Banner: Kari Bienert, Colour Babies, (Garden for the Children), oil on canvas, 78.7” x 35.4”.

Become An Art Collector On Any Budget

First Rule is Follow Your Passion!

By Renée Phillips

Living with an art collection of any size can be a richly rewarding experience for so many reasons especially if you follow your passion. You probably know that the years of pleasure a good art collection may bring you is invaluable. If you want to become an art collector, you may ask, how and where do you begin?

This article “How to Become An Art Collector on Any Budget” was originally written in 2015 and was recently revised. I offer ideas on how and where to acquire art, increase your knowledge about art, and develop your own preferences. You may also find the  Questions to Ask Yourself at the end of the article to help you make a mistake-proof purchase.

Why Does An Art Collector Collect?

In the dictionary you’ll find the definition of the word “collect” as: “To bring together in a group; gather; assemble.”

When the collection is assembled (which is an on-going process for the collector) it brings a value beyond the sum of the parts, it creates a certain order and reflection of the collector’s response to them.

Rubin Library and Museum
Rubin Library and Museum

The most influential financier in this country’s history, Pierpont Morgan was also a voracious collector. He bought on an astonishing scale, collecting art objects in virtually every medium, including the rare books, manuscripts, drawings, prints, and ancient artifacts that are the core of The Morgan Library & Museum’s holdings.

Instincts, Taste, Passion, Preference and Study

Ask any art collector why they collect and they might say that their objective is not necessarily related to accumulation or investment. A serious art collector might say the collecting process is based on following their instincts, taste, passion, preference and study.

Quite often high price collectors enjoy acquiring objects that build a collection of works that are somehow related to each other. If the art collector is one who strategically plans their acquisitions, before they make a purchase they may secretly ask themselves how the new piece will fit in with the others they own or if it will fill a historical or stylistic gap in their collection.

These collectors will then donate their private collections to museums or establish their own art institutions. An example is Pierpont Morgan whose private collection formed the foundation of the Morgan Library and Museum, located in New York, NY.

Collect Art
Art collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Lorene Emerson. National Gallery of Art, 1992.

How The Vogels Collected Art on A Small Salary

An excellent art collection can be started on any budget and any salary. You might know about Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Once described as “proletarian art collectors,” they worked as civil servants in New York City while amassing what has been referred to as one of the most important post-1960’s art collections in the U.S.

The couple amassed a collection of over 4,782 works, which they displayed, and also stored in closets and under the bed, in their rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

They used Dorothy’s income to cover their living expenses and instead of eating in restaurants or travelling, they used Herb’s income to purchase art. So, if your priority is to buy art you’ll find the funds.

Darlene Kaplan, Pheasants in Wisteria, Oriental Brush Painting. Chinese mineral colors on acid free rice paper, 27″ x 29″
Darlene Kaplan, Pheasants in Wisteria, Oriental Brush Painting. Chinese mineral colors on acid free rice paper, 27″ x 29″. Visit Darlene Kaplan’s page.

Select the Medium and Size to Fit Your Needs

The Vogels began shopping for art in the early 1960s, at first choosing drawings and small scale paintings and sculptures that would fit in their modest apartment, as well as prints, photographs and illustrated books.

Smaller artworks are less costly and more manageable on the wall or pedestals.  As you collect small scale art you can easily rotate the pieces throughout your space.

Avoid the temptation to rush into building any collection. Take time to build a high quality, admirable collection, rather than striving to accumulate.

Works on paper, such as the painting by Darlene Kaplan above, are generally more affordable than large oil paintings. Consider the thrill of acquiring art from emerging and mid-career artists and watch their careers grow.

Kari Bienert Featured Artist
Kari Bienert Featured Artist. Visit Kari Bienert’s page. Kari’s art is also featured as the banner image above.

