Another reason that many people never start an art collection is that it can seem so overwhelming. So much to learn! One way to limit what you have to look at it is to only collect a certain style, medium or geographical region. Some of my clients will only collect New Hampshire or Maine artists. Some like to focus on just prints or only living artists. Others are only interested in abstracts. This is one way to really give your collection focus. It is also a way to become very knowledgeable about a certain segment of the art world. One of my favorite collectors focuses on prints and ceramics. His collection is prodigious- as is his knowledge. He is able to keep abreast of everything new in the print world and frequently teaches me a lot about it.
Go to shows at galleries. You can see a lot of work by an individual artist. If you go to the opening you will have a chance to meet the artist and ask them about their process. Don’t expect to always like what the gallery is showing, but you are exposed to it and are allowed to make up your own mind. Disagreeing about the merits of different art allows you to view and collect within a context. I often find that people will start off saying they don’t like something and then, over time, warm up to it.
Once you have decided that it is time to start purchasing, let the gallery know what you want to see. Tell them your budget and style constraints. They should be willing to pull out a number of pieces for you to view. Don’t be afraid to let them know how you feel about the work. That sort of guidance helps them to bring out more appropriate work.
Most galleries will allow you to take a piece home on approval. They may ask for a credit card number if you are not a regular customer. If you like a piece ask the gallery person if this is an option.
You are going to see a real range of prices in a gallery. Generally an artist can charge more for their work if there is a high demand for it or if they are a more established and respected artist. Don’t hesitate to ask if there seems to be a discrepancy between quality and price. The gallery should be able to explain it satisfactorily. It usually boils down to the fact that an artist’s work has sold consistently at that price.
Once you have purchased a piece of artwork, the gallery should provide you with information on the artist- perhaps a bio and artist statement. They should also provide you with, at the very least, an invoice stating what you have purchased and for how much. You will need this for insurance purchases (more on this later.) Often times galleries will provide a certificate of authenticity as if it guarantees that you have purchased a real piece of art. I find certificates of authenticity pretentious and serve only to bolster the purchaser’s confidence in what they have just bought. The only real guarantee is to purchase from a trusted gallery.