A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art - ART FIX
ART FIX -THE NEW WAY OF LEARNING

A Beginner's Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to own your favorite artwork?! We’ve all been there. But where to start?

In this beginner’s guide we’ll guide you through the elusive journey of starting an art collection: we’ll decode every step of the purchasing path – before you buy, when you buy, and after you buy. We’ve got a priceless art buying checklist, the hottest sources to discover new artists, and all the MUST-notice things only the seasoned collectors look out for. Let’s dive right in!

BEFORE YOU BUY 

You don’t have to be a millionaire, or a cultural connoisseur to kickstart your art collection – far from it. All you have to do is be interested in art, and do a little research of your own. Don’t know what to type in your search bar? We’ve got you covered with these simple tips on where to discover the perfect artwork for your home. If you want to stay on top of the contemporary art world, and always be informed about emerging trends, must-see shows and artists, we also recommend you follow Art Fix on Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter, where you’ll be kept up-to-date on all the hottest art on the market. 

Before you start buying, you have to figure out what you like first. It’s always best to buy from the heart; buy an artwork that speaks to you. But don’t ‘add to cart’ just yet! To avoid impulse purchases that may be out of your budget, it’s important you do some research first, and find out the story behind the works you’re interested in. We find there’s four avenues of discovery that’ll make it more likely for you to stumble upon emerging, affordable artists and artworks.

1. Start Browsing Online

While we recommend seeing artworks in person, in our digital age it’s become increasingly easy to get all the information you need with only a few clicks. Start scouring the world wide web for different art styles, and see how they make you feel. 

Key search terms for different styles are:

  • Abstract Art
  • Portraiture
  • Pop Art
  • Figurative Art
  • Nature Art
  • New Media Art
  • Still Life
  • Surrealism 
  • Photography
  • Conceptual Art
  • Street Art

But what do you do once you’ve found a style that speaks to you? How do you find artists that represent that style? We find that there’s four avenues of discovery best suited for finding new artists, starting with none other than Instagram!

2. Take it to the ‘Gram

Instagram is every artist’s favorite social media platform, because it’s so visually oriented. You’re therefore more likely than not to find your fave artists on the ‘gram. Following artists on Instagram gives you insights on their creative process and studio spaces, as well as new art they are working on. If you don’t have any artists to follow yet, following galleries on Instagram is useful to find new artists you might like. Our pro tip: once you’ve accumulated some artists and galleries you like, look at which artists and galleries they are following, to expand your repertoire and really get the ball rolling. And it only takes a few seconds! Grab your phone and follow the established artists @kehindewiley, @jr, and @chloewise_ and see who they’re following. 

For more inspo, here’s our favorite galleries on Instagram:

 

And Art Fix’ favorite artists on Instagram:

 

3. Follow Art Influencers 

These are not your typical lifestyle influencers on Instagram! Instead of posting iced coffees and hot girl walks, these influencers are the tastemakers of the contemporary art scene. Check out these art influencers on the ‘gram to be inspired for your new purchase: @katy.hessel @henryrelph  @katebryan_art @elenasoboleva @galeriereporter

4. Dive into Art Platforms

Art platforms have it all: the stories behind the artworks and artists, and the actual artworks ready for auction and shipping into your home! The three biggest art platforms are Artsy, Artnet and Avant Arte. Oh, and don’t forget about yours truly – Art Fix! All platforms come with similar features, including original artworks by up-and-coming talents, and limited edition prints in collaboration with established artists. This is a wonderful playground for you to find artists and styles you vibe with!

5. Visit Galleries and Museums 

If you do want to browse for art IRL, contemporary art galleries and museums are probably the best way to go. While some galleries may seem cold and uninviting with their white walls, don’t be afraid to spend some time with the art: ask your questions to the gallerists, check out the price list, and find out the story behind the works you’re interested in. But where to go? We always recommend you visit galleries in your hometown first, but if you’re planning on traveling soon, here’s some of our favorite galleries who are on top of the art game:

Bluechip galleries with several international locations:

  • Gagosian with over 20 locations in New York, London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Paris, Rome and more!
  • Thaddaes Ropac in London, Paris, Salzburg and Seoul
  • David Zwirner in London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong
  • Lisson Gallery in London, Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles
  • White Cube in Paris, Hong Kong, London, New York and Palm Beach
  • Pace Gallery in Palm Beach, New York, Seoul, London and Geneva
  • Galleria Continua in San Gimignano, Beijing, Dubai, Rome and more.

Art Fix: Wondering why these galleries are ‘bluechip’? This term actually comes from poker, where the blue chip has the highest value. Much like in the famous casino game, these galleries represent the most expensive and famous artists and works of our time. 

Of course we don’t want to gatekeep some of the more affordable and accessible galleries for you, so make sure to sign up for our newsletter to be kept up to date with the best galleries and shows near you!

6. Explore Art Fairs and Auctions

Before buying, take one last moment to explore art fairs and auctions near you! This is a fabulous way to familiarize yourself with several galleries at once. Typically, art fairs last four to six days, and the most famous ones are Art Basel, Frieze London, and FIAC Paris. Check out our Art Fix tip-lists for some of the best Art Fairs to get inspired. Our tip: snap lots and lots of pictures while you’re there! This way, it’ll be easier to remember which artists and artworks you liked when you get home. The choices are endless.

