For some unknown reason, we are regularly confronted with the statement that because we live in a digital era, physical state has somehow become less valuable. This questionable theory had its toll on art collection community as well – but luckily, this wanna-be hypothesis is rather false, at least as far as gathering art pieces goes. If not anything else, the digital era altered the rules and turned the entire collecting procedure into a more comfortable and manageable process. It may sound a bit worn-out, but collecting art has never been easier. Furthermore, we are more than ever obliged to collect actual pieces of art as our modern age seems to be characterized by a strong ephemeral note. By doing so, we are avoiding the loss of our life’s valuable segments, continuing the natural relationship with time and making sure that the future generations have a chance at witnessing parts of our mutual history.
Before we start getting into more detail, we should first make sure that a common misconception is taken out of the way – there are fundamental differences between buying art and collecting it. Buying art is more of a casual activity through which you acquire pieces based on nothing but your likes, preferences or attractions at that particular moment. There is nothing preordained about it and you do not have anything planned for the piece in a long run, it just happened and you enjoyed the moment, bought the piece and took it home. Collecting art, however, is a whole new field with its own principles where almost everything is different, except that initial enjoyment of owning a new piece. By definition, art collections are purposefully directed long-term commitments through which you gather somehow interlinked works and assemble them in a way that tells their mutual story. In other words, an art collector must be able to choose each individual work in such a way as to form meaningful groupings. Just by reading the explanation of what art collecting is, it becomes clear that gathering artworks is a lot similar to associating any other stuff that people commonly collect – baseball cards, badges, stamps, napkins, old Harley Davidson parts, etc.
What differentiates solid art collectors from the great ones is the ability to separate specific works of art from literally billions of pieces already in existence and convene them in such a way as to develop or enhance our understanding of that particular part of art history. Effectively, an art collector is attempting to assemble a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. This means that any quality collection is always evolving and is never static – you constantly add new bits and pieces, bringing it closer to the desired level of a complete collection. The very best collectors show a sense of sureness and direction in their overall plans – this is what separates them from their inferior colleagues, as a superior collector makes sure no piece is random or arbitrary, instead making sure that they relate to and complete one another.
How to Successfully Collect Art
Regardless of what your goal as an art collector is, whether it be a serious commitment or a recreational hobby, there are strategies that will help you function at a better level and maximize both the quality and value of you collection, as well as increase your personal satisfaction and appreciation of the art you gather. First of all, and this may sound a bit too cliche, but knowledge is power. Collecting anything, let alone works of art, without actually knowing what they are may be the biggest mistake of your soon-to-prove-short career. Visit museums and galleries, watch documentary movies, read books – learning about the art you collect is the most entertaining part of actually gathering it and without enjoying that process, why even do it at all? By getting acquainted with your targeted art, you additionally lower the risks of someone taking an advantage of your lack of information – take this as a fair warning as the art scene can and will get rather dangerous for your pocket if you do not know what you are doing. Furthermore, do not be afraid to take advantage of other people’s apathy – you may encounter dealers or sellers that have set an abysmally low price on a piece just because they’ve not seen fit to investigate what they’ve put out on the market. Use the opportunity and show that it was worth doing your homework. However, keep in mind that regardless of how much you already know about what you collect, the educational process is an ongoing one and you should never stop searching for information. There is no such thing as an overinformed buyer.
The second peace of advice is to use the perks of the time in which we live, and by that we mean the Internet. When it comes to art, the online world is a vast and fantastic place –websites like WideWalls can be a great opportunity to search for pretty much every kind of art imaginable. The Internet has impacted the art collecting scene on every level, most notably by allowing the gatherer to actually buy pieces directly from artists themselves – mere decades ago, a person collecting artworks would be forced to go through dealers and galleries, all of whom would be taking fees and making budget dents. The miracle of the Internet also provides the opportunity to get educated by not leaving the comfort of your living room – numerous blogs, websites and platforms devoted to specific types of art where you can really get up to speed on both the art and artists you like the most. If you wish for more professional assistance with gathering art, do not hesitate to rely on our own consulting services – depending on your needs, we have different packages that will enable you to have a distinct advantage over other art collectors.
An often overlooked but still crucial aspect of good collecting is documenting the accumulated art. A collector should do this not only for authentication and ownership purposes but also because of an impact it can have on the actual value of the pieces. The best evidence of how documentation is important is the fact older art relies on it so much – without the historical context, a list of previous owners and precise naming, many of the world’s greatest artworks may have been lost forever. Who knows, maybe in a few decades, a piece from your collection might find its way into a museum because the documentation behind it is able to tie it to a prominent and well-respected name. Besides the documentation positively impacting the value, it also allows an art collector to fully appreciate and understand a work of art by knowing all there is to know about it.
There’s another fact worth considering – prominent collectors are often as well-known and widely respected as the art they collect. Think, for instance, about the Eli Broad collection, the Barnes collection or the Chrysler collection – these are all world-class examples and their reputation precedes them by a mile. Now, there’s a reason why this is so. Over the years, they’ve demonstrated just as much talent for selecting and grouping their art as the artists show in creating it. This elite group of collectors is the very top of the business and they are the goal for any aspiring individual out there – if he or she wish to work at that premium level. The best perk of being one of the elite art collectors is that any piece lucky enough to become a part of their collection instantly becomes more valuable just by having their name on its résumé.
