The Joy of Building an Art Collection

MY DAUGHTER’S HOMETOWN, CHONGKING, CHINA

Artist Linnea Heide shared with me her tips for starting an art collection which I would like to share with you.   The majority of this blog is hers with a little editing and the addition of my two cents (in italic).
Linnea writes:
The joy of building an art collection is no longer reserved for those with the time and resources to scour art galleries across the globe. With today’s technology, anyone with a computer can access thousands of artists’ works across the full spectrum of mediums (and prices). While there is no set formula for building an art collection, I can offer a few tips to make your collection the best it can be, regardless of your budget.

1. Trust Your Instincts
Fill your collection with pieces you LOVE – not with pieces that you think might be a  good investment opportunity or a “good deal.” Your collection is a reflection of you. If you’re not sure what you like, spend some time just looking. Begin by visiting art museums, attending local art shows, and paying attention to the subject matter, color palettes or styles that capture your interest.

2. Stick with Original Art: Original art is unique and one of a kind.  Reproductions are mass-produced copies of an  original piece of art.  The value in a reproduction lies in the cost of the framing and nothing else.  A glicee print is a really good inkjet reproduction.  Although a glicee costs more to print; its value is the same as with any contemporary reproduction and lies solely in the cost of its mat and frame.

3.  Make an exclusive statement about who you are and what you like.
Much of the magic of an art collection is in the subtle nuance and energy of the artwork itself: how the work makes you feel when you look at it, what it says to each individual.  The surface of an original piece of art tells the story of how its made.  It is the hand (and heart) of the artist that gives a work of art its nuance and energy.

4. Choose the Right Mix
You may wish to build your collection around a common element (style, color, theme), but selecting works of different size, shapes and mediums will help diversify the overall collection.  When I first began building my own art collection, I started with pieces that dealt with weather – specifically snow.  My first two artworks were Japanese

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woodblock prints:  Hiroshige’s “Night Snow, Kambara”and Harunobu’s “Young Lovers Walking in the Snow”.   Later, I added an ink and watercolor landscape that I bought in China when adopting my daughter, Chloe.  It also deals with the theme of weather (it is an overcast day, a bright orange sun is captured in the gray of the haze of pollution that blankets Chongking);  I bought this piece because I wanted a work of art to remind me of where Chloe was from.  I had plenty of photographs that documented the appearance of Chongking but this artist actually captured the FEEL of Chongking.

F.A.Q.

How do I know if I’m buying “good” art?
Buying art is about trusting your instincts and selecting pieces you love. Purchasing art as an investment, or because it represents the latest trend, is generally something to avoid. Be passionate about your purchases, and pick work that you really enjoy – you’ll be living with them for years to come.

Should I only buy from famous artists?
While owning a work from a famous artist can be exciting and help build your art collection, it is typically not a practical option for the majority of art buyers.  As a new buyer, you may want to focus on buying original artwork from emerging or lesser-known artists. Selecting work from artists that are up-and-coming gives you the excitement of being a part of their growth and will give you access to a steady stream of vibrant new works as the artist continues to evolve and grow.  (And there will be more money in your wallet!)

How do I know the artwork is authentic?
Authentic artworks are usually signed and in the case of photographic images, numbered by the artists. In cases where signing the actual work is impossible, ask for a signed artist authenticity statement.

What is the difference between an original work of art and a reproduction?
Original artworks are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. Reproductions or glicee prints, which are mass-produced copies of original artworks, tend to dilute the impact of the original work with widespread distribution of the image.   The two woodblock prints that I collected are essentially reproductions and NOT original prints from the original artists’ wood block, pulled by the artists’ own hands.  In Japan, the history of the wood block print is that the credited artist, for example, Hiroshige, would complete a drawing or painting of the image to be printed.  An artisan would then use this image to faithfully cut the wood blocks required for the print.  A printer would then ink the blocks and pull a series of prints from the blocks.  Both of these steps would be overseen by Hiroshige.  These original wood blocks would continue to be used to create prints after Hiroshige’s death.  When the wood blocks became worn and no longer usable, another artisan would make another set of wood blocks for Hiroshige’s work of art.  The most valuable prints would be the first series overseen by Hiroshige.  The next valuable would be prints pulled from the original blocks after Hiroshige’s death.  After that, with the creation of new blocks, the value is determined by the age of the print and is generally a decorative, and not-very-substantial, value.  Although the prints that I collected do have a modest monetary value, they are actual wood block prints from the 1930’s or 40’s and have more value than a contemporary digital reproduction.

How can I be sure of the colors in the artwork when viewing it online?
Representations of artwork online are digital images. These can look very different from monitor to monitor and computer to computer.  However, most professional artists will color correct their work so that it’s screen image is as close as possible to the original.  In my experience, actual color tends to be VERY close to what is seen on the screen or close enough that it doesn’t alter the impact of the work.  Make sure when purchasing a work online that you can return it if what you receive does not look like what you saw on your computer.

How are art prices decided?
Pricing artwork is not a science. Many factors can influence how a piece of art is priced – one of the most important of which is demand. Just like any other product on the market, the more competition there is for a piece of work by an artist, the more people are willing to pay. The size and medium of the piece can also influence the price, as well as how well known the artist and their work is.  A work on canvas is generally more expensive than a work on paper.

Is art a good financial investment?
Buying a piece of art as a financial investment is similar to playing the stock market – with varying degrees of risk and unpredictability. While there are some factors that contribute to a successful art investment – understanding market trends, tracking new artists, being able to spot the winners early – there is no secret formula to knowing the future price of a work of art. The bottom line is that you should collect art because you LOVE it and because it will enhance your life and your living space. After that, the investment potential becomes incidental and merely a potential bonus to your overall enjoyment of the work.

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About buyoriginalart

I am an painter living outside of Philadelphia. I founded the artist's cooperative, MamaCita, A Mother's Cooperative in the Arts. My mission in this blog is to raise public awareness about the relevance of buying original art (as opposed to cheap reproductions.)
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2 Responses to The Joy of Building an Art Collection

  1. Karen McLaughlin says:

    I had read this before Melissa, great tips! We can also inspire in our own children a sense of wonder and joy by starting them on a life-long journey of art collecting. My two kids each have their own personal paintings of mine which they love. This Christmas I gave Joe an original drawing by one of his favorite artist, Mark Johns. He said it was his favorite gift! Joe’s 14
    http://www.marcjohns.com

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