PURCHASING ART

Congratulations, you’ve gone through the hardest part and have gathered all the important information about which art styles you’re drawn to, artists you admire, and specific works that you love. You’re all set to make the purchase, but you’re still concerned about the price tag? Let’s talk logistics!

1. Understanding Art Pricing

If you thought you could escape numbers through art, we’re sorry to disappoint! The price of an artwork leans heavily on basic tenets of economics such as market supply, demand and quantity. An artwork’s price can fluctuate depending on the reputation of the artist, the status of the gallery that represents them, and the scarcity the gallery creates around the artist’s works. Finally, the size and complexity of the work will determine its price. If you’re unsure about the price of an artwork, hop online and compare the price to other artworks by the same artist, or similar works.

2. Know your Budget

Establish a budget on how much you’re willing and able to spend on kickstarting your art collection – and stick to it! When buying art online, filter the search results through setting a price limit. But it becomes trickier when buying art in person.

3. Buy from a Gallery

It is very uncommon to buy art directly from the source, so we’d recommend going through the gallery that represents your artist of choice. Did somebody say roadtrip?! The gallery gives the artists the recognition they deserve, and serves as quality control for you, since the artists themselves don’t determine the price of their work. See the gallery as the trusty middle-man in your purchase. 

Art Fix: If you do want to buy directly from the creators, pop by the end-of-year exhibitions at art academies, where young talents at the beginning of their careers showcase their work for the first time. Did you know that Art Fix discovered Kwadwo Amfo, one of our favorite artists with whom we have a limited edition print, through this route? Amfo won Ron Mandos Photo Talent Award in 2022.

4. Negotiating Prices

Galleries usually work with fixed prices that are previously agreed upon with the artist they represent. Sometimes, though, galleries offer discounts for new clients or will allow you to take up a payment plan – so don’t be afraid to ask! If you live for haggling down the price though, you’ll get better results with an art dealer, as they don’t owe the artist a cut of their sale. 

5. Getting your Hands on Rare Works

If the artist you’ve chosen to buy is particularly high in demand, we recommend staying in touch with the gallery that represents them. This way, if a new piece by the same artist comes on the market, you’ll be the first to know. Don’t be shy and really keep at it! Persistence will pay off.

6. Credibility and Authenticity

It’s important as an aspiring art collector to know the difference between an original, a limited edition, or a print. Credibility is everything. Here’s a quick overview: an original is created personally by the artist. This means the original artwork is unique, no identical piece exists. An original print works similarly, but allows for multiple versions of a work to exist: here, the artist handcrafts the template for the printing press, which can then be replicated. A signed limited edition print, on the other hand, is a high-quality copy of an original work, that is printed and sold in limited quantities. 

Can’t decide which kind of artwork to buy? Depending on the budget, you can splurge on an original, but don’t overlook the prints either. Buying prints can be a great way to purchase the work of a high-in-demand artist for an affordable price. All the better if your print is hand-signed by the artist themselves! This means an artist recognizes the authenticity of a print, and claims it as their own. Always make sure that the artworks or print has a certificate of authenticity, to avoid purchasing forgeries (especially when buying art online!). Prints are a fantastic way to kick off your collection, so head on over to Art Fix Editions to get started with your first, affordable limited edition print.

7. Keep your receipts!

You decided to buy the piece? Great! Always keep your receipts and invoices stowed away safely. Make sure that the invoice contains the artwork’s title, the artist name, dimensions, edition number and print-making process. You’ll thank yourself later if you want to sell the artwork again, but it’s also good for your own insurance.

THE AFTERMATH

You’ve finally made the beloved work of art your own, and have excitedly transported it back to your home to hang and adore it from your living room sofa everyday. Not so quick Art Fixer! There’s still a few things you need to consider after you’ve bought your artwork or print.

1. Don’t Underestimate Framing

Framing is a craft in its own right, and can make or break your piece of art. It’s worth investing in a professional framer.

2. Hanging Art

Your artwork should always be treated like the main character in your home, it should take center stage. In order to ensure that main character energy, consider the light circumstances, wall color, surrounding furniture and fixtures while deciding where to hang your artwork. Generally, artworks should always be hung at eye level, approximately 155–160 cm from the ground. 

3. Handling and Preservation

Handle your artwork with care. Wear clean white gloves if touching it, and always store it safely between acid-free sheets of paper if you’re not planning on hanging it yet. This will ensure the value of your artwork stays at its highest level. 

If you want more detailed tips on how to hang and care for your artwork after you’ve purchased it, check out our guide ‘On The Wall: Do’s and Don’ts for Hanging Art’.

Congratulations Art Fixer, you’ve done it. You’ve taken your first step towards becoming a collector of contemporary art. If you liked this guide, make sure to check out our Episode 12 and Episode 13 about ‘The Art of Collecting’, for more detailed insights and exclusive artist and collector’s testimonials, and be on your way to become a seasoned collector in no time.

related episode