Art collecting is one of life's most rewarding and enriching experiences.
For some it is about a sense of community and friendship, and for others it is about being at the forefront of contemporary culture and international style. Some see art as a keen investment, while others see it as the purest form of artistic expression and emotional connection.
No matter what your motivation may be for collecting art, this guide will help to introduce you to the world of art and it's various aspects. Knowing where and how to begin your collection will make your journey into art collecting a much more satisfying and enjoyable one.
Primary & Secondary Market
"Primary market" refers to the sale of works of art that are being sold for the first time. Collectors find it especially exciting to buy a never-before-seen work, straight from the artist’s studio, and these works tend to pump up their adrenaline at gallery previews and art fairs.
“Secondary market” refers to the sale of works of art that have already been sold at least once. If a collector, dealer or gallery sells a work that has been previously sold, the work is then on the secondary market. Most but not all resales take place in auction houses. Many other professionals specialize in the purchase and resale of artworks.
Where to acquire original artwork
Artists, galleries, auction houses, art consultants, dealers & brokers can all help you with your new acquisition. Each has their own set of nuances, advantages and disadvantages and it is important to know the differences when looking to acquire an original work of art.
Galleries, where artworks are exhibited and sold, are major players on the art market. Some galleries specialize exclusively in the primary market (working directly with young or already well-known living artists), others in the secondary market (buying and reselling artworks without a contract with the artist), but many do both.
Advantages: Purchasing from a gallery provides you the knowledge and expertise of the gallerist, which can assist in informing you of the artists they represent and giving you confidence in knowing you are purchasing an artwork from a career artist.
Disadvatages: When purchasing from a gallery there is typically little to no interaction with the artist. Many collectors appreciate and enjoy building a relationship with the artists they admire and for this reason, prefer to bypass galleries and acquire artwork directly from the artists themselves.
Artwork that has previously passed through the hands of a private collector or institution and is once again available to the public usually can be acquired at an auction.
Advantages: Auctions provide a chance for you to acquire an artwork that was previously unavailable. There is something electrifying about an auction, with its competing bidders, rising prices and the ritual of the hammer.
Disadvantages: All it takes is two bidders who want the same work at the same time to make its price soar. To avoid overpaying for a work, try not to get carried away by auction adrenaline. Set your limits before bidding on a lot. Some buyers make the mistake of letting themselves be swept away by auction fever and bidding beyond their financial means.
An artist’s success is measured by the demand for his or her work. If the artist whose work you want is in great demand, you may find yourself on a long waiting list, especially since galleries give priority to major collectors and institutions.
Deciding to buy
Art is not an impulse buy. Acquiring an original work should take a great deal of thought and consideration. The most important reason to collect an artwork should be for love of the art itself. If you desire an artwork, it is vital to make a decision before another collector gets there first (most collectors have some regrets, but remorse is rare). Original artwork is unique, one-of-a-kind and once it is in a private collection it may be decades before it becomes available again, at which point it may possibly have a much greater price. If the artist’s entire production has already been sold, it is better to be on a waiting list than to buy a work of lesser quality elsewhere.