How to: Build an Art Collection

This post is the first in a series of “How-To” articles for millennial art collectors.

Ellen Siebers,  Sunbather

Ellen Siebers, Sunbather

Personal art collections have historically been signifiers of taste and affluence. While this is certainly still true, it is no longer required to have significant wealth in order to begin collecting art. Millennials are one of the fastest growing demographics in the world of art collecting, which is triggering a shift in the ways art is bought and sold. Art can now be purchased through online galleries and auction houses and there is a robust art fair scene, making it easier than ever to seek out and learn about new artists. Building an art collection is a matter of personal aesthetic and intellectual taste, and while it can be seen as both a financial and personal investment, it is ultimately an investment in artists. Below are a few ways to get started:

1. Believe in your taste.

Building your art collection shouldn’t rely on what’s popular or what’s trending. It starts with your taste. What do you like? What are you drawn to? What artwork would you like to look at every day for a number of years? Trust your gut, and continue visiting galleries, museums, and auction houses to train your eye and develop your aesthetic intuition. Your collection will develop thematically based on your interest, and your taste will likely evolve over time, which will result in a solid and diverse collection.

2. Start small.

Peggy Guggenheim’s collection wasn’t built in a day. It’s important to have patience as the best collections are shaped over time. If you are still making room in your budget for art, it may be helpful to start with a lower cost artwork, like a work on paper, or a small work from an emerging artist. Prints and drawings can be more affordable and are excellent starting points for a personal art collection.

The first work of art you buy, however small, may end up being one of your favorite works in your collection.

3. Follow emerging artists.

Emerging artists often have fresh work and are looking to build an audience of collectors. If you have an artist you like, consider contacting them for a studio visit. Follow their exhibitions and their trajectory. Follow artists and galleries you like on Instagram or social media to see new work as it becomes available.

4. Continue to study and follow art trends/art history.

It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse on the art world—the art market, trends in contemporary art and other periods, and new and emerging artists. Find the outlets that resonate with you (whether that is art magazines, auction catalogues, or art-related websites and podcasts) and stay up to date with developments in your areas of interest, as well as those that you may not be actively pursuing. Keeping informed of art world movements and continuing to build on your knowledge of the field will help you smartly plan your next acquisition.

5. Keep in mind your reason for collecting.

Don’t forget your personal reason for collecting. Whether you are interested in developing your collection for personal aesthetic enrichment, looking at your art as an investment, aiming to support artists and their work as important cultural contributions, or simply wanting to impress dinner party guests, it is important to remember what drives your collecting habits. Retaining this focus will help you develop a collection that is rewarding to you as well as the artists you support.

Cassandra Fiorenza