Want to be an Art Collector? It’s Not as Difficult as it Seems

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Intimidated at the prospect of becoming an art collector? Robyn Siegel and Cindy Schwartz simplify the process. (Photo: Bull Series, Roy Lichtenstein; Courtesy Cindy Schwartz)

By Robyn Siegel and Cindy Schwartz
Special Contributors

The museum gift shop posters and concert memorabilia are no longer as charming as they once were, and the hand-me-downs from your relatives, while so lovely, don’t reflect your taste, the style of your home, and the furniture and decor decisions. You think, “I will start to collect one day – when I buy a home, when I get a bonus, after the kids are a little older, when we can afford it …”

That one day doesn’t have to be so far away. You can start today.

When beginning to collect, it’s important to remember the first rule: YOU HAVE TO LOVE IT.

It doesn’t matter if all you read and see espouses an artist to be the next Picasso or Rothko, or if people talk of the financial gain, how they just bought it, etc. YOU must love it. Your art should elicit a daily positive emotional response — laughter, joy, conceptual challenge, or simply it must be the most beautiful object you see everyday. Art has a soul in your home and it should represent your personal happiness.

As a new collector, it is helpful to focus on education and training your eye. There are so many resources to begin this journey both locally and online. Visit the Dallas-Fort Worth museums, such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Nasher Sculpture Center. Go to local galleries such as And Now, Galerie Frank Elbaz, or Erin Cluley Gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask the gallery attendant to explain the artist’s practice. Attend an artist talk at galleries or local universities. Go to TWO x TWO and walk through the installation every October. Go to the Dallas Art Fair every April. Stop by The Power Station. Or begin to look online. There are so many websites to read about art: ArtForum, Blouin ArtInfo, or Artsy. Speak with local curators, gallerists, art advisors, and collectors. Ask them about their favorite artists, galleries, museums, and how they became interested in art. It is so personal, you’ll never hear the same thing twice.

At some point, however, you have to jump in the water. That’s also when the real fun begins. If you have a few hundred or thousand dollars, what are you waiting for? It is important to collect of your time and to start buying. That’s how you learn your taste, build relationships, and develop a collection. In fact, you may even begin to contextualize those heirloom family pieces or your kids’ art. But don’t buy a highly editioned print of an iconic work that was created over 100 years ago, just because it looks familiar. That cultural time period has passed and we’ve missed collecting it. We can now appreciate those works in the museums. Instead, challenge yourself a little. Why not buy what will be in the museums in the years to come? Look at what is happening in art right now. Art history is being written and you can participate in that, and it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune.

To begin this process, look at emerging contemporary art, i.e., artists having their first few exhibitions, who will show work that is less than five figures. Websites like Exhibition A offer limited edition works by contemporary artists for less than the price of unique works. Or, auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Phillips, Heritage, and the online auction house Paddle8 offer contemporary online or day sales. Masterpiece, limited editioned prints created by some of the most important working artists of the day are also available through the major print houses such as Gemini G.E.L., Pace Prints, and U.L.A.E. This is a way in which to collect original works of art at a good value. Similarly, works on paper are a great alternative to the pricier paintings of many contemporary artists. For example, if you love the work of Katherine Bernhardt (who has an upcoming show at the Fort Worth Modern) but can’t afford her paintings, you might look to her works on paper which are often smaller and much less expensive, but still possess her same artistic style.

The important thing is to do your research and find an artist or a style that you respond to most. Once you have done that, with a little creativity there will always be a way to find art that fits your budget and that brings you joy every single day.

Robyn Siegel and Cindy Schwartz are contemporary art advisors located in Dallas, Texas. They specialize in helping individual and corporate clients build their collections by identifying artists for them, with a focus on education and context. 

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  1. Patrice Austin says

    In terms of starting a serious relationship with collecting, it’s also important to think about why you want to own works of art. You need to be clear on why you’re doing it before you even purchase the first piece for your art collection. By buying an artwork, you are supporting and endorsing an artist’s practice and idea. It helps to study and get to know the artist as much as you are able. Being informed is just as important as having the means to own something.

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