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Starting an Art Collection from Zero

Starting an Art Collection from Zero

So you finally have the place you’ve always dreamed about and now it’s feeling a little empty. Those floor to ceiling windows in your new high-rise seem sterile against blank walls and starter furniture. This isn’t home quite yet. Think back to your childhood family home–what gave it warmth? Was it the family photos on the walls? The heirlooms passed down from person to person? You’ve started to build your own life, and in your haste you’ve purchased things to make your place feel less empty, but the things don’t feel like you. Where do you go from here? Start building an art collection.

It’s easy to get in over your head when trying to quickly purchase an art collection–we’re here to tell you that it’s okay if your house sits empty for a little while. Take your time selecting pieces you really enjoy, because they can be a great investment you’ll carry with you for years. But you don’t even know what you don’t know–how does one select quality art while knowing little about the industry? First, there’s not really a solid line between “good” and “bad” art. Many people turn to large establishments to dictate what is in and what’s not, but the pieces they promote are immediately inflated in prices and a bit out of touch for the typical buyer. 

Cash flow comes secondary when purchasing good art investments. You just have to find a piece that speaks to you, learn a little about the artist, then think about where future trends will increase or lower the piece’s value. There are plenty of ways to discover up and coming artists. One of the biggest is attending graduate shows–student pieces at prestigious academies are often sold for very fair prices and then will increase exponentially in value as the academies continue to promote them. 

Royal Academy student show

Another viable option is instagram. We now have access to artists all over the world right at our fingertips, and don’t have to rely on museums to view their work. Research the different styles of art, pick out some of your favorites, then search for modern artists inspired by your favorite styles. Start a dialogue with artists you really enjoy–learning about their process and inspirations will make the piece much more valuable to you. Owning pieces made by people you’re friendly with will make you love your walls even more.

If you do choose to purchase art from large institutions, consider charity auctions first. The works will often be sold for much lower than they’re valued at. If buying at a fair, it can be assumed that most people will knock 10% off the offered price for you. Do your research beforehand to see what kind of content will be offered, then see what the prices typically range in so you can make a fair offer. These are also great places to make connections with people in the art world, and they can point you to new styles and artists you may like. 

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If the larger pieces at these shows are out of your price range, don’t discount drawings and original prints. Drawings are often the precursor to a larger body of work and can hold just as much emotional value at a fraction of the cost. Limited run prints are a great option for big names, so you can still receive something directly from the artist that doesn’t cost over 100 million dollars. Just make sure the artist has signed and dated the piece somewhere–this will allow it to continue gaining value.

If all else fails, start collecting art books. Put together a fantasy collection by picking up books depicting collections you like then putting them on display. You can still see the soul of the work every day, even if it isn’t on your walls. After all, the purpose of art is inspiration and emotional reaction, and a picture will accomplish this mission until you have your dream collection.

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