Buying art can feel intimidating when the first thing you see is high-tag items at Sotheby’s. But collecting doesn’t have to start with any big jumps or risks. Below, we offer 7 easy ways to start collecting, no matter what your background is.
1. Discover what you like by exploring different styles
There’s both a practical and emotional reason to figure out what art style speaks to you before buying anything. Practically, whether an artwork is good or not is very subjective. Unless you’re buying something with an intrinsic historical value like Michael Jackson’s Thriller jacket, your item’s value over time will be unpredictable.
So emotionally, it’s important that you pick something based on what gives you the most gratification today. That’s the only stable measure you can use to determine if a piece is worth taking home in the long run. To discover your preferences, look to local galleries, museums, and websites for thousands of options to choose from.
2. Browse trusted websites to find limitless options
Don’t restrict yourself to only buying at art fairs or auctions. You can get a wider array of options if you look at popular websites and galleries.
Saatchi is a popular site that hosts over 60,000 artists worldwide. It gives you discount codes alongside parameters to pick art by its price, medium, and scarcity. If you want someone to point you toward new styles you’ve never seen, Saatchi also gives you free advising from their art curators. They will get 30+ pieces to show you according to your unique needs.
Artsper is another reputable site because it connects to galleries instead of individual artists. This means that the standard for entry is higher, so you’re less likely to see pieces that feel amateur.
Lastly, Artsy is one of the best-connected websites to buy art. It includes work from stars of art history like Warhol. For example, you can get Roy Liechtenstein’s As I Opened Fire Triptych (1966-2000) for $1,850.
However, it’s good to keep in mind that there’s more options than meets the eye on a gallery wall.
3. Ask galleries for work they keep in storage
Often, galleries will have art that’s just not on display. This is especially if there’s an ongoing exhibition based on a theme that only needs select pieces from each artist.
You’re generally welcome to reach out to galleries by social media or email. In addition to finding hidden pieces, doing this can also help you build a relationship with that gallery. And that can mean more passes or invitations to their future shows in major art fairs.
In fact, sometimes you will need to ask about the artwork directly to purchase it. Many galleries don’t place a price on displayed art. This is because artists would rather see people focus on the content itself, and galleries don’t want buyer’s to feel like their purchases are public. Regardless, you should speak to the art dealer to make sure you feel comfortable throughout the acquisition process and can negotiate the best deal for yourself.
4. Build a relationship by being a loyal visitor
Artnet writer Henri Neuendorf interviewed Erling Kagge, a Norwegian art enthusiast, for guidance on buying art when you’re not rich. One of Kagge’s suggestions was to be wary of insider trading and price manipulation that happen. Since the art market doesn’t have regulations like other industries, it’s best to accept that fixed prices don’t exist; but deals do.
Visiting the same galleries regularly can help you make the best of this dynamic. Gallerists might repay your support with special discounts or pieces. Keep our first step in mind through this process, though. There are no guarantees, so it’s still most important to form a genuine relationship with a gallery whose art you love regardless.
5. Analyze trends for the next big thing
Technology continues to evolve, and each generation sees different problems, attitudes, and changes. Art trends naturally follow suit to reflect this. You don’t know what will be the next movement to gain popularity like Impressionism or Maximalism. In our Artist Profile for Takashi Murakami, you can read how he coined the name of the Superflat art genre in as recently as the 90s.
With this in mind, it’s worth seeing if emerging artists in your area have art themes in common. And don’t be afraid to start small. Andrew Shapiro, owner of Shapiro Auctioneers and Gallery in Woollahra, told The Guardian that he bought a Henri Matisse print for just $30 when he was in his 20’s. Although that was about half his weekly income at the time, that’s different from buying a piece worth several years of salary.
Thankfully, there’s help if you do find your dream painting that’s out of your budget.
6. Ask for a loan from reputable companies
Art Money allows you to pay back a loan within 10 months. Their 900+ partner art galleries cover the interest of your payment, which can dramatically lessen the stress of shelling out a lot of money for an artwork
Payment plans already exist to pay off art over time, but they can often come at a cost to the gallery. If someone doesn’t pay back the gallery by the scheduled time, this puts the artist and director in an uncomfortable position. Besides, the buyer usually has to have their payment in full before they can take the work home. This loan removes that problem by allowing you to take the piece home within your first deposit, and it ensures the gallery is paid in 2 weeks.
We don’t recommend you make this kind of jump for your first art purchase. But once you’ve attuned your tastes to recognize the art that speaks to you, it can be worth it to make the beloved piece yours.
7. Follow the beat of your own drum
Kagge, who wrote the book A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, also shared his wisdom with CoBo.
He highlighted the importance of following your gut when growing a collection, saying,
“A collection needs to have a personality, you need to make a few mistakes, you need to own some strange pieces… With an unlimited budget it’s way too easy to end up only with trophy pieces.”
Art may be known for its high prices and prestigious auctions. But on a deeper level, many people see it as something to connect with. So, if you’re not a millionaire, don’t look at it as a disadvantage to entering a complex, and always changing art world. Instead, see it as a tool that can help you fine-tune the pieces that would be perfect for you.