18 Ways to Educate Yourself and Enjoy the Process.

  • Become an eager and enthusiastic student of art.
  • Embrace the exciting world of a myriad of art, artists, styles and mediums.
  • Visit artists’ and art gallery websites.
  • Attend art lectures, auction previews, art fairs, exhibitions, museums, artists’ “Open Studio” tours, and the homes of other collectors.
  • Acquaint yourself with different price levels and different mediums.
  • Browse the Manhattan Arts International Gallery of Images and Online Exhibitions. The artists featured in our curated art program have been selected by a panel of art professionals. Visit their pages and read how I describe the art and the artist’s process. Read about their career achievements. Please return often because new artists are added weekly.
  • View art with an open mind and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Train your eye to understand the differences between various styles and techniques.
  • Speak to artists, gallery owners, and museum curators who are eager to share their expertise.
  • Learn about art history and the careers of artists whose work you like.
  • Explore artists’ pages and art groups in social media: LinkedIn; Instagram; Pinterest; Facebook; and Twitter.
  • Attend juried exhibitions assembled by leading art professionals and observe which artists won the most awards and why.
  • Read leading art magazines and art journals.
  • Visit art blogs often and subscribe to them.
  • Seek ways to continuously expand your knowledge about art.
  • Enjoy purchasing and living with new pieces as you explore your preferences.
  • Consider buying something different than your normal taste.
  • Acquire new works periodically by the same artist and enjoy the rewards of being a “patron”.  Watch the artist’s career grow.
Bren Sibilsky
Bren Sibilsky, Esoteric Promises, Clay for Bronze, 10.5″ x 19″. Visit Bren Sibilsky’s page.

17 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Make An Art Purchase

  1. What is usually the first thing that attracts me to the art I want to purchase?
  2. How much about the artist interests me and why?
  3. Does the art work continue to interest me no matter how often I view it?
  4. Does it remind me of my cultural heritage, favorite childhood memories,  or pleasant travels?
  5. How does it make me feel? Does it comfort and relax me?
  6. Is it intellectually inspiring?
  7. Will it reflect my company’s mission if placed in my office?
  8. How well is it constructed?
  9. Does if fit my budget?
  10. Does the purchase come with a return policy?
  11. Has the work of art been appraised?
  12. If it is a limited edition print does it come with a Certificate of Authenticity?
  13. Is the art work accompanied by provenance (documentation that confirms its authenticity)?
  14. What are the common traits in all of the pieces I want to bring into my collection?
  15. Am I buying the art because someone else told me to buy it?
  16. Am I willing to trust my gut instincts or do I need a second opinion?
  17. Am I buying it for an investment or because I love it — or both?

Wishing you a blissful and rewarding journey as a collector!

6 thoughts on “Become An Art Collector On Any Budget”

  1. I am an artist not a collector. Yet I found this article extremely beneficial. Artist don’t always understand why their work is not selling even though they may be extremely talented. This article gives artist a good perspective of the other side of the coin. This helping them become greater equipped to perfect their work and make themselves more marketable.

    1. I agree with Rhonda… and from the same vantage point, as an artist.
      As a feng shui consultant and teacher for over 10 years I can’t tell you how many times I had to ask people, “Do you love it?” It’s the most important thing, I feel, passion, probably in every aspect of life.

  2. Rhonda, Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and benefited from seeing the art of buying from the collector’s perspective. Wishing you creative bliss!

  3. I really enjoyed this article. I’m just starting to collect. I plan on saving this to go back and reference as I search for pieces.

  4. After reading the book written by Alan Bamberger “The Art Of Buying Art”, although I am an artist myself, I began my art collection as of early 2000s. My favorite subject being Cats, I have collected all kind of paintings in different styles by several national and international artists. I also have zeroed-in on a certain few artists whose work I deeply admire and enjoy and have bought several pieces of their work over the years. It is an obsession I tell you and an awesome way to break the ice over the social media for I share the works that I proudly own and enjoy. Many people get to see and learn about these artists and what better way to honor them then sharing and talking about their work? This way, potential collectors can directly get in touch with the artist whose work they like and start their own collection or add to their existing collection. I believe in spreading the love by making art, collecting art and sharing art that I have made and collected.

    I enjoyed reading your article Renee.

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