art Market Research.

5. Educate yourself about the art market and art trends. This is an extension of #3. Read and research art periodicals and auction materials. Talk to experts.

6. Determine your Budget and/or Price willing to pay. What can you afford to pay and how many pieces will you ultimately want? Various factors affect pricing (covered in another blog), so you will want to compare similar pieces in your area. Pricing is also regional, for example a painting in a fancy gallery in Laguna Beach, CA, on the Pacific Coast Highway will be more expensive than one at your local, non-profit arts center.

7. Consider appreciation/depreciation. A work of art will increase or decrease in value due to the popularity of the artist (living or deceased), the age of the piece (recent or antique), and whether it is an original, limited edition print, or a general print.

8. Conservation and care of the art. Where will it be displayed and are there climatic/size/support concerns? How will it be lit and will the lighting affect the piece over the long term? Does the piece need archival matting and framing? Is the covering acrylic Plexiglas or conservation glass; is there a UV coating? Is it in an area of high- or low-traffic? Does it need to be on a pedestal or outside?

9. Where will you exhibit or store it? You may have a piece you wish to lend out to a museum or show. Do you need insurance (transportation, installation, fire, and theft) to cover the piece in case of damage? If you put it in storage or ship it, how will it be protected from damage?

10. Keep documented records of your purchase and the provenance of the piece. Is this your first piece, or, if you have several valuable pieces, will you need an inventory? How are the pieces valued after a few years? Do you need a security system?

Some categories to consider collecting:
  • New, emerging artists
  • Obscure works from famous artists
  • Limited-edition, signed prints or etchings
  • New, emerging art galleries
  • Ethnic or Geographic art
Finally, you may ask the artist if you can “try before you buy”. Maybe you can put down a deposit or give a check to hold that allows you to take the piece home for a specified length of time (7 days, 30 days) and see how if fits with your environment. If you like the artist’s style, but don’t see what you want, consider asking the artist to make a piece under a commission agreement.

I hope these steps will make your art collecting easier and encourage you to think more expansively about the pieces you purchase.


What type of art do you like? Why?
Do you prefer realistic? abstract? sculptural?
Where do you go to find art?
Where do you purchase art?
Why do you collect art?
Have you begun a collection?
What is your price range?


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