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How to Collect Art

There's no right or wrong way to start a collection.

How to Start an Art Collection

Carolyn Ramo, Executive Director of Dumbo-based Artadia, on how to start an art collection:

Collecting art is something that is possible for anyone at any price point. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can not go wrong if you buy something you love. You may get tired of it over time, but likely you won't and it will be something you want to revisit over time and will fit in with any home-- the first piece I ever bought was prominent in my first teeny apartment and now hangs in a larger cluster of works in a spare room as my space and collection have expanded.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you can not go wrong if you buy something you love.

Where to look

I see art almost every day in all sorts of unexpected places, and invite you to make time to train your eye, and get to know what you like. It doesn't have to take time to look at art, but likely you will be more excited about your purchases the more you know and see. Art fairs, where many galleries rent booths for a weekend all under one large roof, can be an excellent place to see a lot of art in a short amount of time and space. There are art fairs in NY that have a very high price point like the Armory, ADAA and Frieze, where it's exciting to get a sense of the current international market trends, and then there are smaller more niche fairs that have works by a lower price point, like NADA, the Independent, the Outsider Art Fair, which shows more "emerging" artists and galleries. Ask questions, take notes, get on mailing lists for these fairs and the galleries that show there. If you are lucky to meet artists and be invited to their studios: Go!

Or go to Open Studios in Dumbo, Bushwick, Greenpoint or pretty much any other neighborhood and that way you can meet with and potentially buy work from the artist directly. Being in an artist's studio is a special opportunity to understand why the artist is compelled to make the work they do and definitely be respectful of their space and time.

Other places to look for art you might like: local prizes like the Artadia grants we give in seven US cities single out talented artists that are pre-vetted for you. Similarly, smaller non -profit art spaces, like White Columns and Dumbo-based Art In General, have a commitment to local artists which means you will be supporting your community if you make a purchase. Becoming a member of any smaller cutting edge organization is a great way to learn about the artists in your community. DUMBO has a great group of galleries right near the water-- check out their new shows every 6 weeks (on average).

When you buy work at any level (yes even $200), you are validating an artists practice and helping them earn the money they deserve for their work.

What to ask/say

If you have found a work you love, make sure to act somewhat quickly–works can sell out and it's important for the artist and gallery to know your interest. When working with a gallery, you have a little more room to negotiate. Discounts on a price are usually offered to collectors who purchase things frequently from that gallery or who have a relationship with an institution and plan to donate their collections to a permanent collection down the line. That said, it is customary to ask for a 5-10% discount, though do respect the gallery's no if that's not their policy. Definitely ask if the artist has framing specifications if its a work on paper or photograph and make sure to keep your invoice or your certificate of authenticity as that is usually as important as the work itself if you were ever to determine a value down the line. On that note, make sure the work is signed too. If you decide you want to get serious about art collecting and want to spend upwards of six figures a year, then consider hiring an art advisor, traveling to visit different cities for art events, attending openings of museum shows and galleries and even joining a board of a non profit. It just gets more fun and addictive the more you see and discover. 

If you collect art, consider it an act of philanthropy where every one can benefit.​

The "market" and why you should collect

My general thought about the market is that you should ignore it and see my first thought: buy something you love. Collectors that are concerned with resale value and auction activity are in an entirely different league and have a tremendous amount of knowledge, connections and access. When you buy work at any level (yes even $200), you are validating an artists practice and helping them earn the money they deserve for their work. Its not easy for an artist to toil away on the aesthetic representations of their incredible ideas and put them out there in the world for all of us to judge and potentially want to possess–so remember that the artists not just want you to own their work and love their work, they NEED you to. If you collect art, consider it an act of philanthropy where every one can benefit.

About Artadia

Artadia is a national non-profit organization that identifies innovative visual artists and supports them with unrestricted financial awards and connections to a network of opportunities.

Learn more here.