Couple Looking At Paintings In Art Gallery Together

10 Tips for New Art Collectors

I’m always being asked by new art buyers for help in better understanding the art markets so here is an introductory list of ten tips that can provide some foundational knowledge.

  1. Learn and study as much as you can about art.The more art you can look at the more you’ll start to identify styles and images that evoke an emotional reaction. Art, for a private collector, is an emotional experience. Take your time when choosing art. Talk to the artist, gallery staff or an art advisor. Visiting art fairs, although overwhelming at times, is one of the best ways to see a wide variety of art. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • What do I like about it and how does it make me feel when I look at it?
  • Do I want to live with objects that inspire me, challenge me intellectually, look good in the room or remind me of a time and place?
  • What subjects or historical times are important to me?
  1. Understand how the art market works and what determines price for an artwork.The art market has two markets – the primary market whereby artwork is sold for the first time by the artist or by their gallery representatives, and the secondary market whereby artwork is sold a second time or by a subsequent owner such as an auction house. Pricing can be subjective and it is based on a number of factors including the cost of materials; the artist’s career, accomplishments and exhibition history; changes in consumer tastes and decorating styles; the economy and the level of disposable income available for the purchase of art; and the supply and demand of the artist’s work.
  1. Buy only if you are in love.We’ve all been there. We think we’re in love or we believe we are, but soon afterwards, we’re not sure. We have doubts. The same is true for art. We all make mistakes and as new collectors you will too. We rushed the decision to buy, didn’t think about where it might hang and if it would fit. Here’s a common scenario: The artist is hot right now and all your friends are buying a piece, so you buy the piece that’s not the best in the show or the exact piece you wanted because someone else beat you to the buy. You might suffer buyer’s remorse. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Am I feeling pressure to buy from the artist, dealer, friends, or spouse?
  • Am I caught up in the hype surrounding this artist?
  • Do I really love it?
  1. Only buy what you can afford. For new collectors, limited edition prints are more affordable and photography can be a more accessible medium because it also typically sells in limited numbered editions as well; the lower the edition number the better (of 10, of 25, of 50). See points 6, 8 and 10 for more financial related tips.
  1. Bigger can be better for new collectors.Selecting a large artwork can be more affordable than you might think. Using smaller works to create an impact in your living space could be more expensive than purchasing one large quality piece. Smaller works may need framing whereas a large work may not. To create impact, you may need a number of smaller works. Of course, it all depends on what you are trying to achieve.
  1. Accept that your tastes will change.The more you learn and look, you’ll find that what you loved ten years ago may be nothing like what you’re looking at now. You’ll see a natural evolution in your collecting habits over time. You’ll make decisions faster, know more people to ask, and you’ll come to understand art, artists and even pricing better. If at some point you do intend to sell part of your collection, this is where the secondary market comes in and do not expect to get what you paid for it.
  1. Ask for help in buying.To learn more or to help you feel more comfortable, you can work with an art advisor. Make sure your advisor is knowledgeable, reputable, educated and associated with a known art industry association such as the International Society of Appraisers. Advisors can help you discover your tastes, suggest artists to watch, find artwork that meets your needs and tastes, negotiate prices and terms for purchases on your behalf. They are part of a network of ethical and professional members of the art world who continually study and upgrade their knowledge. They are always at the art fairs, gallery openings and following trends in the art market. You don’t necessarily see them but they’re there working for their clients.
  1. Understand what’s involved after you’ve purchased art. Art requires specialized care, maintenance and insurance. A. You’ve got to get it home. If you do it yourself, make sure your new purchase is well protected. Ask the artist the best way of packaging the work. Find out how best to transport it and hang it or use an art handler. B. You many need to insure the work. Check your existing homeowner/tenant insurance policy to see if it covers fine art and for how much and from when/where that coverage takes effect. Sixty percent of insurance claims for fine art are due to damage during transit or hanging. If you do experience any damage to the artwork, during shipping or at any time, talk to the artist about it, if you can. Often, they can help, in particular if the work is made of unique materials. Take pictures of the work as soon as you’ve paid for it so you can prove that it was in perfect condition the second you took ownership. C. Framing with poor quality materials and workmanship can be disappointing and prove more expensive as it could, over time, ruin the artwork. For example, wood pulp in mat board for prints and photographs could burn the artwork and, without the proper glazing or glass, UV light can fade work on paper. The artist, art advisor and hanger can also assist you with finding the best location with optimum conditions to hang your new acquisitions.
  1. Establish a paper trail for each artwork. Keep all background information concerning your art purchases including the purchase receipt, promotional materials from the exhibition such as the catalogue, postcard, artist’s business card. Take a photo of you and the artist holding the work. Record the artist’s name, title of the work, year it was created, details of the signatures or markings and the exhibition history or auction or gallery information. Get certificates of authenticity and past ownership details at the time of purchase – then keep it all. This information establishes the provenance of the artwork – the history of ownership and, for you, proof of ownership. Provenance can prove or verify authenticity and that the work was produced by a particular artist and owned by you. Years down the road, your children or heirs of your estate will need this information to help with the division of assets.
  1. Know your collection and be certain of its value. Your insurance company may insist on an appraisal of your collection in order for it to be covered under your homeowner’s policy or in a separate rider for fine art. This valuation should be done by a qualified appraiser such as a member of the International Society of Appraisers. Insurance appraisals should be performed every three to five years to ensure that you always know the value of your artwork, to include new purchases and put them on record for your insurance company, and to ensure you are not overpaying or under protected in your insurance coverage. Down the road, you may also wish to donate your entire collection or specific artworks to a museum or a charity of your choice. Having clear provenance ensuring the artwork is authentic, the date of purchase, and the purchase price become key factors in donating artwork. You may need to divide your assets if your relationship changes or provide for your children equally and, for this, you will require an appraisal. Qualified appraisers can provide you with appraisal reports for insurance coverage or claims, for donations or division of assets. Working with a qualified appraiser assures that you receive an unbiased and thoughtful opinion of value that is transparent, accurate and impartial.

Kelly Juhasz is an art advisor and a qualified appraiser specializing in fine art and antiques and an Accredited Member of the International Society of Appraisers. She is the principal at Fine Art Appraisal and Services offering artist legacy services, collection management, estate planning for treasure assets, sales services and Canadian Cultural Property appraisals.