How to Start an Art Collection

Without losing your mind, or all your riches.

By: Laurel Pantin

So you’ve decided to stop “investing” in each season’s it-shoe or it-bag, and finally do something a little smarter with your money and buy a piece of art. That’s great! Congratulations, you’re well on your way to bona-fide adulthood.

You’ve made the first stride in a long journey to financial responsibility, but now you’re probably wondering, ‘What’s next? Where do I start?’ Well, as always, we’ve got you covered. We spoke to Rebecca Wilson, the chief curator at Saatchi Art about the first steps to take when buying art, how to educate yourself on what’s out there, how you can buy something you love and is valuable, and also, who to keep an eye out for. Basically, everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and more) about Extreme Adulting: Starting an Art Collection.

 

So you want to buy some art. What next?

“I think that the first thing is that you should be buying something that you love. That might sound obvious, but I think people get really caught up with reading stuff in the media. They think that there’s all this hype around big auctions and that they should be buying something that’s going to go up dramatically in value. You can think about all of those things but the first thing has to be that you should love what you buy.”

Another thing I’d encourage is to think about the experiences of going to museums. Lots of people go to museums, and they might really fall in love with a work by Jasper Johns, or a new abstract painting by Gerhard Richter—one of the really big well-known artists. There’s nothing wrong with thinking, ‘well, I love that style of work, let’s see if there’s somebody who’s younger, less well-known and also less expensive—let’s see what else there is available like that.’ And that begins to help you work out what style of art you really like.”

 

Why you shouldn’t be intimidated:

“I think people get intimidated and a little overwhelmed by the idea of buying art because it’s a little like learning another language. Trying to learn about art is a little like somebody saying ‘you need to be proficient in German in two weeks.’ That’s a tough thing to demand of anybody! The more you look, the more you begin to see that artists work with a kind of visual language. The more you see, the more you begin to understand, the more that you’ll relate to the artwork—and then you’ll start to work out what it is that you like.”

 

How to educate yourself:

“[You should try and educate yourself]; read as much as you can, look at the art pages and try and see what’s going on and what you like. One of the other ways to see a lot of art is to look on the internet. The internet has opened up the art world in an incredible way for many, many people. The brick and mortar traditional sort of gallery world has been quite exclusive, intimidating, and difficult to access. Now, if you’re interested in buying art, starting a collection, or just having something very beautiful on your wall, we now have an incredible opportunity to sit and look at all sorts of work that artists are making all over the world, from our own homes.”

 

Where to go for help:

“One of the great things about working with an online gallery of the kind of size that we are, is that we have artists in 100 countries and have artwork in every kind of style imaginable. We have an Art Advisory that’s entirely free, and is a great way to find out about new artists. Someone can come to us and say, ‘I really love the Rauschenberg collages,’ and then I can quite quickly begin to do my research and come up with works that are similar. It’s not that we’re in the world of copying art, but there are similarities. It requires a lot of knowledge—and while I’m talking about getting educated, and doing a lot of looking yourself, there are shortcuts to that. Like going to an art advisor, going to somebody who’s been doing it for 15 years like I have.”

 

Where to spend your $$:

“There’s a lot of hype in the media about contemporary art, and it seems like the amount of money people pay [for it] is very, very high. But, if you spend a lot of time going to MFA shows—so you’re really seeing emerging artists while they graduate from college—you realize that some of these people are going to go on to be very successful. They could be the next Jeff Koons or the next Damien Hirst. You can probably buy a really fantastic work for [not so much,] it will be something that you’ll really love, and it might also go up in value. Buying art by emerging artists is really, really exciting because not only do you find really stunning works that you fall in love with, but there is this additional exciting potential for the work to appreciate in value. Plus, you feel like you’re really making a difference to a young artist’s life.”

 

Who should be on our radar:

“I’ve been really excited by a number of artists that we’ve brought in over the last years. One artist is called Alex Jackson who we picked up when he finished his BFA and was immediately offered a place at Yale, which is one of the best painting schools in America, probably in the world. His works have already doubled in value in the last eighteen months. We have a wonderful artist named Georgia Noble, who is from the UK, and she makes really beautiful Turner-esque landscape paintings, sort of in the American tradition of the sublime. They’re very, very beautiful paintings and I think we sold five in one week. So, for me, one of the most exciting things to do is to really put in the time to visit all the art schools, and identify the particularly exciting artists.”

 

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