J S Ellington

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A Passion for Art Collecting... on a Shoestring

Aug 14, 2018

Collecting is fun! The world of art affords wonderful social interaction with others. Art appreciation even builds a connection between people who may have very little in common otherwise. Lifelong friendships are often made through art, and there are certainly lots of interesting artists and art lovers to meet and enjoy along the way.

How often do you look for something fun to do, maybe on a weekend, but can’t settle on anything? Especially, when couples spend time together, they may find it difficult to find an activity that fits with both of them. Art collecting might be just what you are looking for! Just sharing why one of you is drawn to a particular piece can give insight into each other’s heart and deepen your closeness and understanding of what makes each of you tick.

You can probably start with a course at your local college on art appreciation and attend local gallery exhibitions and public art fairs to get a feel for what you like. Chances are there are local galleries in your town that would love for you to visit. Hours of browsing beautiful art online can begin to reveal a pattern in what you seem to gravitate toward.

When you have gotten your feet wet looking around and visiting, you can start small. Small artworks and art prints by artists you like allow you to enjoy the spirit and character of the artist’s work but typically cost much less. In the beginning, consider small pieces by established and lesser-known artists.  Many collections started with pieces from unknown artists whose works later became sought after and valuable. Chances are, if you like it, others will too. Even with artists who are not “famous,” the price of their work tends to increase as more of their pieces sell.

Andrew Shapiro, an art gallery owner, has boasted that he bought an unsigned lithographic print by Henri Matisse for $30.00. He was quoted as saying, “The value of it was that I chose it when no one else spotted it. Starting an art collection is about using your eye and not listening to everyone else.”

Art makes you think. It can create an emotional response. It can open your eyes to new ways of seeing the world. Having beautiful art that brings you satisfaction on the walls in your home enriches your life, adds freshness and color to your living space, and is a testimonial to your taste. Artworks in your home evidence your aesthetic sensitivity.

Even if you add pieces that are not soul-searching masterpieces, beautiful artworks and graceful sculptures are always a smart complement to your daily life and home space. You are rewarded by the sheer joy of seeing and feeling it. Some “art snobs” may chide you for selecting artwork that matches your couch, calling you insecure because you feel a need to impress someone else with your decorating sense. I say, it is your money! Buy what you love, and match your couch if that is what you want to do. Then, stand by that decision wholeheartedly when you are engaged to discuss it.

What about supporting the arts? Collecting because artists need collectors? I can attest to that one. To keep doing what we love, artists depend on art lovers’ patronage. With your patronage, you become a vital part of an artist’s legacy. There is no greater compliment for an artist than to sell a piece, especially to a collector who has followed their work and even bought from them before. The income is necessary but so is that type of encouragement.

What about art as an investment? It certainly can be. Good art appreciates in value, and collectors with a good eye can definitely profit. But buying an artwork because of its potential resale value brings with it the risk of having a work long term that you may not enjoy should a particular piece not offer a later profit. It makes more sense to buy work you love, ideally from the beginning of a favorite artist’s career when the work is most affordable. That way, you will always enjoy your collection whatever the art market does.

So the bottom line is to discover what art you are most drawn to, enjoying the process along the way. What art do you find calming? What art makes you think, imagine, and/or wonder? Which artists do you most appreciate? Is there a theme to the art you love? Finding a niche that affords you a passion will help you build relationships with artists and other art lovers. And, of course, it is also just fine to follow your instincts, collecting a diverse body of artwork without rules. Just buy what you love, even if you can’t explain why.


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