Top 10 Tips for New Art Collectors


After interviewing hundreds of experienced collectors, we believe this list is the most invaluable tool for a new art enthusiast

1. Do you have a visual reaction?

It has to catch your eye. When you first look at an artwork, it needs to visually stimulate you, not necessarily because it’s pretty or you like the colours the artist used, but it could be haunting, confronting or even disturbing. But you have to have a visual reaction to the work – it’s got to trigger something within you. A good exercise is to walk through the exhibition and after you’ve left the building, try and recall the artwork. If you can’t recall the artwork you spent time looking at, this is not a good sign. An artwork needs to speak to you, draw you in and make you want to go back and look again.

2. Does it provoke thought and discussion?

Remember, not all artwork will go in the dining room or the bedroom, so in other areas of the house, it’s often a good idea to install works that make you think, feel and contemplate, even if it comes down to difficult subjects. It makes for great conversation, reminds us to be tolerant, open-minded and accepting. Art is of utmost importance to children and young adult development, as numerous studies have indicated. Children exposed to art are propelled forward intellectually. Research has shown they have stronger critical thinking skills and display higher levels of tolerance and empathy. It can be powerful and thought provoking.

3. Does it intellectually stimulate you?

After having a visual and emotional reaction to an artwork you need to be able to also intellectually react to the work. You want to learn something from the work. This can be insight into something you knew nothing about or something far more personal. Artists’ are often referred to as our social conscience, where the world is reflected back to us through the artists’ interpretation. In general, art should give us greater understanding of a subject, an issue, a person, a place and so on.

4. Can you afford it?

Yes, that old foe, money, or lack thereof. Passionate collectors, however, will do just about anything to get their hands on a piece they love. But if you don’t fall into that category yet, it’s a good idea to come up with a plan and a budget. I would suggest allocating some funds towards more established artists with stronger CVs and keep some of your budget for investing in emerging artists. It’s a lot less stressful and you can watch their careers and achievements knowing that you helped them to continue their art practice. There are also assistant art buying finds like Art Money in Australia that offer easy-to-understand and completely above board interest-free loans.

5. Get out and visit the galleries

Take your time to visit galleries. Speak to the owner and directors ask about the gallery philosophy. Ask how long they have been operating. Build a good relationship with the gallery, tell them what artists you like, go on the mailing list and attend their previews, events or shows. This will not only give you first options on works but also access to artists and like-minded people.

6. Do your research

It’s important to look at where and with whom an artist exhibits. You can tell a lot by the company they keep. Look at the CV and BIO of the artist to see if they have been recognised by the market, won art prizes in major collections like museums, banks or institutions, have been included in exhibitions in state or regional galleries, or are collected by well-regarded collectors. It is all on the CV.

7. Choose the work, not the artist

Not all works by the same artist are considered equal. Even in the same exhibition, you will find some works are much stronger and garner more value for the artist. Unless you can get the work you respond to, don’t buy a work just because it is an artist you value. If you are buying for investment, it may not be worth as much as his or her other pieces, leaving you with a work you never loved and has not retained its value. Speak to the gallery, be patient and wait. Go on the waiting list for new works by the artist.

8. Don’t follow trends

Don’t buy work because others have collected the artist and he or she is deemed to be ‘the artist to have’. Authentic collectors don’t operate like that. They do their research, go out and look; they follow artists and are patient for the piece that speaks to them. They wait for the right piece and don’t place a high value on buying into something or someone based purely on popularity. Of course, it may be the works of the artist du jour is something you do love, so go for it. But keep the above warning in mind when making the purchase.

9. Don’t be intimidated when asking about art

The art market may seem like a foreign world when a new buyer first enters a gallery. A lack of knowledge about art may frighten even the most discerning eye. Yet the best thing about art is that there is no right or wrong. Ask the gallerists as many questions as you like – where does the artist live, how old is he/she, what is the theme of the work and why? How did they do the work? What is the meaning behind it? Gallerists love their job. They want to talk about the art. Remember: there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers.

10. Be informed on where and how to display your art

Many galleries can assist when it comes to hanging your new purchase. It’s not always easy to ascertain where works should go or how they should be displayed, especially if you’re moving into a larger space. The location and hanging style of an art work in your home can make or break its impact, so take up this offer if you’re unsure of how or where or how to place a new piece.


1. Don’t go behind the gallery’s back to make a deal with the artist. Any reputable artist will tell the gallery, you will get blacklisted and can say goodbye to any previews of future works.

2. Don’t put a work on hold for the duration of the exhibition and then decide against it. If it’s on hold, make it short (a couple of days at most). The artist would have lost out on opportunities to sell the work.

3. Don’t ask for a discount. Collectors who ask for discounts will always be the last person the gallery contacts when a new opportunity arises.

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Top 10 Tips for New Art Collectors

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