Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D                           [ Home ] [Next ]

"How to Collect Art"

           Collecting art is again becoming a popular activity.  Of course it's unlikely to reach the heights of the 1980s when SoHo and Greenwich Village galleries overflowed onto the streets with buyers wanting to get in on the pickings, but gallery administrators are beginning to see an up-trend.  Part of this is due to financial experts encouraging the purchase of art as an investment, and part of it is due to Boomers wanting to display in their homes and offices the latest and greatest in art.

Whatever the reasons, art is making a comeback, so if you want to get in on it, here's how to go about it:

First, decide what kind of art to collect.  Collecting art is based on personal taste, though consider the financial advantage the piece may bring in the future; however, in art circles, it's advocated not to collect art based solely on monetary value but rather on what you like.  This often results in an "eclectic" collection.  You can also limit your collection to a certain period (such as the Modernism), specific style (Impressionism), particular artist (Monet), or exclusive medium (oils).  Some collectors spend years amassing all the art work from one artist, and then move on to another and collect his or her work until completion.  Other collectors invest only in art that has proven to appreciate momentarily.  And still others garner art based upon the decor of their home or office.  This is something you'll have to decide.

Secondly, determine the best method for buying art:  Once you've decided on the kind of art you want to collect, you then need to determine the best method for doing this.  Try such avenues as yard sales, flea markets, antique stores, auction houses, sales by individuals, and even pawn shops, but these aren't recommended if you're a novice collector because you have to know something about the art you want to buy, as well as the nature of the party you're dealing with.  Working with a fine arts consultant at a reputable gallery is the safest way to go, primarily because a gallery of integrity will stand behind its product.  Also, a consultant can advise you on the artwork (condition, degree of collectibility, value, authenticity), as well as provide you with information on the artist.  Some galleries even have design consultants who will visit your home or office to see if the artwork you want fits your decor.  And if there's a particular art piece you want but can't find, a good gallery will be able to track it down and order it.

Too, a dependable gallery will pamper you, letting you know when a new exhibit has arrived, invite you to private showings, notify you of special events and arrivals, and educate you about art--all of which gives you the "in" when it comes to collecting.  Because reputable galleries acquire their art from creditable sources, the worry about having accidently collected a piece of fraudulent art is unlikely.  Once collectors start working with a particular gallery, they seldom switch simply because they've come to trust the personnel, though there's nothing that says you can't work with more than one gallery at a time.

There are no standards to follow in what to collect, but there are certain caveats to abide by when it comes to buying art:

 1.  Never purchase art from the black market, or through questionable sources.

2.  Deal with a reliable expert who can a). attest to the artist's credentials and background; b). give the art's appreciation history, b). ascertain the condition and quality of the piece, c). and verify the degree of value of the artwork (edition size, state, if signed and numbered, plate cancellation proof, certificate of authenticity, and so on).

3.  If you're buying art for decor purposes, make sure you can exchange the piece if after taking it home or to the office, you find that it doesn't look right.

4.  Check out the gallery's owner, director, and other management and consultation personnel; inquire into the respectability of a gallery's dealers and publishers.        

5. Compare the prices of one gallery to another, though this shouldn't be the deciding factor when purchasing art.  A gallery offering the same product or a similar one at cheaper prices might not be as client-friendly as one that charges a bit more.

6.  Inquire into the gallery's payment plans, and its policies on returning purchases, having items shipped, rented, and so on.

7.  Find out if the gallery you're interested in offers specials for their clientele, and whether its artists are brought in to meet collectors.

Though there are other matters to consider when venturing into art collecting, this gives you a feel as to what the business is all about.  And art is a business--whether visual, literary, or performing; make no mistake about it.  Work only with the principled and scrupulous in the industry so that you won't regret it later.

Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 
Former executive director of a high end gallery..

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes