Starting Your Own Art Collection

Uptown Art Fair

Starting Your Own Art Collection

It is easy enough to just buy the kind of artwork that catches your eye but building a collection is a different matter. It takes some skill and effort to build a meaningful and impressive art collection. Great collectors are respected for their exquisite taste and their talent in choosing and organizing their art. Collecting art does not necessarily have to be expensive but it can be a long term – and fun – hobby. Art is more accessible and affordable today and we have a wealth of choices from which we could build a great collection. Here are just a few tips to help you get started.

Learn more about your taste in art
Browse through different types of art and take note of what you like and don’t like. By doing this, you will gain a better understanding about your own taste and you will be able to separate good art from the bad with more confidence. You probably would not stick to just one style so you should also do your research about different artistic styles and artists. This will be useful in grouping your collection.

Tip: If you don’t know where to start, try looking at the most popular collection and identifying which types of paintings appeal to you. Checking what other people are looking at on our sister site can be interesting too – with a collection of over 100,000 pieces the “see what other customers are viewing” is a great way to view a random collection of art.

Start Small
Even the most famous art collectors had to start from somewhere. Your first purchase does not need to be the largest or most expensive work by your favorite artist. In the past, beginners often started with works on paper such as watercolors or even limited edition prints, but these days professionally-done oil paintings on canvas are an affordable option and have more personality and value than a generic print. Original oil paintings by lesser-known artists could also be a good and relatively cheap way to kickstart your collection. If you are goal is to select art that appeals to you rather than as a long term financial investment you may want to consider hand painted reproductions of famous art, with the result that your paintings can include versions of some of the most famous in the world.

Put emphasis on quality not quantity
Don’t buy too much too soon. If you’re collecting to build financial value, you would not want to end up with a lot of mediocre art that nobody else wants. Your taste will change over time so it would be better to collect slowly and invest in high quality art pieces. This way, you would be able to sell the art easily in case you get tired of them.

If you are collecting for art’s sake these limitations won’t apply. You can slowly build a gallery of art that appeals to you, with each piece having a particular meaning or reason for being there.

Save money for an art fund
Set aside some money that you would spend just on art. Set a goal that will allow you to save enough money for a piece that is worthy to join your collection. Set a timetable when to deposit some money and when to spend it. You can put away some of your earnings every payday and buy a piece for your collection at the end of the year.

Do not treat your collection as a financial investment
The art world is unpredictable so it is not a good idea to collect art with the intent to sell for profit. You would probably be tempted to buy works by a famous artist even if you’re not impressed by it. Just bear in mind that any artist could fall into irrelevance and you’d be forced to sell a piece for a loss or you’d be stuck with an artwork that you did not intend to keep. The opposite is true as well, of course – lesser known artists come into fashion and their works can become very valuable in a relatively short period of time.

Familiarize yourself with the art market
Visit local galleries, art fairs and auction houses to learn more about upcoming trends and how prices rise and fall. Online resources like forums, galleries and retailers are also great ways to keep informed about purchasing art. You can view prices, auction results and news about upcoming artists on websites like and

Tip: Possibly the best way to learn more about the art market is to reach out to other collectors either online or in person. Collectors themselves might have something they’d want to sell or you may want to trade a piece for another, but more importantly is that you will have something in common – a passion for art.

It doesn’t hurt to seek the advice of professionals like gallery directors, art dealers and even the artist themselves. Just be wary of potential conflict of interest.

Uptown Art Fair
The Uptown Art Fair is the largest art fair of its kind held in Minnesota.

Get off the beaten path
Do not limit yourself to galleries and art dealers. Some priceless gems have been found in unlikely places such as garage sales and second hand stores. Just check your find at the Art Loss Register to make sure it was not stolen.

Palette and Chisel Club
This piece painted by members of the Palette and Chisel Club was bought for 50 cents at a yard sale. The work was valued at $10,000 by a gallery owner in Indiana.

Be ready for additional costs
You may have to pay for framing, cleaning, restoration and insurance of the pieces in your collection. If an artwork you want to buy is more than ten years old, you may have to consult with a conservator to check its condition. There are some artworks that simply cannot be cleaned or restored to its original state.

Joel Oppenheimer
Joel Oppenheimer, Inc. is renowned for its state-of-the-art conservation and restoration laboratory

Document your purchases
Provenance is one of the most important factors in calculating an artwork’s price. It is probably the first thing art experts will look at to establish the authenticity of a piece. Other forms of documentation like receipts, photographs and artist information could also be helpful to future owners of the art piece. Good documentation could help your heirs understand the significance of the pieces in your collection and it could also increase the value of the art.

Provenance of Renoir
Provenance of Renoir’s Paysage Bords de Seine detailing its ownership, price, exhibition history and the theft from the Baltimore Museum of Art

Most of all…enjoy choosing and buying your art! Let us know if we can help in any way.

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