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How to Start Collecting Art

Your year-end bonus isn’t going to spend itself.


The art world (and the prospect of collecting art) can be a little intimidating—or so we thought. Then we met Elena Soboleva, a contemporary art specialist at Artsy, who brought the whole thing back down to Earth. Elena considers herself an art consultant to all of Artsy’s readers—she writes for the site about trends, artists to watch and art fairs and events. She’s also working on Artsy’s upcoming partnership with Sotheby’s, where Artsy will host the veteran auction house’s first online event, geared toward young, tech-savvy art collectors.

It’s safe to say that Elena totally speaks our language, and when we asked her to weigh in with advice for first-time collectors, she happily obliged.

How to Start Collecting Art

Start by educating yourself

Rather than immediately buying art that you hear is good and on-trend, take time to educate yourself. Learn not only about what’s out there, but also about what you like. Use Artsy to discover and learn about artists—once you’ve figured out what you like, you can follow people to be notified when their work is available for purchase. Follow artists and galleries on Instagram. Go to art fairs, which feature 100-200 gallery shows and are an excellent way to develop your eye. Keep track of pieces you like, and look for patterns among them to help zero in on your personal taste.

Check out up-and-coming artists

Invest early in young, on-the-rise artists whose work you love and can afford. For example, Jessica Sanders works in beeswax to create sensual surfaces with infinite depth. Her work is easy to relate to, but meaningful—making it a perfect starting point for an art newbie—and it’s generally in the $3,000 price range. I also love Alain Biltereyst. Though small in scale, his works hold the wall space and pull the viewer in. On Artsy, you can filter artwork by price—there are 12,000 works for sale that are under $1,000.

Make friends with young dealers

First-time art collectors think that because they have limited purchasing power, art dealers won’t give them the time of day. That’s not the case. The right dealer will educate you and even help you out with payment plans or discounts on pieces you really love, because they know that when your budget eventually grows, you’ll be a loyal patron. Plus, once you reach a higher price point—say, $10,000—they can give you access to waitlisted pieces and artists. A few of my favorite New York galleries to start with are 247365, The Journal Gallery and Invisible Exports.

Think of art as an investment

If you collect wisely, a piece of art is something you’ll want to be around for the rest of your life and pass on to your children. Keeping that in mind will help you make smarter purchases.

Images courtesy of Artsy

Works shown by: Marco Kalach, Alain Biltereyst, Jessica Sanders, Katharina Schilling, Albarrán Cabrera, Felicity Hammond, Nico Krijno, Jonathan Nesci and Brian Robertson

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