How To Become An Art Collector: 10 steps

The names of major art collectors are not always widely known. Some collectors, like the famous Peggy Guggenheim, turn their wealth into museums and want to show the world. Others, on the contrary, hide their treasures and only the insiders, who have Velazquez, Picasso or Malevich in their possession, know how much they cost… Certainly, almost everyone who systematically collects paintings, drawings, sculptures, thinks about their value on the art market. But is it possible to become a true collector  without a great love for art?

Step 1: Fall in love with art and artists

I guess the psychology of collecting is always the same, whether one collects stamps, figurines of ballerinas or cars. But works of art have an added aesthetic quality, they preserve the warmth of artists’ hands, are created in different styles and tell, in their own way, the story of a person’s idea of beauty. This makes collecting art a particularly enjoyable experience. To fully enjoy the role of a collector, you need to understand the nature of creativity and the psychology of artists. And, of course, to find something in art that is particularly important to you.

Step 2: Study the art market

Large collections often start with spontaneous purchases. A randomly seen painting or photograph can captivate and literally make you buy it! You might want to find out more about the artist, look at other works, then discover the work of fellow artists… Congratulations, you are already making your first steps in the art market: from intuitive shopping to a detailed study of the world of fine art, galleries and auctions, names and prices of artists’ works. Only a good knowledge of the art field allows you to build the perfect collection.

Step 3: Buy art online

The covid epidemic, with its long quarantine and closed borders, has pushed the online art market, and today it is only growing, opening up new advantages. Judge for yourself – a gallery owner, art dealer needs to have an office, a showroom, a storage room for the collection, a staff, you need to organize exhibitions, participate in international fairs, etc., and all this increases the cost of the artwork. The owner of an online venue has far fewer costs, and the list of artists and buyers is virtually endless. Of course, you should only trust online art marketplaces that have artwork moderation, feedback and purchase protection. But you have a chance to buy an inexpensive, high-quality painting anywhere in the world.

Step 4: Discover new names

Time-proven paintings and sculptures are expensive and available to few. But Modigliani was once young, poor and unknown – lucky for that savvy individual who managed to buy his work for mere pennies! If you can’t yet pay tens or hundreds of thousands for a painting, there is only one way – to look for young artists. This way, honestly, is much more exciting than buying at auction not the best seascape Aivazovsky for a lot of money. Talented contemporary artists quite quickly attract the attention of dealers, the value of their work increases. It is a special joy for a collector to discover a gem at a stage when the artist is not yet spoiled for attention and his work is affordable.

Step 5: Support young artists

Where do you look for talent? At exhibitions at art academies, in squats, marginal little galleries in bars and restaurants, and of course online contemporary art marketplaces. If a little-known artist has good potential, is a conceptual thinker, and has a good grasp of technique, you could become his patron. For instance, you can buy his work and share it on your blog, visit his exhibitions and make photo reports, etc. You can get a collection of his work before he becomes a local (or maybe global) art-market star.

Step 6: Become part of the community

As a loner it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on in the art world. Talk to journalists, art critics, the artists themselves and their friends, gallery-workers, just the party people who attend all the openings for a glass of wine. News, rumours, any kind of information you might need. For example, you may find out if a good private collection is for sale that will have some paintings worthy of your attention.

Step 7: Trust the Professionals

There are some experienced art professionals in every city. They know the market, trends, artists and buyers and often help to build private collections. By consulting them, you can be sure that you are buying a real quality piece at a reasonable price. Don’t skimp on fees to such professionals, they can shape your view of the art world for years to come (or better yet, be friends with them!).

Step 8: Don’t be afraid to set conditions

Artists and gallerists need you as much as you need them. When you take an interest in a work of art you have the right to impose your own conditions – for example, negotiate a discount, request additional information about the artist and a certificate of authenticity, or demand that you sign a purchase agreement. Maybe the painting or sculpture you bought has a great future – and you’d better take care of the provenance right away, rather than creating problems for your grandchildren!

Step 9: Build up your collection smart

Collectors are passionate people. Often they buy a work of art in an outburst of passion and then they don’t know how to fit it into their existing collection or where to find a place in the interior. Such problems often arise with large, bright, impressive works of art. A painting can be very good on its own, but it is totally unsuitable for the living room or office. So it’s worth considering all the placement options and perhaps you should seek a designer’s advice when you’re shopping.

Step 10. Don’t hide the art

We started by saying that collectors’ strategies can vary from being completely open to complete secrecy. Of course, it’s up to you to decide what to do with the artwork you buy. But after all, every artist wants his or her work to be seen by people. And one of the most appropriate behaviours for a collector is to share his or her treasures with the public. For example, you can submit individual works for themed exhibitions or even organise an exhibition of your own collection. That’s a huge plus to your reputation!