5 Tips to Build an Art Collection in the New Year

by Rana WaxmanDecember 13, 2017

In this season of festive decor, it is hard not to be inspired by local crafts, visits to museums and winter markets. For those who take it to heart, the holidays can be a great time to start, or build, an art collection.
build an art collection

What is an Art Collection?

An art collection is a gathering of works of art by a private individual or a public institution. Paintings, sculptures, printmaking, drawing, decorative arts, photography, and installations are examples of the many faces of art.

In Philadelphia, one of the best examples of an art collection is at the Barnes Foundation. The Barnes is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern European paintings – Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso.

As an individual, you don’t have to aspire to collect famous masterpieces in order to build an art collection. In fact, the trend in new home construction is “simple lines and open spaces,” or what Philly realtor Maurice McCarthy of OCF Realty calls a perfect ‘blank slate’ for homeowners. Just like with a canvas, individual tastes can bring wall space to life.

Buying Art vs. Collecting Art

One thing that ‘in-the-know’ art collectors will tell you is that buying art and collecting art is not necessarily the same. You can buy art randomly based on your likes and what you are attracted to in the moment. For sure, if you have no art to speak of, you could initially start a collection with one piece that calls to you. However, collecting art is more of a purposeful and long-term goal that requires two main things.

  1. Research and development – should I or shouldn’t I?
  2. Choosing art based on forming a meaningful grouping – pieces that fit together.

Perhaps you want to start 2018 with a new piece to add to what you have but aren’t sure where to buy art. Or maybe you wonder how to add flair, meaning, and ambiance to your home. If so, there are some ways to blend intention with direction.

Five Tips to Build an Art Collection

There are many ways to collect art that include, and go beyond, the commercial gallery system. If you want to start the new year with an action plan, use these five tips to build a great art collection.

  1. Think it Through

    What type of art do you like? Are you looking to create a specific vibe? Where will you showcase your art – the bedroom, kitchen, or corner? It helps to think about these things. For instance, you might love a painting but if you have no room to hang it or it overpowers your available wall space, it may end up in storage. Mix practicality with creativity.

    To this point, your first purchase(s) could be from any source – an artist’s fair (Great Annual in Rittenhouse Square), a garage sale, a gallery, even souvenirs from vacation. Once you have your first piece(s) of art, you can catalog it easily with your cell phone camera, then find other pieces that help form a theme.

  2. Choose a Themegive a corner some love

    Obviously, every collection starts with that first step, a purchase. It could be a piece you pick up that helps you lock in a memory – a day at the beach, or a perfect pink sunset. Alternatively, you might want to create a specific energy, like hanging a colorful contemporary piece to make a statement.

    You don’t necessarily have to start out thinking you are going to collect city scapes, but once you have an initial work on display, you may start to think about ‘fitting in’ other similar or related works. Think outside the box here. Mix medias – photograph and painting for instance. You could also highlight a piece you love by playing up the theme in other ways (accent lamp, plant, or sculpture).

    Remember, the theme could be anything. You might want to collect more works by the same artist. Or, you might want to start collecting a certain type of art (e.g. paintings). As another option, you may want to build up an art collection of landscapes, portraits, or street scenes. This is a personal choice. You can mix and match periods and styles of artwork too (Baroque, folk art, Renaissance, or modern). Get creative.

  3. Support Local Talent

    A really great inside scoop on building an art collection comes from Scott Schultheis of InLiquid.org of Philadelphia. First off, Scott likes the idea of tapping into the local community to find talented artists to support. Some of the ways he suggests are through things like art fairs.

    To this point, InLiquid hosts a fair for the budget-conscious called Art for The Cash Poor. It has been taking place annually in June. The Annual Student Exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is another excellent option. Scott points out that this event showcases a “ton of serious work coming out of the school.” It takes place every year, in May.

    While both of these events may be too far for you, your own local organizations and fine arts schools could make a fantastic resource. Or, you could take the gallery route in your city or when you travel around.

  4. Browse the Net

    You could follow just about any artist on Instagram to stay abreast of their exhibits. Also, Scott says that Artsy.net is a valuable website to shop from. If you subscribe to blogs, you can also catch wind of when and where exhibitions are taking place, as they often show emerging artists.

    Scott’s tip: “If you’re at spaces that aren’t selling the work per se, write down an artist’s name who you like and find out how to reach them directly for a sale or commission. Gallerists are in fact often very friendly people, and can help you with these sorts of things.”

  5. Set a Budget

    There is quality art for different budgets. Start by thinking of what you want to spend, that’ll make it fun to browse art at your price point. Scott says he always wants to tell people to remember, while thinking about price, artwork usually lasts a very, very long time. “Even a few additions to your life can have a strong impact on your surroundings.”

  6. Cherish and Enjoy

    Building an art collection can make your space come together, whether you are on your own or with a partner. However you go about it, it can be a great way to cherish memories and foster enjoyment of your home.

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About The Author
Rana Waxman
Rana Waxman parlays years of work experience in several fields into web content creation aligned with client needs. Rana's versatile voice is supported by a zest for research, a passion for photography, and desire to provide clients with a purposeful presence online. In her non-writing hours, Rana is a happy yogini, constant walker, avid reader, and sometimes swimmer.