How to start an art collection: Five tips from collectors

Starting an art collection is a big, exciting deal! And I know from talking to thousands of people who like art that it can be intimidating. 

To help you out, I asked some of my loyal collectors to share their best tips to get started. They had a lot of good advice, which I quote below.

They also told me how meaningful it is to them to have art in their homes.

Sunset painting in entry

1. Pay attention

If you like art and would like to start a collection one day, you’ll want to start figuring out exactly what you like. Is there a certain subject matter, color palette, medium, or style that catches your eye? There’s no right answer here. Galleries, art fairs, Instagram, local art centers and museums, as well as interiors stores and gift shops, are all great places to look and start making mental notes.

Also, pay attention to prices; a lot of people think art is out of reach – and of course some of it will be – but instead of assuming that you can’t afford it, get familiar with how much art actually costs and think about what you’ll be comfortable spending.

“Just knowing what you like also makes a difference - photographs, abstract, color vs black & white.”

“Instagram has helped tremendously and has pointed me to many artists/galleries that I vibe with.”

“I would just encourage people to frequent galleries and shows and just get familiar with art in general. Learn to appreciate it.” 

“I always assumed that owning original art was only for those wealthy individuals who had buckets of disposable cash laying around. Until touring your gallery that wonderful day, I had no clue it was possible to fit this into my world.”

“Because the price point was reasonable for our household budget, I felt I could make the purchase ‘on the spot.’”

Sunset painting over fireplace

2. Trust yourself

All that really matters when choosing a piece of art, is whether you like it. You don’t need to know anything about art to know what you like. Sure, some people have extensive knowledge of artists and art history, but that has nothing to do with whether you’ll enjoy looking at something on your wall every day.

“I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like.” 

“I worked in a restaurant that had rotating artist work and I still remember a painting I regret not buying.”

“Art has permanence and doesn't wear out and if you love it today, you'll most likely love it even more 30 years from now.”

“When I love something and want to wake up to it every day, that is usually what drives the purchase. Buying original art is more about not wanting to let something get away... If I like it, I probably won’t buy it. I buy what I LOVE or something that pulls at my heart, reminds me of a particular moment or captures something I don’t want to lose.”

peaceful landscape painting over couch

3. Redefine “art collection”

You don’t need to buy an original piece to start collecting art -- buying a print from an artist you know or follow counts! Knowing the artist adds so much to your enjoyment of the piece.

Many of my collectors started with a print. It’s a great way to bring something you like into your home when you either don’t have the budget for an original or aren’t quite ready to commit to an original. By purchasing a print, you’re “getting your feet wet” as an art collector, and you’re starting a relationship with and supporting an artist whose work you like.

“I am curious by nature and enjoy knowing something about the artist or even just experiencing them on Insta as they are creating. I love the human connection that original art provides.”

“Almost all the art in my home is made by artists that I know or have met or even been in their studios. I think the pieces mean so much more when you know who created them.”

“You are doing a good job marketing prints as an affordable option. And you're right, the quality is amazing!”

Sunset painting over couch mid-century modern

4. Start small

With the exception of a couple of my collectors whose first-ever art purchases were 4’x5’ and 3’x5’ paintings, most people, myself included, start small. When I say “small,” I am talking about price and size, as there tends to be some correlation. I am also talking about quantity; your art collection starts with your first purchase!

In our 20s and early 30s, my husband and I purchased multiple paintings that were 12”x12” or smaller. We used to display the paintings separately but now, because we have quite a collection and because of the layout of our current house, we have our collection of paintings hung together as a gallery wall.  

“Start where you are. Large or small, $ or $$$$, original art is exactly that, original. There is something magical in knowing only you and the artist truly share a relationship with the work.”

“Try a small original to get going, don't be afraid and don't wait. If you see something you like or connect with or it sparks a memory, go for it!” 

“Don't spend more than you are comfortable with but save up for something you love.”

“I finally bought my first painting for $300 and it felt like a big splurge. I think I was 24. I still love it and am additionally sentimental about it as "first piece.”

“My first piece was a landscape oil painting at an estate sale. It was a small piece and seemed VERY expensive to me.  I think it was $150 and I was 28. I still have it and still love it.”

“Start small, save up, and become an art collector!”

“I never imagined that I would have a collection of art, but over the last 25 years, piece by piece, we have built just that.”

“Original art costs more than the manufactured sort of wall hangings, dishes or sculpture and if there was ever a hesitation to buying something “original” it was usually the price. My solution has always been to buy original art that I LOVE and commit to keeping it, moving it around my life (within my house and/or office), and being delighted to have fewer, more meaningful pieces.”

landscape painting in living room

5. Think of the long game

This is related to the “Trust yourself” tip. The most important opinions when purchasing art are yours and those of anyone else you live with – not designers, influencers or anyone else. Interior design styles and colors, your furniture, your family make-up, the way you use your home, even the home you live in, will change over time, but art will not wear out and you’re likely to love it for decades.

Don’t worry about what “goes together.” When you buy things you love, it will be the perfect representation of your unique style.

“I don’t regret any art purchases. BUT, you need to buy what speaks to you. Don’t buy something because you are supposed to like it, or you need it to be a certain color for a room. Buy it because you like the way it makes you feel when you look at it. Or it reminds you of you something you love.” 

“I don't think my house has to be matchy matchy but it truly all comes together and complements a home when it's art that is loved, enjoyed, and appreciated.”  

“Art brings me so much more joy than many other kinds of purchases. Art has a long life and even if you buy it for a particular spot in your home, you can always move it around and enjoy it different ways.”

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