Thursday, November 13, 2014

How to Start an Art Collection (or, "Even YOU CAN Be an Art Collector")

One of my first art purchases as a "grown up" of one of my very favorite places.  Painting by Laverne Christopher

An etching bought in Italy while I spent a year there in college (gift from my mom)

A fun purchase...the art project from my girls' school auction.  They thought having a picture of a human heart in our den was weird.  I loved the color combo and find it brightens up our our little room with it's fun pops of color.

"what if it's not a good investment?"
"I can't afford to be an art collector!"
"I don't know anything about art!"
"I don't know what I like"

These are just a few things people say about collecting art.

Have you heard of Herb and Dorothy?  This modest couple amassed a priceless art collection on meager wages.  And look what they did with it!


1.Art comes in many price ranges.  Start small.  Set a budget and stick to it and don't say yes until your heart sings.  Do research (HELLO Internet!) before you go to a gallery or just start browsing. This will make you feel more informed and confident in your decision. Ask artist friends for help.

2. Do not worry about the investment (unless you want to make a business of it).  You are not buying it for that.  You are buying it for the daily pleasure of it.  We don't renovate our kitchens for the investment...we do it for the enjoyment.  Think about how much money we drop on cable, coffee, the newest gadget (seriously, how long does the joy last from those purchase)? 

3."Art is so expensive".  Really?  Artists spend their whole life working towards the piece you are looking at often with a lot of hours and days (and years of experience) going into a single piece.  It is not mass produced and is a one of kind piece.  If you calculate how many hours of joy it produces, art is actually a pretty great value (especially compared with the things mentioned in #2).
4. You can acquire art in many places*.  Just start browsing. 
  • galleries, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, or anywhere with art exhibits.
  • art associations (which are no-pressure, great places to pick up artwork and support the arts in your community)
  • estate sales
  • art fairs
  • auctions (not neccesarily art auctions btw)
  • holiday sales
  • Internet
  • artists' coops
  • open studios
*talking with artists and gallery owners can be really helpful in understanding the work. They enjoy talking about art and are happy to educate you and really don't want the sale unless you are going to love it. Both gallery owners and artists sometimes have alternative options if you can't afford the work of one artist (ie drawings or studies by same artist..see below).

5. Start with your heart and your gut (they never fail as long as you have that budget). Don't worry what others think of it.  Does it make you happy, reflective, move you?
6. Why not start a tradition of buying one piece of art every year (or asking for it as a gift)? Some people have the tradition of buying a piece of art to remember a special trip or occasion. This is an easy way of building an art collection. #30paintingsin30years ?

Margaret Gerding pastel given to me by my husband on the birth of one of our daughters.  We couldn't afford one of her paintings, but were able to find a more affordable pastel piece by the same artist.

7. Art is a great distraction from the frayed carpet or the sofa that needs replacing.  Blank walls are boring. Art is a great focal point and conversation starter.  Original art gives character to a home.

8. I guarantee that if you buy a piece of art that you love, you will be happy every time you see it. Isn't the happiness factor alone worth it?  Life is short, find joy in your everyday environment.  Do you love nature?  Find art that reminds you of nature.

9.  Afraid you might get bored with a piece or lose the love? That didn't stop you from buying that Member's Only Jacket in the 80s. Just sayin'. Plus, giving away art is easier than a lot of other items in your house (think...old computers??)

10. Your art collection does not have to be important or significant to anyone, but YOU!  If you love a beautiful painting that your five year old made, frame that puppy up and put it in an important location.  Most people probably already have the beginning of an art collection.  Do you have any original works of art?  Art collections are meant to evolve over time...just like us!  

An ink drawing (one of 2) given to me as a thank you from Coldecott Medal illustrator David Diaz after working with him on a publishing project.  I love both of these because of the art and the fond memories of the projects I worked on as an art buyer for a publishing company.  Plus, I was pregnant at the time and this one always reminds me of pregnant belly in the background.
A sketch by my grandmother, Helen Baier.  The little sneakers were mine as a girl. 
A gift from one of my favorite contemporary artists Amy Goodwin

A wedding gift from a dear college friend (and amazing artist/college professor), Kristin Rothrock

Do you have the beginnings of an art collection?  Where did you get your art?  What is your favorite piece?  Why?  How do you buy art? Are you thinking you might try to start building an art collection?  Let me know!  I'd love to hear from you!

*****Coming Up: #30paintingsin30days challenge gets back on track.  Just taking a slight break until Sat after my first holiday open house THIS Friday (See here for details).


Denishé said...

I like to buy art from artists that I've met. Not only do I love the artwork, but I'm reminded of the artist when I look at it.

Whitney Alexanderson Heavey said...

I totally agree, Denise!

Anonymous said...

Great article (Denishe just pointed to it on Facebook.) My formal art and art history education is woefully brief. Yet, we seem to have covered our walls with art.

I commissioned my first piece in high school and I still enjoy looking at it. We often buy art on trips; looking at it reminds us of our travel adventures. I also love buying pieces from people I know or from people I know. Maynard artists are well-represented on our walls.

Last year, we walked into a gallery owned by someone we've worked with over the years. My husband's eyes went directly to one painting. I swear, if he'd been looking at a human, I would be long-forgotten at this point -- it was love at first sight. It's the major piece hanging in our living room now.

I have no idea if any of what we've bought is "good" or "valuable." It's not a commodity; it's something that brings us joy, triggers memories, makes us laugh and think. If friends enjoy it, so much the better.

One tip about buying art - establish a good relationship with a fantastic framer. Right now, our go-to people are Nick and Kelly at Gallery 7. Nick understands how to frame so that the artwork is the star and the frame is the supporting player. Prices are reasonable and N&K are a delight to work with.

Liz Augustine

Anonymous said...

So sorry; I thought Denishe had posted a link and actually it was someone from Artspace Downtown (maybe Denishe?) -- liz

Whitney Alexanderson Heavey said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response Liz! I really loved hearing about your collection...especially that love at first piece! I guess I could add that to the list: art is a safe obsession! Thanks for the framing tip...great advice! It's so great to have a framer who's eye you trust!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Whitney. When we first "meet" a piece, we like to think about whether we'd enjoy living with it for a long time to come. It's about the "gut reaction". -- liz