How to Build Your Art Collection


Sometime after graduating from college-era dorm posters and Ikea art, many young professionals decide it’s time to invest in art that’s worth something, elevating their home decor while possibly making some money.

It can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you don’t know a Monet from a Manet or need help identifying your tastes, here are some tips to help you get started.

It can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you don’t know a Monet from a Manet or need help identifying your tastes, here are some tips to help you get started. GETTY

And while developing a personal art collection is a form of social currency, it’s also a quantifiable investment—one that may feel intimidating to anyone getting started.

Maybe you’re worried your purchase will lose value, or perhaps there’s some fear about seeming foolish to those who have been trained to spot the next Jeff Koons.

It can be hard to know where to begin. Whether you don’t know a Monet from a Manet or need help identifying your tastes, here are some tips to help you get started.

Identify Your Aesthetic

Although having art displayed in your home can be seen as a colloquial “flex,” any experienced art world insider will tell you that a collection should bring the most joy to the collector. In short: Don’t buy art to appease others or to build up the most valuable possible portfolio (not yet, anyway).

The best way to find out what kind of art you like is to expose yourself to as much of it as possible, according to Lindsay Griffith, international head of contemporary editions at Christie’s auction house. Griffith recommends visiting nearby galleries, museums and art fairs to start. As you browse, don’t be afraid to ask questions about the art as well as artists. The relationship you develop with gallerists may eventually pay off once you’re ready to buy.

Don’t underestimate the power of digital discovery either, Griffith said.

“The most exciting thing to me is the ubiquity of ways to find images on the internet, which has really changed the nature of the game. I find out about things on Instagram all the time.”

Set A Budget

Once you’ve determined what kinds of pieces or which artists speak to you, narrow your search according to budget. Print editions tend to be among the most accessible art mediums for new collectors, with prices ranging from as little as $1,000 to millions of dollars.

Familiarize yourself with the historical prices of various artists or mediums you prefer by using indices like the oft-cited Blouin Art Sales Index. Another website,, allows users to examine the price history of a specific piece or category of work. Gallerists and auction specialists can also help with this, Griffith said.

While you may be a die-hard Andy Warhol fan, purchasing one might not be within your initial budget. Instead, Griffith said, pay attention to artists inspired by the Warhols of the world, whose works may be less known but still appeal to your pop-art sensibilities. And if you are set on purchasing a piece of art by a famous artist, consider purchasing prints from a larger edition run, which means a relatively high number of copies were printed.

“People have a misconception that prints are sort of a reproduction or something that is a function of image production for the artist, a money-making endeavor, but prints and works on paper are really great categories to collect because they are part of the overall artist story, and it’s a really great way to engage at a different price point,” Griffith said. “I think that’s a really compelling thing when someone’s just starting.”

Make The Purchase

Armed with ideas of what you like and a realistic budget, it’s time to buy.

The benefit of purchasing art in person is that you can ask as many questions as needed to feel comfortable. If there’s any confusion, ask an art dealer for a condition report and have them walk through it with you.

“One should never feel intimidated by asking for information,” Griffith said.

It may be appealing to buy directly from the artist—with the intention that the artist benefits the most, rather than agents or gallerists who take a cut of the profit on a purchase. But only do so with the right assurances, especially when it comes to digital sales. The risk of purchasing outside a channel which has authenticity measures in place, like a gallery or auction house, is that you end up buying something totally worthless, or worse yet, different from what you expected.

“[A Christie’s Warranty] means we have our full faith behind that particular object as a work of art. It’s been inspected out of the frame by a Christie’s specialist, and in our category, we find it to be congruent with other examples we have seen,” Griffith said. “It’s an authenticity claim.”

After The Sale

Your purchase does not end with the sale of the art itself. To best protect your art as an investment, be sure that prints, paintings and other two-dimensional works are framed professionally and don’t have direct exposure to sunlight or sources of moisture.

Griffith recommended keeping all relevant documentation in case you decide to sell one day, both to verify authenticity of the piece and to protect yourself should anything happen to the piece. For an added layer of protection, ask your insurance provider about fine art insurance.

“Buying art is all about equating your eye with what you like,” Griffith said. “It’s an investment you’re going to live with everyday.”


Alexandra Mondalek


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