Starting an Art Collection & Why You Should Look to Auctions
Collecting art can be fulfilling and add personality to your home. As a thirty-something-year-old art specialist, I have quite a few friends and family members buying their first homes and asking me where they can buy art to put on their walls. For many reasons (admittedly including the fact that I work at an auction house), I recommend online auctions as a way to start and build an art collection. Cowley Abbott’s January online auctions offer great examples of accessible art in a range of styles, subjects, and media. I am happy to share some general art collecting advice and my affordable art picks from the current sale.
It is important to spend time surrounded by art in order to create a context for yourself. Find ways to look at art on a regular basis, through museum and gallery visits, Instagram accounts, the Google Arts & Culture app, and scrolling through online auction listings. Every time you see a work of art, let yourself react to it. Ask, “do I like this? Why or why not?” These experiences will help you develop your personal taste.
Learn (some of) the Lingo
Art comes in many forms and materials, and it is worth learning their differences, for the purposes of both aesthetics and value. The general categories include painting, drawing, prints (of which there are many types – etchings, silkscreens, lithographs, etc), photography, sculpture and mixed media. An oil painting is a one-of-a-kind work of art, but also more expensive due to its rarity. Prints, which are duplicate images from a limited edition, are often more readily available and affordable than original paintings. For example, lot 73 is Northern Legend, a 1967 print by Rita Letendre. The estimate is $300-500, far below the typical prices in the tens of thousands for her oil paintings.
Be Patient and Enjoy the Journey
Please take your time in this process. When someone asks me for advice on how to find a work of art for their home, I often have to tell them that they should not expect to find something in a day or even a week. Don’t just buy something quickly to fill a blank wall. That being said, if a particular work really grabs you for whatever reason, then go for it! It is better to buy something you love even if you have no idea where it will find a place in your home. Art collecting is a lifelong journey that is never complete – it is always evolving and it reflects how your personality and tastes have changed. Looking at every piece in your collection is like an old journal or photo album–every piece you collect along the way will remind you of a particular moment in your life.