The Edition

The 4 Questions Every New Collector Asks About Buying Art

It's ok to ask questions, but don't let your uncertainty stop you from making the purchase!

"The First Wives Club"
Copyright: Paramount Pictures

1.      Is it good?

This is the most frustrating question I get from collectors but I can’t fault them. The market operates around the idea that only a select few can decide what is good, important, worthy of collection. 

One of the traps into which new collectors often fall is they buy with their ears instead of their eyes.  Translation:  they buy what someone tells them to buy.  It’s much easier to buy what an expert tells you is “important” than do you own due diligence. While seeking advice on a purchase, especially a significant one, is never a bad idea, you are the one who has to live with the piece, so it’s important that you love it.  Great collectors strive to create an art collection that conveys something about themselves.  Collecting art allows us to articulate our personality and our taste, on our walls.  And what begins as “the desire to possess” turns into “a profound need to share”.  Art will become the first thing you see when you walk into a collector’s home, and it is truly transformative.  Each piece of a collection tells a story and you will become proud of these narratives, proud of the patronage, and proud to put you mark on our cultural history.  Art ignites a conversation about ideas, inspirations and motivations of differing societies and experiences.  Through collecting and discovering different artists, artworks, and collectors, we deepen our knowledge and appreciation of the world around us. 

Short answer:  if you are thoughtful about what you buy and buying what you love, then it’s “good”.  It will never go out of style, you’ll never get sick of it, and you will be glad you took the leap.


2.     Will I be able to resell it?

If you are only concerned with resale/investment, that’s fine. However, it’s imperative that you discuss this with an advisor who has market expertise ahead of time, as it will play an important role in your collecting strategy.  You should never give up wall space on the off chance that you make a few extra bucks, and in the opaque art market, that’s a big maybe.


3.     Do I love it?

Or, maybe more importantly, do I hate it?  Once you become comfortable saying “nope, that piece is not for me”, it makes it SO much easier to invest in what you love!  Every October we attend Frieze in London to check out what the world’s top galleries are offering to their most elite clients (side note: we much prefer the offerings of the many satellite exhibitions that coincide with Frieze, like the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair).  There was some really great art buy also a lot of eye roll worthy installations that ended up selling! The point:  you don’t have to like everything! Take the time to learn, to follow the artists you like, but buying art shouldn’t take convincing, especially by the person selling it.


4.     Where will it live?

It’s not often top of mind for the most seasoned collector, and being practical about wall space takes some of the romance out of buying, but I have so many clients who have run out of wall space for their acquisitions.  This is a good problem to have -- if you are constantly rotating your works.  But if you’re eyeing an oversized canvas for your studio apartment, make sure you have taken the appropriate measurements. Otherwise the artwork will never get hung and will likely gather dust or worse, you’ll kick a hole in it (I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.)

Final thoughts:  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is an art collection.  Start with your first piece.  If you take the time to find something you love living with, you will buy another, then another.  And boom, an art collection!  Most of our clients are quick to correct when asked about their art purchasing histories.  “Oh no, no I’m definitely not a collector,” they say.  But I can see the passion with which they talk about their art, and soon they realize that they are indeed part of the club.  

Our goal is to create a culture of art lovers with a passion for accessible art and the artists who create it.  In that community of art lovers are experts worth listening to (raising our collective hands over here!) and, like any other investment, buying art is built on personal relationships and trust.   There is an overwhelming amount of great art in this world (fun fact: did you know that on average only about 5% of a museum's collection is on display at any given time? That's a lot of unseen art!).  Seek out and listen to guidance and suggestions, but also try to trust your own taste!  Just because an artwork is being shown at a prestigious gallery or sold at auction doesn’t mean you have to like it, and visa versa.

Do you have a question nagging you before you buy a new piece of art? Share it with us!

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