By Shemsi Frezel, Art Contributor
With 2016 just around the corner it’s the perfect time to start thinking about projects, hobbies, and resolutions for the new year. If collecting art is something you’ve thought about but haven’t yet acted on, 2016 should be your year to get started. There are an abundance of online resources and retailers that have lowered the barrier of entry to collecting art in the 21st century. Art collecting, once seen as a pastime of the rich and powerful is now an activity open to almost anyone with a computer and a few extra dollars. However, an internet connection and money do not magically equal a worthwhile art collection. Here you’ll find some general tips to help steer your desire to collect art in the right direction.
Start Where You Are: If you’ve never collected art before its best to start where you are meaning, begin looking at and purchasing local art. Visit galleries and museums in your area, meet local artist and support their work. In New Orleans there are several places to begin the pursuit of building an art collection. Of course there are Julia and Royal Streets, the city’s best known gallery districts; there are the artists who work on the fence along St. Louis Cathedral; there are galleries off the beaten path on streets like Freret, St. Claude, and Elysian Fields. As a result of its rich sense of culture, New Orleans has long been an ideal home for talentedvisual artists and in recent years, the city has attracted numerous artists from other places making it a wonderful place to start a collection.
Buy With Your Heart and Eyes: The most important thing to keep in mind when collecting art is to buy what you love. In recent years some “art collectors” have made a lot of money speculating on the market. This is done through an almost wholesale purchase of the work of an artist on the primary market which artificially inflates prices of that artist’s work. The work is then sold on the secondary market resulting in large profits for the original purchaser. This activity has given a lot of people the false perception that one, buying art is a great investment or way to make money and two, an artist’s work can appreciate in such a short amount of time. It is rare for a collector to make significant profits from selling art so keep that in mind when buying art. Buy what you love and what looks good to you. Think about how a piece will look in your home and enrich your life and not how it’ll make you money.
See as Much as You Can, Learn as Much as You Can: Building an art collection requires a good deal of background knowledge. This is why visiting museums and getting to know your local art scene is imperative. The more art you see, the deeper your understanding of art becomes, and the better you’ll be able to discern your preferences. Ask questions of gallerists, artists, and yourself. Read books about art history and the art market. If you find an artist you like do some research about their career. Cultivate relationships in the art world with people who can help or advise you on purchases this will cut down on some of the time you’ll spend conducting research when building a collection.
Be Patient: It takes time to build an art collection. You may not find the right pieces straight away and that’s ok, be patient. A good practice is to spend a day looking at as much art as you can. Then try to forget about it all the work you saw, if there is a particular piece you can’t stop thinking about you should likely pursue it. Art is a long term purchase so take your time and make sure you’re comfortable and happy about your choice.
Select a Focus: What distinguishes a good collection of art from a great collection of art? A clear focus. Think of your collection as a well written research paper with a clear thesis or argument backed with supporting evidence. Each piece in your collection should support that general theme or statement. The key is to pick a theme that can accurately reflect you.