Since we are at this particular subject of prominent art collectors, we should mention the metropolis of Berlin as one of the most active and expanding art markets of the world. Recently joining the elite circle of New York and London, Germany’s capital is experiencing a true enlargement of art collecting. This is in no small part due to the activity of the entrepreneur Christian Boros and his wife Karen as this famous duo continues to assemble one of the most impressive collections the world has ever seen. Over the course of numerous years, this couple has amassed an ever-expanding art collection of about eight hundred works that acts as a reflection of the evolving art world. This collection is a massive influence on both the local and international scene as it inspires many individuals to test themselves in this field and attracts seasoned collectors to buy/sell their possessions alongside Boros and Karen – not to mention what an attraction their pieces are to art pundits worldwide. So, if you are by any chance a striving collector and a Berlin’s citizen, you are in for a treat as you find yourself amidst one of the most growing art collecting scenes of the world.
Collecting Street Art
As the street art phenomenon continues to evolve into a major scene with the sky-rocketing numbers of practitioners and pundits rising on a daily level, it comes as no surprise that many are considering starting an urban art collection of their own. This may very well be the most challenging group of artwork to start gathering if an aspiring collector has no previous experience, as the street scene is a contemporary movement that is currently active and constantly evolving. Unlike collectors of the Renaissance period, Impressionism paintings or Pop-art prints, those who wish to accumulate street art pieces do not always have an already well-established assortment of rules, confirmed dealers, validated names and set of prices to help them along the way. A beginner urban art collector is left with no choice but to gamble, speculate and improvise, usually relying more on his own eyes than outside advice. This makes the street art collecting generally the riskiest field from which to gather pieces, but it also makes it rather dynamic and subsequently the most satisfying one – if you play your cards right, that is.
How to Start a Collection
Before you even start considering collecting street art pieces, you must figure out your own motives for doing so. Basically, you need to decide what your goal will be, what you will be striving for. Is this a long-term commitment based on actual affection? Do you simply wish to find a few artworks to brighten up your study room or gather valuable pieces that have both the preferred visuals and the impressive price tag? Or are you hoping to make money from reselling the works on the art market? Regardless of what you motivation is, each of them requires a different game plan. If you wish to actually make money in the long run, we must warn and disappoint you that there is a reason why only a chosen few managed to succeed in this endeavor. It takes time, skill and luck with all three requirements a necessity and not an option.
After making sure you are certain what the intent of your collection is, the next step is a bit of a dull one, at least if you fall anywhere on the lower half of the scale. You need to set a budget. If you are a millionaire or someone close to that status, then the sky is the limit and you will not only have most of the options available to you but also be lucky enough to have a virtually limitless number of trails and failures. However, if you are like most of us that have a limited budget, you might want to be realistic and set the bar a bit lower. You should consider starting with relatively cheap art, like the contemporary prints and multiples, and gradually work your way from there. In the very beginning, make sure you buy stuff that you like and stay true to your tastes – this will enable you to enjoy the process as much as possible. Start making connections and meet people with same interests, always being respectful as you never know when they may come in handy – like with any other business, the connections are crucial. However, do not be scared to speak your mind and be honest about the art you collect.
After acquiring a few pieces via a gallery or the Internet, you want to start organizing the collection and utilizing it to the best of its potential. Even the best collection in the world can be substantially degraded by poor organization and you do not want that to happen to you, even if all you have is a few displayed prints. Your collection needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end – it poses a problem and then uses the pieces it has to map out the adequate solution. This may be tricky at times but the best way of figuring out how to get organized is to go to galleries and museums – there you will see how professional curators present the pieces, making sure the exhibitions have both the starting and ending points. Of course, do not go overboard and rearrange your house to look like a gallery, placing improvised catalogs at every room entrance. Instead, try to get an insight of how curators think and communicate with the viewers – this will allow you to arrange your own pieces in a more sensical method. Be able to walk someone through and tell them the story of how and why you’ve come to own all this wonderful art and how it works so well together. Good organization will allow your collection to grow in a healthy and meaningful manner, eventually helping you to appreciate the art presented and have a better grip on all the pieces, as well as impacting the value of the entire selection.
If you are feeling a bit adventurous, art auctions may be the right option as you start your collection. However, these kinds of events can be rather brutal towards newcomers – the mere thought of entering an auction as a status-less beginner and competing with more experienced individuals with deeper pockets does not hold much promise. Since you are only starting out, there’s a distinct possibility that the elite auction doors are closed to you and that it’s impossible to compete for the very best pieces out there. Additionally, both online and on spot auctions of the past have proven that they are rather prone to manipulation and it’s easy to get burned by getting yourself involved, especially if you have no previous experience. However, there is a way to make use of auctions without actually being a direct part of them. By following auction results you are not only keeping a close watch on the new locations of the artworks being sold (information which can be pretty useful at one point), but you are also directly studying the current standards of the market. Investigating these essential pieces of information may very be the key to becoming a more successful collector.
The Final Advice
If you’re sure you will try going down the path of an art collector, one last final advice is necessary – when a person starts collecting pieces of art, they immediately stop being an observer of the scene and become a part of it. They will deal with, buy, sell, trade, document and present the pieces that will eventually make their way into art history – the responsibility to handle them with care and accountability falls on the collectors. By gathering pieces of it, a collector is directly impacting the art scene and is effectively shaping it for the future – make sure to keep that in the back of your mind as you form and deal with your art collection. It’s undoubtedly fun and dynamic experience that can oftentimes be very rewarding, but art collecting is a process that is best approached with caution as disregarding rules can lead to rather risky situations for both the pieces and the one collecting them.