Blum and Poe Booth at Frieze NY

The challenges of a new art collection

Starving artist? Try starving collector.

About a year ago, I made the decision to begin collecting art. While I have not looked back – and don’t tell my parents this – I have certainly skipped a meal or two to save up towards the paintings that hang in my room today. The emergence of social media in the past ten years has helped democratize art in ways previously never before seen. Alongside Instagram posts of Ramen burgers and cereal ice cream, the occasional Snapchat in an art gallery has made its way into being trendy. With this increased accessibility, art collecting has also widened its reach and is no longer a hobby strictly reserved for the old and rich.

There are several “guides” to beginning collecting that discuss the unwritten rules of collecting, where to buy your first painting, and getting that coveted art fair VIP card. This is not one of those guides. Rather, I have laid out what I have learned to be important traits for a new collector as well as tips before you take the plunge. I am by no means an expert art collector, but I hope to share my insights to inspire and guide those embarking on this lifelong journey.

Eddie Martinez at Mitchell-Innes and NashIN THE PHOTO: ARTWORK BY EDDIE MARTINEZ AT MITCHELL-INNES AND NASH GALLERY PHOTO CREDIT: IMPAKTER/GARY YEH

1. Knowledge Is Key

Read exhibition reviews, press releases, artist interviews and fully immerse yourself in art. Only by knowing the type of art that currently exists on the market and what existed before can you judge the originality and worth of a new artwork. There are countless artists who are trending one year and quickly die out the next because the work itself was never able to sustain the hype. Feel free to listen to art advisers and gallerists, but also understand they make a living by selling art. Use people for their knowledge but acquire a work based on your own feelings. Oh, and of course, do not forget to see art in person. The experience of seeing far outweighs any sort of research on paper.


Related article:MILAN AND MIART, BOOMING CONTEMPORARY ART


Peter Mohall, Untitled, 2014IN THE PHOTO: PETER MOHALL, “UNTITLED,” 2014 PHOTO CREDIT: PETER MOHALL

2. Confidence Takes Years To Attain.

Personally, the most difficult aspect of collecting art is trusting your own taste. The first painting I bought was by an artist who had no gallery representation. That decision was a little reckless but instinctual and the painting still hangs as my favorite piece to date. On the other hand, when I bought for the wrong reasons and had hesitations from the start, one of those paintings is now – dare I say it – a burden. No collector has the perfect eye, so embrace the fact that half the fun of art collecting is buying work that not everyone will enjoy. Collections of well-curated and diverse work will always be more stimulating than a collection of only Warhols.

3. Before Acquiring Your First Artwork, Wait A Full Year

There are only a handful of artists that I was seriously considering collecting last year that I am still considering now. The truth is that tastes change. It is impossible to discover your likes and dislikes only three months after deciding to collect art. Art can be pricey so it is better to make smart acquisitions than emotional ones. There is no need to worry that prices are going to skyrocket or that you will miss out on a good buying opportunity. If an artist has staying power, you will still be getting a bargain one year later compared to where the artist’s work might be ten years from now.


For a full mindmap containing additional related articles and photos, visit #ContemporaryArt 


IMG_7479IN THE PHOTO: ARTWORK BY PHILIP GUSTON AT HAUSER & WIRTH GALLERY, PHOTO CREDIT: IMPAKTER/GARY YEH

4. Having Limited Funds Is Actually A Huge Advantage

While that may sound counter-intuitive, collecting on a tight budget forces you to think through every acquisition as if it is your last. My greatest struggle as a collector today is sifting through my wish list of artists. I have yet to acquire a new work this year because of the challenges associated with timing acquisitions according to how I think each artist will develop relative to each other. This slower approach, however, naturally helps weed out good works from great ones. Each new piece holds significantly more weight within a small collection because it can completely enhance or alter the context of the other works. Developing the eye of a curator at the onset thus makes for well-thought-out and disciplined collecting behavior.

5. Instagram Is Your Own Private Viewing Room

Normally, I would suggest waiting to see an artwork in person before purchasing, but I broke that rule on day one. I purchased my first painting after seeing the piece on the artist’s Instagram feed. While not a conventional method of viewing art, social media is a powerful tool to see hundreds of images on the go. As more and more artists embrace Instagram to display artwork, these digital platforms supplement gallery exhibitions by providing a more comprehensive look at all the art being produced. Instagram is also a useful resource for staying informed on the latest museum and gallery shows.

Joe ReihsenIN THE PHOTO: JOE REIHSEN, “I THINK YOU REMEMBER ME TOO,” 2015, PHOTO CREDIT: IMPAKTER/GARY YEH

6. Art Does Not Discriminate

There has never been a more opportune time to begin collecting art. An influx of online art startups has helped create an environment where anyone and everyone can collect. In the traditional gallery circuit, while there will always be waitlists for hot artists and some dealers that cater only to the posh collector, approaching art with genuine interest is guaranteed to return positively. At the end of the day, artists want their work in the hands of people who will enjoy the art and pass it on to an institution years down the road. No matter the age or the background, I have quickly learned that the best conversations and relationships grow out of art for art’s sake.

Now get collecting! Well, wait a year first.

Wanna talk art? Send me an email at [email protected] or find me on Instagram @ArtDrunk.


Recommended reading: “DAVID BOWIE ART COLLECTION REVEALED FOR THE FIRST TIME


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EDITOR’S NOTE: OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE  BY IMPAKTER.COM COLUMNISTS ARE THEIR OWN, NOT THOSE OF IMPAKTER.COM.
FEATURED IMAGE: BLUM AND POE BOOTH AT FRIEZE NY 2016 PHOTO CREDIT: GARY YEH/IMPAKTER
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  1. Claude Forthomme

    Excellent advice! And it’s so nice to see advice from an art collector collecting art on the basis of his/her likes and not as an investment! Because all the great collectors in History were art lovers, and that is surely exactly where you need to start.

    One small point: Instagram is a great place to find new (and not so new) artists but (in my view) it’s terribly important to resist the urge to buy on the basis of a digital picture. Why? Because you are missing two important aspects of a work of art that no digital picture can do justice to (at least for now – perhaps if we even get an Instagram of Virtual Reality, that will change), and those aspects are: (1) texture (of the materials used, oil, cloth, steel rods, whatever) and (2) the amount of space occupied by the work of art. Both these things are important to gauge the visual impact of a work of art…

    • Gary Yeh

      Claude, I completely agree that it’s important to resist that urge to buy art on the basis of a digital picture. That first painting I bought – which I mention was quite the reckless decision! – was bought after seeing it on Instagram. Given that it is a six foot painting, there were challenges in getting a sense of its size and the best that I could do was just measure out a space on my floor.

      Moving forward, I still wouldn’t hesitate too much to purchase a piece off a digital image, but that is on the one major condition that I have previously seen the artist’s work in person and am familiar with the nuances to that particular series.

      Thanks for the read!


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