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Artwork by local artist Rachel Hannan, available on Art Pharmacy's online gallery

07.09.20 | Emilya Colliver, Founder and Director

How To Collect Art

Ideas

While starting up a personal art collection may conjure up thoughts of spending a year’s salary on one photograph, it does not have to be so out-of-reach. Even on limited budgets, it’s possible to move away from the realm of IKEA wall decor and colour your home with the works of emerging artists while also supporting Australia’s arts scene. What follows is a dipping of toes, of sorts, into the world of personal art collections.

The question that is asked the most is how to actually start an art collection. The first step is… to 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 galleries or artist Instagram pages, 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.

Art Pharmacy Pop Up show at The Lab

Art Pharmacy Pop Up show at The Lab

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At times it can be overwhelming to keep up with the seemingly ever-flowing gallery email updates and Instagram feeds. A curated online collection from a range of artists, however, make navigating the art marketplace a smoother experience and effectively do the leg work for you. Art Pharmacy, for example, makes discovering both entry and mid-career artists a more accessible process for first-time buyers. Art Pharmacy recognises talented emerging artists and collates them in one place. Since overhead fees are less costly, purchases via art galleries that operate solely online have a tendency to be cheaper compared to gallery spaces. It is also a more accessible platform for an artist, as they don’t need to produce whole show’s worth of works to be featured (Art Pharmacy asks for collections of a minimum of 5 artworks from one artist), and the commission structure is structured more favourably for an artist (brick and mortar commercial galleries can charge up to 60% commission!).

When it comes to actually buying art, I can’t stress enough that a limited budget does not mean a limited art collection. I started buying art while I was still at university, which goes to show that you can start collecting at any time, even on an $20/hour income.

The first step is to make sure you have a clear idea of your budget and how much you are willing to spend, collecting can be a very addictive pursuit so don’t get too carried away! Decide how often you want to add to your collection and maybe even create a dedicated ‘art budget’ where you set some money aside each month.

If you have your own business, consider how you can take advantage of schemes such as the ATO’s Instant asset write-off scheme. As of September 2020, small to medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of less than $500 million qualify for the Instant Asset Write-off scheme. The Australian Taxation Office has stated that an artwork is eligible for tax deduction if it is: tangible and purchased principally for a small to medium-sized business premises.

Artwork for a private collection by Indigenous artist Nicole Chaffey

Artwork by local artist Nastia Gladushchenko, available on Art Pharmacy's online gallery

Artworks at an Art Pharmacy exhibition by artist Marnie Ross

Buying early in an artist’s career is a good move if you are looking to source high quality and affordable art. Big names like Tracey Moffatt, Ben Quilty, and Mike Parr all began somewhere. Again, following new additions to Art Pharmacy’s online gallery is a good pathway to sourcing quality up and coming artists that are moderately priced.

Start small with lower cost mediums such as prints on paper, photographs, and smaller artworks and then go from there. For larger pieces or for works from more established artists, smaller galleries and online market spaces can work with you to create payment plans. If a piece is just above your price point, keep your eye out for ArtMoney and Afterpay services to purchase works in installment plans.

Once you have got a feel for your price points and budget, you can delve into your own aesthetic idiosyncrasies. Will your collection have a theme and follow a certain medium, subject matter, or style? or rather be an eclectic range of pieces that you come across and love? While a consistent theme such as an art movement or particular colour palette will bring a collection together, it is not always needed. Don’t feel like you need to stick to the same artist or medium each time you buy a piece of art. It can be an assortment of pieces that more simply resonates with you and that you find compelling. Whatever you choose, pieces in your collection will always have one thing in common, they are handpicked by you!

One thing that is key to a meaningful art collection is an element of storytelling. Every artist invests something of themselves in their work and it’s well worth discovering the story behind the piece you’re thinking of buying. As well as this, you and your partner’s own personal connections and memories attached to a piece can really bring an artwork to life.

Art Pharmacy Pop Up show at The Lab, artwork by Maz Dixon

Art Pharmacy Exhibition with artist Sarah Beetson

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Happy collecting!

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