Building an art collection isn’t just a matter of buy, display, repeat.
Are you buying art, or building an art collection? Is it just a matter of entering a gallery, choosing a work of art, paying for it, and repeating the process numerous times until you have an art collection? It’s that easy, isn’t it? Well, of course not. Let’s look at why.
This approach is indeed buying art - and, if your intent is purely buying a few pieces for your private apartment, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, if you’re aiming at building a meaningful art collection, you’ll need to dig much deeper than that. Creating an art collection is a very selective, curated way of buying art. You’re not randomly purchasing eye-pleasing artworks any more, but carefully choosing exclusive works which fit into a unique art concept.
So how do you curate an art collection, as opposed to merely accumulating individual pieces? First and foremost, you should define your goal. Why are you collecting art? Is it to support young emerging artists, acting as a patron for up-and-coming talent? Are you investing your wealth for the benefit of future generations of your family? Are you looking for significant works to hang in your office in order to create a positive working environment? Or are you trying to improve your brand’s public image through art?
Though widely varying, all these answers are equally valid - the important factor is that your aim must be clear, as this will hugely influence your collecting style. For example, a small corporate company wishing to modernize its public image may be better off purchasing contemporary artworks rather than classical Renaissance paintings. But the increasing value of the works of contemporary artists cannot be guaranteed, while on the other hand, a private collector wishing to invest his wealth in art for the future generations of his family may be more inclined to buy works by established artists, whose market value is most likely to remain stable and predictable in the coming years.
BUY WHAT YOU LOVE
Any art collection manager would tell you that buying artworks you love is always recommended – and it makes absolutely sense if you will walk by them every day, in your house or in your office, rather than having them locked away in a vault.
However, a serious art collection requires a concept. This will be your guideline, your niche, your red thread between all your purchases, and it will help you purchase coherently towards your goal. For instance, the corporate company mentioned above could focus on contemporary works by emerging international artists. But it could also restrict this concept to sculptural or architectural works, while excluding paintings altogether. Of course it’s also vital to set a budget and keep your expectations realistic. You will not be able to buy an original, unique screen print by Andy Warhol with a budget of $5,000, no matter how much that masterpiece suits your collecting goal. However, an edition of the same work could be affordable. With a clear concept and budget in mind, it is time to do some research. Which artists fit your concept, budget and goal? Where are their works available for sale?
Get in touch with artists, galleries or auction houses and ask for information. Read art magazines, visit exhibitions and art fairs to get an impression of current trends and market prices. It has been difficult to do this during the pandemic, but events are now opening up, and the growth of online auctions has only served to make a wider range of works available to a global audience. If you don’t know where to start or have no time for this, hire an art consultant. Researching works and proposing the most suitable ones to you is part of their job, and their contacts and market insights will be invaluable.
Last but not least, arrange the logistics. Preserving the value of your artworks in the long term is as much part of the collecting process as it is buying them. As a matter of fact, the value of your art collection depends upon the care this receives after the purchase price is settled.
Think of the exhibition space for your collection: is it a suitable environment to preserve a work in good condition? Does it have constant temperature and humidity level? Are the works protected from direct sunlight? If not exhibited, is your collection stored in a proper warehouse? Do you have an inventory system? What about a nail-to-nail insurance? Do you have updated condition reports about the works? Do your works travel crated? Are your art handlers experienced? Is your collection regularly appraised?
These so-called art logistics can be overwhelming, but nonetheless they are necessary. If you do not know where to start, ask for professional advice. In twenty years’ time, when your art collection is mature and your investment realised, you will be glad you did.
See the PDF of the article from "Arts & Collections" from Q2/2022 here: