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Five steps to starting your own (affordable) art collection

Collecting art...does it conjure up an impenetrable world dominated by the super-rich gliding from from wall to wall while a snooty, velvet-clad gallery owner hovers nearby?

We think that collecting art should be exciting, not intimidating. And starting an art collection should be for everyone and anyone. With the surge in online art galleries, auctions and portals, it's now easier (and more affordable) than you might think. We hope this guide will help you be bold enough to make your first purchase:

1. Stop worrying – this is meant to be fun

Don't feel constrained by 'taste' excited by the fact that it's your collection so you choose what you want to look at. If you change your mind, you can sell it on and try something else. Unlike auction houses, some galleries offer a returns service, which can help you buy with confidence, particularly for online purchases that you haven't been able to view in person. And if you’re feeling daunted at the thought of having to curate your own collection, how about starting off by limiting yourself to an artist, genre, era or style? This might tie your collection together and give it an identity. (And let's face it, there are not many homes that can successfully carry off the eclectic look...)  If you like the way a gallery has curated their collection, think about buying more than one work, as funds allow – safe in the knowledge that your pieces will look good together when you hang them.


2. Remember: collecting art isn’t just for the super-rich

Buying art should be guilt-free. It's not a frippery if it’s likely to appreciate in value as you are enjoying it. However, do tally up any extra costs that might be involved, such as shipping, framing, conservation if the work is not in good condition, Artist's Resale Right and VAT. If you’re buying at auction, you’ll have to pay a buyer’s premium as well as these costs, so factor that into your top figure and stick to it... we've all got carried away in the heat of the moment. How about creating an 'art pot'? Could you put money into it that you might have spent on a weekend away – or a case of wine? A piece of art won’t just last just a couple of days… but forever.

3. Do your research before you buy

If you have plenty of time for research and are experienced and knowledgeable enough to be able to establish condition and authenticity for yourself, auctions might be the place for you. Undoubtedly there are bargains to be had, but it's a case of 'buyer beware', particularly if you are using unregulated auctions such as eBay where it’s easy to lose a lot of money very quickly. A commercial gallery should always take the time to discuss your purchase with you and answer any questions carefully and honestly, providing additional photographs if required. They should also unconditionally guarantee the authenticity of the works they are selling. Investigate and research other places to buy too: hidden treasures can be found at art college degree shows, affordable art fairs, or even local cafes that exhibit local artists. Many people feel inspired to start collecting after visiting an exhibition or gallery – some of our customers told us that the Eduardo Paolozzi Retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery inspired them to start collecting his work, so get out there and see what's going on.

4. Invest in an original print by a bankable artist

‘Original’ print sounds like a misnomer – and indeed, most prints are just photographic reproductions. But original prints are just that: the image has been drawn, etched or engraved by the artist, who then prints a limited number (edition) to be hand-signed and numbered individually. The printing plate is then destroyed to ensure that no other prints can be made. Original prints can be incredibly beautiful and eye-catching – as well as extremely rare and collectable. Consider sticking with the 'big names' to increase the chance of them appreciating in value. As an example, an original sculpture by Henry Moore costs millions, but it’s possible to pick up his wonderful hand-signed prints for a tiny fraction of that – with a good chance of the value climbing as his work becomes more highly valued due to scarcity, as well as exhibitions and retrospectives.

Henry Moore Reclining Figure print

5. Get online – the art world is (finally) embracing the internet

A recent article in the New York Times says that last year, worldwide online sales of art and collectibles were estimated at $3.75 billion, an increase of 15 percent over 2015, according to the fifth annual Online Art Trade Report, published last month by the insurer Hiscox. The art world has been slow to join the e-commerce revolution but at last we’re seeing online art retailers disrupting the traditional auction house and gallery model. The benefits are obvious: browse at your leisure (even in your pyjamas…) and have your own ‘private viewing’ at home, any time you want. Our tip for connecting with the best online art retailers? Head to social media and search under your favourite artist (put a hashtag in front of their name, like #Eduardopaolozzi) or search under #buyart.


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