Art collecting can seem daunting to many a person considering it. Some are under the impression that it requires enormous sums of money and sometimes don’t even know where to start. But as I always tell my clients, particularly the new ones, that the truth is that you don’t have to be rich to build a great art collection. One of America’s largest art collections was built up by the most unassuming couple, Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a postal clerk and librarian who filled their one bedroom NYC apartment with over 2500 works by some of art’s biggest names. They quietly amassed their collection through the simple tips that I have outlined below.

1. Make a plan: Every great collection begins with a strategy! Think carefully about the type of art collection you want to own. Will there be an overriding theme? Are you interested in a particular genre (of artwork) or artist? I have a client who is very particular about the art she purchases, and as such she came to me because she knew that she only wanted works by Gene Pearson, Albert Huie, and Patrick Waldemar. However, working with her, I exposed her to newer artists like Khary Darby, Nakazzi, and Xayvier Haughton. Now, her interests have broadened to include some of these other artists that she wouldn’t have considered before.

2. Buy art that you like: This is a fundamental principle that will always remain true. Art that makes you smile, moves you, and lingers in your mind will be art that you will cherish for a long time. It will also reduce any amount of buyer’s remorse that can also happen after expensive purchases.

3. Start small: To truly understand the discerning process of art collecting, it’s always best to start small, as perhaps as a new collector your budget may also be limited. In any event, when you take your time buying art, you get to understand, over time, what excites you. The secret to the Vogels’ success was knowing that whatever your budget, you need to go after the very best. Art is a luxury, but it doesn’t have to be punishingly expensive. And that a good art collector is not necessarily a big art collector. You can start small as it’s the eye and the passion that counts.

4. Be informed: Learn about your artists by visiting galleries, local museums, and art fairs. Keep up to date with local events by joining art mailing lists. The National Gallery of Jamaica routinely has programs and discussions. In addition, the Edna Manley College also has Artist Talks that gives its audience intimate chats with artists. There are other art collectives that also host art discussion programs. Artists, art dealers and gallery owners are usually very happy to discuss their artwork, particularly if it may yield a sale.

5. Invest in emerging artists: Art from lesser known and emerging artists is a great starting-point for any art collector. Not only will you have a lifetime of work showing the artist’s career development but you are usually able to acquire these pieces at really attractive prices – an investment that will most surely augment in value as the artist’s career and visibility flourishes.


6. Go to Art Shows: This is another excellent way of collecting art. Meeting the artists directly and even building a relationship with them over time can give you great insight into the pieces that are personal favorites and the themes that inspire their work. This intimate knowledge about the artist’s personality can be very useful in informing the type of art that you purchase for your collection. It also makes for a great story when you showcase that piece.

7. Think holistically but collect narrowly: Assess how individual pieces will interact and incorporate into a larger collection. By focusing your collection on a narrow subject, you’ll find that the whole will be more valuable. Connecting and working with an art dealer is also a good way to provide focus for you on this exciting journey. They are able to guide you and your purchase to the best optimal value. Trust me, I know what I am talking about ;)

8. Never collect art to match your décor: This is self-explanatory, but most times the art purchased in furniture stores usually lack the soul compared to that of an authentic artwork. It gives your space, whether your home or your office that much more character. Art is sometimes meant to provoke, not compliment.

9. Insure your art collection: Homeowner’s policies cover some artwork under household contents, but your deductible applies and insurers may haggle over replacement value. Check with your home insurance agent to see how your new art collection can be included in your policy. You buy for love, but prepare for the worst.

10. Consider buying art virtually: This is a fairly radical way of buying art, but as we advance into the 21st century, it becomes an important tool for the tech savvy and innovative collector. Soon, this purchase may even be made on their smartphone. The internet is also handy for research. The more research you do on a gallery or artist, the more fruitful the eventual encounter. 

Paul MorrisonComment