How To Begin Collecting Art

August 29, 2022

The art market and art collecting can seem like a daunting world reserved for those with millions to spend on artworks by the biggest names in the business. But don’t be intimidated: everyone can enjoy buying and affordably owning art. Whether it’s a painting, photographic print, monotype, or etching, the key is to choose something you love and buy with confidence.

We understand that buying your first artwork can be an intense task, especially if you don’t know what to buy, where to look, or how to buy it within your budget.

Suppose you are looking for a contemporary art piece or want to invest in art for your home. In that case, there are many ways to build an impressive art collection without breaking the bank. Read on below for our guide to beginning your art collection.

Why Collect Art?

There are numerous reasons to start an art collection. Individuals may start to collect as a form of investment, a means of collecting a precious piece of history, or as a way to support the arts — the list goes on. Collecting art is a very subjective experience, but it is also a great way to showcase aspects of your personality and make a statement about who exactly you are.

Drop those preconceived notions about art collecting — it is not just for the wealthy and famous. Many new art collectors start on a small budget as they learn and navigate the art world.

Couple in gallery space looking to collect art.
Couple in gallery space looking to collect art.

How To Begin Collecting Art: 

Set a Budget

Before you even start looking for works to collect, the first step for a new art collection is to establish a budget. This budget will allow you to decide what is available for you to buy. Starting small and gradually increase your price point as you grow your collection, confidence, and understanding of art.

Define Your Goals

Defining your motivation or goals for buying art will greatly impact the kind of collection you end up building. A good approach is to buy art that you love and appeals to you, but buying as an investment can also be a fun and rewarding way to approach a collection.

Many collectors start for aesthetic reasons, whether they just like the piece or want it to add to their interior design scheme. Art can undoubtedly transform a space, but that is not the only reason to collect art.

Art collecting can also be seen as an investment. However, new buyers must understand that there are no guarantees when investing in art. If a return on investment is your primary driver for buying art, looking into blue-chip artists is a great way to start. For those that do not have the financial means to tap into the blue-chip artist market, fractional investing is a feasible and easy place to start. 

Do Your Research

Now that you have set a budget and defined your reasons for collecting, it’s time for some more research. Learn about the various types of artworks, mediums, and styles like abstract painting; read up on artists, visit museums and galleries, or find the artwork you love on social media.

When immersing yourself in the art world, you will start to understand the difference between various techniques and, most importantly, will train your eye to identify the types of art you love or are looking for.

Tapestry artwork hanging in art collection.
Tapestry artwork hanging in art collection.

Where Can I Start Looking for Art?

Art Fairs & Galleries

There are many places to discover and find art you may love. One of the more traditional methods is to attend an art fair like Frieze or the Armory Show. Art fairs are excellent places to find new artists and get introduced to different artists.

Gallery exhibitions and openings are another way to start small. Art galleries will host a variety of different exhibitions, highlighting the artists they represent. This is a great place to start and learn about the artists, and you can speak with a gallerist directly about the artwork.

The best way to gain insight is to talk with like-minded collectors, artists and gallerists as much as you can.

Browsing Online

Another way to find artwork for your art collection is to buy art online. Various reputable online marketplaces for artwork offer a wide range of mediums, sizes, themes, and styles.

Transparent pricing, easy access to a large amount of art, and the ability to compare artists and prices from the comfort of your home make buying art online a very efficient and economical option for new art collectors.

This kind of research of different artists and artworks can be done on one of the various art and price databases. These databases are there to provide price transparency of previous sales of artworks. An example is the Masterworks Art Price Database. 

At Masterworks, we offer an extensive price index database for independent research that is free and available for anyone to access. The Masterworks Price Database comprises over 3 million data points featuring over 300,000 artists.

The database showcases repeat sales and price appreciation of Modern and Contemporary art from auction records tracing back to the 1960s.

Long gone are the days of asking for price lists from multiple galleries and studios with limited inventories — you can browse artwork from all over the world from the very comfort of your home.

Fractional Art Investing

Despite the size and history of the art market, the primary collectors we hear about at auction are the ultra-wealthy. These paintings are typically quite expensive, creating high barriers to entry. This is where the securitization of art can help make art more accessible.

Investing in fractional shares of art also alleviates a lot of the typical burdens found with art ownership, such as storage and authenticity. There has been a boom of different services that have appeared offering fractional art investing. One example is Masterworks. 

Masterworks is the first investment platform to bring investment-grade, blue-chip art to a broader retail audience. We use a special purpose vehicle to securitize individual art pieces.

With prices starting at $20/share, investing in fractional shares of art is accessible at a substantially lower price point.

Interior shot of art gallery holding private art collection.
Interior shot of art gallery holding private art collection.

Quick Tips for First-Time Art Buyers

If you’ve never acquired art before, you should consider several important things before making that decisive purchase.

Certificates of Authenticity

When you purchase a work of art, the Certificate of Authenticity is crucial to prove that the work is indeed authentic. The document will come in handy when you need to insure the work.

Plus, you never know when in the future your art collection may grow to the point when you decide to donate or sell certain pieces. The loss of the certificates may cause great trouble in the future.

Quality Over Anything

Buying art can be quite addictive once you really get into it. However, the best thing is to not get too overzealous. Take your time between buying.

Also, remember that even if you really love the artwork, it is always better to buy artwork that is in good condition — having to restore work in poor condition can drive up the cost of it significantly.

Understanding the Risks

With any investment, higher returns are often associated with higher risks. You may see or hear of other collectors buying young emerging artists and making a good profit reselling them later. However, taking a chance on unknown artists carries the chance that their pieces will not gain as much momentum as you would’ve hoped.

Furthermore, art is an illiquid asset that cannot be easily sold for cash. Therefore, these longer holding periods can pose issues down the line, and proper due diligence should be considered. Collecting the tried and tested favorite is better if you’re entirely new to the field and concerned with seeing a financial return on your collection.

 This material is provided for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice and should not be relied on to form the basis of an investment decision

Masterworks is a fintech company democratizing the art market. Our investors are able to fractionally invest in $1mn+ works of art by some of the world's most famous and sought-after artists.