How to Start Collecting Art: A Beginner’s Guide

There has never been a better time to starting collecting art!

collecting art

by Margaret Carpenter

Regardless of your knowledge or experience, collecting art can seem daunting and intimidating at the beginning. However, it shouldn’t be and certainly does not have to be. We have a few suggestions to make the process more enjoyable, and also make you feel more confident and knowledgeable in this endeavor.

There is a myriad of reasons for you to start collecting contemporary art; not only does great art push you to think, feel, and see in new and interesting ways, but it allows you to get in touch with your creative side. Art collector Michael Audain put it simply: “I started collecting art… simply because I wanted pictures to hang on the wall. I noticed what a difference a picture could make to the ambiance of a room, and indeed how shifting workaround could change a room’s whole feeling.”

First and foremost, you should remember to buy art that you love. It will enhance your life and your space. When your collection comes together, it elevates and personalizes your space in interesting and aesthetically pleasing ways. It’s important to remember that not every piece you buy needs to be a thought-provoking masterpiece; if you are drawn to something beautiful, or find something you love, upon spending more time with it, you might find that the piece begins to reveal itself to you in ways you wouldn’t at first expect. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of collecting art.

collecting art
Artwork by Belle Roth in a curated interior

So without further ado, here are our few tried-and-true tips for starting your collection:

  1. Get the right advice: work with an Art Advisor 

This is crucial for a novice collector. An art advisor will be able to help inform your collection and suggest relevant pieces. They will also ensure you pay the right price. Be sure to find the right advisor, preferably one who has worked with beginners before and is willing to accommodate your specific goals and budget. Art Galleries typically offer advisory services, which can be a great way to find someone you trust, as they are experts in their field. Art advisors are an outstanding resource and will be able to introduce you to artists and styles that you might not have known about or considered.

2. Make it personal and trust your instincts

Your art collection should be a representation of you. The art you buy and surround yourself with is something you will experience repeatedly, so it’s worth considering why it speaks to you, and how long it might continue to do so. If you see a work of art that you really connect with, that is worth exploring. Also, take time to look around your house and see what styles of art and decorative objects you have bought in the past.

Susan Whitfield
Artworks by Susan Whitfield in a curated interior

That is a good indicator of the style and aesthetic you are drawn to, which you can elevate with a collection of art. The best collections of art have a depth to them; they reflect not just what you like, but various parts of your life and personality, your intellectual interests, your creative whims.

3. Consider your space 

This is important for a few reasons. First, as mentioned before, the art you buy and surround yourself with should enhance your space. So you should know where and how you will hang or place your works. Next, the art you buy does not always have to match your furniture or décor, sometimes the most unexpected and interesting arrangements are contradicting styles paired together. However, you do want to have an idea of how you will live with the art you buy, and what the purpose of it should be in your space, and where it can fit.

Shajeel Rehman artworks
Artwork by Shajeel Rehman

Finally, it is important to consider the preservation of your collection within your space. What will the piece be exposed to that could potentially harm it? A Keith Haring in an eclectic living room will look outstanding, but if there is too much direct sunlight or high humidity, the piece might be at risk.

4. Understand your role 

Understanding your role in the art market is another rewarding and important aspect of the process. By patronizing an artist’s work, collectors become fundamental to an artist’s career and legacy. So how does this work? It really depends on where the artist is in their career. Emerging artists rely strongly on early support in order to continue producing work and developing their careers. Artists later in their careers may have already established themselves as part of contemporary culture, and their work is already considered of art-historical importance. Collectors are the patrons who allow that to happen. These artists and their work represent the smartest investment collectors can make, as their works will increase in value as their career continues. But the market for art is always shifting, changing, and growing. Art really should not be purchased purely as a financial investment, unless you consider it an investment in your life and space.

5. Plan ahead 

Do your research and have an idea of what you want to spend, and consider the direction in which you want your collection to go. Familiarize yourself with the artist a gallery represents, or browse art fairs to find emerging artists and styles that you like. This will help you understand what your budget will allow, and give you an idea of how you want to specialize, curate, or hang your collection. Also, the more you learn about art, the more enjoyable it is investing in, and engaging with it.

6. Know your budget 

Great art does not have to cost millions. In fact, some of the best-loved pieces in a home typically do not. As a first time collector, you should be buying art first and foremost for its value to you, personally. It’s far better to invest in work you love, and ideally from the beginning of an artist’s career when the work is most affordable. This way, no matter how the market may twist and turn, you’ll always be happy with your collection. Working with the right advisor, you should be able to find a collection that you love, and that you can afford. Pro-tip: original prints by a favorite artist are a great way to buy pieces you love at a lower cost. Also, commissioning an artist to make you a smaller, more affordable piece is also a great strategy.

7. Get it framed, when necessary!

art collection
Artworks by Agora Gallery’s artists. More available for sale on ARTmine.com

For certain artworks, framing is key and is important to the preservation and display of the piece. If your newly purchased artwork needs framing, keep it simple so the focus stays on the art, and be sure that the frame compliments the tone of the piece, and works in your space.

Are you having trouble choosing the right frame? Can’t decide between a sleek black and a classic wooden frame? Ask us! For more guidelines, read our curator’s advice.

The art world is full of interesting people, exciting experiences, and intellectually stimulating environments. As you begin and continue to accumulate artworks, you can take advantage of the many opportunities to learn and grow with your collection. The art world is also a very social world, so get out there and meet people, ask questions, and indulge your creative curiosities. You will learn about yourself and about art in the process, and undoubtedly have an enjoyable experience.

Need some specific advice regarding your art collection or help in starting afresh? Benefit from our curatorial services! To know more, contact us at sales@agora-gallery.com

Are you looking to start an art collection? Do you need more essential tips on protecting and maintaining works of art? Drop a comment below or send us an email at info@agora-gallery.com.


Margaret Carpenter has an MFA in Fine and Decorative Art. She lives in New York and works as a freelance copywriter and an Art Gallery Intern.

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