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Art Collecting: Seven Guidelines to Get Started

Quick tips that can help you when you’re looking to buy art.

Credit: Jim Prinz
Online exclusive

Art Collecting: Seven Guidelines to Get Started

Quick tips that can help you when you’re looking to buy art.

Buying your first significant piece of art? Here’s the information you need to make a smart fiscal decision on a piece you’ll enjoy.

1. Purchase Art for the Long Term
Find a piece that speaks to you aesthetically and emotionally. Look at your art collection as an investment to be enjoyed, not as a short-term profit. Large gains in value or buying a mega-talent before he or she is discovered can be an exception to the rule.

2. Immerse Yourself in Art
The more art you see, the better you’ll understand what’s out there, what it costs and what you like. Galleries, museums, art fairs, and online publications and magazines are great places to start.

3. Establish a Budget for Art Collecting
Decide how much you’re prepared to spend before you hit the gallery. Do you want to buy several less expensive works or find a single work to serve as the cornerstone of your collection? Factor in ancillary costs, such as framing, maintenance and insurance.

4. Wait for a Piece of Art You Love
You might be anxious to fill that empty space on the wall, but don’t rush the process. Wait for a piece of art that truly moves you.

5. Research Before You Buy Art
Once you’ve chosen a piece of art, learn everything you can about it and its creator. Ask the gallery or auction house for the provenance of the work, which will tell you the history of the work. Combine that with the artist’s history to estimate the long-term value of the piece.

6. Understand the Art Buying Process
There are two markets for art: works newly for sale by living artists and works by past artists that are being resold by an auction house or gallery. While galleries take their fee from the seller, auction houses can charge an additional 20 percent to 25 percent buyer’s premium.

7. Check the Price Before You Buy
Determine a fair price by looking at prices of comparable works by the same artist, which you can obtain from the auction house or gallery or from the online auction records of Christie’s, Sotheby’s or Phillips. You might find more reasonably priced art at charity auctions and studio tours.