Even if your biggest foray into this mysterious world of the rich and famous has been lining your studio apartment with “Dogs Playing Poker,” fear not: Once you grasp the basics, you can upgrade your artistic sensibilities -- without breaking the bank.
“Novice collectors should start by visiting museums, reputable auction houses and art galleries and simply getting a feel for what you like,” says Elaine Erickson, a veteran art dealer and the owner of the Elaine Erickson Gallery in Milwaukee, Wis. “You may have heard of names like Andy Warhol, for instance. Do some research on his background, become familiar with his style, and find out what his work was all about and what it’s selling for today.” To further develop your art appreciation, check out sites such as Cow Art and More (seriously).
You don’t need to be Bill Gates to buy original artwork. According to Erickson, one of the more reasonably priced items to collect are original prints -- lithographs, etchings, etc. -- created by an artist’s own hand in limited editions. “I think that if people are going to buy artwork, it’s imperative that they buy original. But there are an awful lot of fakes out there, and you want to avoid things like giclees (i.e., expensive reproductions of artwork made on professional ink-jet printers). It’s important to do your homework about what it is that you’re buying, what it’s really worth and who it is you’re doing business with.”
The true value of any piece of art isn’t necessarily reflected in its price. Erickson warns that if you go into a gallery and find an expensive painting or a sculpture that you just can’t live without, make certain you research it before you write any checks.
“Investigate both the artist and the gallery selling the work,” she says. “If the gallery carries the artist’s work exclusively, ask the owner what their work has sold for in the past. There is also plenty of information available in books and on the Internet that list artists, their work and what it has sold for at auction.” Appraisal sites, like FindArtInfo.com, can be your best buddy when you want to make sure you’re not ponying up too much payola for your purchase.
Collect the Art You like
Unless you plan on stacking your new piece in a storage locker, you’d better be able to stare at it for years to come. So even though you might be collecting pieces of artwork in the hope they’ll increase in value, you never know when that time will come. So invest in something you can enjoy. “People should always buy art that they like”, says Erickson. “They should never let someone else tell them what to buy. They have to live with it, they have to pay for it and they have to hang it in their homes.”
If you are buying artwork as an investment, stay abreast of the market by closely following the careers and progress of the artists you’re interested in and whose work you’ve purchased. “You should have your artwork appraised periodically for insurance purposes,” concludes Erickson. “The appraiser will give you an accurate idea of the market value; if and when you’re ready to sell, a good auction house will probably get you the best price.” Sites like ArtCollecting.com are a good resource for identifying and contacting accredited appraisers to give you a professional assessment.