Having been involved in the art world for a while now, and particularly after starting Art Pharmacy, the question I get asked most is how to start an art collection. And the answer? Well it’s simple and complicated at the same time, there’s so much out there that it would be impossible to collect it all (not to mention the strain it would put on your budget!), but at the same time don’t feel like you need to stick to the same artist or medium each time you buy a piece of art. Collecting should be done with passion, and always buy pieces that you will love looking at over the years.
So when I am asked how to start an art collection, I usually say the first step is… take the first step! Get out and see as much as you can - visit galleries big and small, go to events and talk to the people there so you can learn from them.
The art world can seem daunting at first, but it is actually a very warm and welcoming environment. When you visit a gallery, ask as many questions as you can, the early stages of collecting - or even just appreciating - are about finding artists you like and learning about their process.
We have so many fantastic emerging artists at Art Pharmacy, and it really adds to your interpretation of their work when you know a bit about them, so take some time to learn about the artists that you like.
Once you have got a feel for the type of art or artists that you like, keep up to date with what they are doing so you can find out when their next show is on. Most young artists are quite active on social media, and instagram is a brilliant way of seeing both their works in process and their previous works.Sign up to gallery newsletters and find out when their shows are opening and keep up to date with what’s happening in the art world with bigger events open to the public.
Another great way to get involved is to become a member of the larger galleries in some way, whether it is just to visit regularly or in a more specific group. I’m a member of the Museum of Contemporary Art Young Ambassadors program, and over the years we have been able to enjoy some amazing experiences - visiting artists studios, meeting the curators at the MCA, and getting some fantastic behind the scenes looks at the works they have at the musuem. It’s also a great way to meet fabulous interesting people from all walks of life who have a common interest in contemporary art.
There are a couple of considerations when starting your collection - will it have a theme (medium, subject matter, style) or is your collection purely just pieces that you love? Either way you need to make sure you have a clear idea of your budget, collecting can be a very addictive pursuit so don’t get too carried away!
The best part about building up a collection, maybe starting small with some works on paper and then going from there, is that it will start to be a representation of your personality over time. Each piece will have a piece of your story behind it, which adds to the story of the work itself, and this makes it a very special and personal hobby - as well as being extremely enjoyable of course.
And finally, for more advice on collecting art, check out this factsheet I created for the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) that breaks it down for you step-by-step.