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Whether you’re building a collection as an investment or for pure enjoyment, it helps to have a blueprint
“How does one start an art collection” is a recurring question that we get asked by people stopping by the gallery, and something you might have pondered at some stage yourself. Unfortunately, there aren’t any tutorials or scientific methods for building a collection; after all, it is hard to systematise something when emotions and feelings are involved.
Buying art can be something of an intimidating experience, and as such people tend to get cold feet when the time comes to pull the trigger on their first purchase. At the end of the day, collecting is something highly personal, and each individual will develop a set of rules that they will abide by. The rules will most likely change over time, because — trust me — collecting art can become addictive.
On a personal level, I followed strict rules for about five years before I broadened my buying pattern. The first was to buy from a contemporary artist, the second was to meet the artist, and the third rule was to never go above a set budget. This has proven to be effective for me, while it might sound too restrictive for other.
Assuming you have never bought a single piece of art, here are some general tips that should make the process fun and enjoyable.
1. Buy what you like
This is the only rule you should never break. Buying art should be fun, and getting the emotional reward out of owning a piece is something only you can define. While everybody is entitled to their opinion, the art world is vast, so make choices your own and pick artworks that truly define who you are or that stimulate your emotions.
2. Take your time
Browse the web, visit galleries, go to museums, and more generally develop a sense for what you like. Never rush into buying an artwork; chances are you’ll regret it. Once you think you’ve found the right piece, do some research about the artist and their body of work. Ask yourself if you’ll enjoy living with the painting or the sculpture on a daily basis. Much like other important purchase decisions you make in life, make this one an educated one.
3. Don’t overstretch your budget
As cut and dried as this might seem, be very strict on what you’re willing to spend and don’t go above it. If you do your research properly, chances are you’ll find plenty of perfect options that fit your budget. Additionally, don’t assume that spending more on a piece necessarily makes it better. You’ll have plenty of chances in your lifetime to adjust your budget and venture into buying artworks at a higher price point as you become a seasoned collector.
4. Find the right advisor
Once you’ve defined and are able to articulate your collection objective, find someone that will help you reach your goal. There are plenty of professionals in the industry who will accompany you on your journey. Develop some connections with gallerists that you trust and have them help you build your collection. Much like you go to your financial advisor to help you select stocks or bonds, a trusted gallerist should provide you with the best possible advice and give you options to reach your goals.
5. Last but not least, keep the entire process fun
At the end of the day, your foray into the art world should be an enjoyable experience!
The writer is the director of Opera Gallery Dubai
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From how to start to low-risk options, a guideline to navigating this creative asset class