I started to write a quick guide to collecting art, but there are different definitions for “collecting”, and a bazillion for “art”. Also, people collect in different ways and for different reasons. Instead, I’ll tell you how I would do it, and maybe it will give you a different impression of art collecting, and how affordable it can be. (Note that I don’t have an art collection as described below, mostly because I’m too busy making my own art. I guess you could say that I build my own collection. However, if I was not an artist, I could very well see myself as a collector.)
When I think of collecting, I think about my rock collection that I built while travelling throughout the western US as a kid on vacation with my family. I loved stopping in at rock shops and buying one or two pieces… whatever I could afford with my meager earnings. Sometimes I could even find something along side the road that I liked. Over the years, I built a nice little collection of interesting things, and probably spent less than $100.
The limit for me, like most people, is that some art is expensive, especially large pieces. However, small art is usually extremely affordable. So I would limit my collection to small pieces. Maybe 8×10’s or 11×14’s.
Then I’d figure out how many of these it would take for me to feel like I had a “complete” collection. I reckon this would be 10 pieces of art, maybe even as many as 20. How much would I spend per piece, and how many of these pieces could I afford to purchase in a year? Let’s say I spend $200 per year, and that allows me to buy four framed 8×10’s. Not a bad start. In five years, I’ll have a very nice (and very affordable) collection.
Of course, that means I’d have to find not only an artist that I like, but one that offers small artwork in my price range.
The Art and the Artist
The most important part of this is that I love my collection and that it speaks to me. I expect it to help me to somehow feel connected with the artist. I also want it to be cohesive, so I would choose a single medium (let’s go with photography!).
I’d start searching for one artist whose entire body of work really spoke to me both technically and artistically, and who was able to create consistent work on a regular basis. This is important! I don’t want to be drawn to one photograph, when the majority of the other photographs don’t appeal to me at all. It’s important for the artist to have a desirable and cohesive body of work, and not just one or two “one-hit-wonders”.
It would be beneficial if the artist is local, or at least does a show nearby regularly so I could meet him/her in person. I would, after all, want to like the artist as a person as well as their art. I want someone that I can enjoy and appreciate, before I invest my time and money.
Of course, they would also need to offer their artwork at the size and price range that meets my budget and space requirements. This is most likely true with photography, although many other artists also offer affordable small prints.
If necessary, I’d narrow down the theme for my collection if the artist’s body of work is too broad. I might narrow it down to subject matter, location, color palette, etc. Maybe a collection of trees would be nice, or photographs with the color yellow. Perhaps black and white photographs of the moon? This will depend on what the artist has available. The more photographs available, the more I can narrow my theme.
I’d reserve an area in my home for my collection. Either a wall, a room, or a hallway. Something with good light, or more likely I’d add track lighting. Art dramatically benefits from good light.
Finally, I’d purchase one or two of my favorite pieces and either have the artist frame them, or choose a matching frame that I know will still be available a year or two down the road. I’d hang my new artwork in it’s reserved spot, and enjoy it for several months. After my new collection has had time to acclimate in my mind, I might already have another piece in mind that I had seen before that I would like to acquire next.
Perhaps even before I make my first purchase, I’d get to know the artist better. I’d read through their website, subscribe to their newsletter, and find more about who they are, what they’re up to, and what inspires them. I’d keep up to date on their latest releases to see what direction their work is going, and if I can better understand where he/she is taking me. I might even send them an email asking about a certain piece – perhaps why they composed it a certain way or how it makes them feel. In short, I’d get involved in their work and build an ongoing relationship.
Not only is this the way I would collect art, it is also my favorite kind of collector. The most exciting order for me to fulfill is not the largest and most expensive, but the one that’s going to someone who has purchased my work in the past, even if it’s just a $25 8×10.
I am so thankful for each of my customers, and especially the collectors that have added to their “Tim Herschbach” collections. Thank you so much for allowing me to serve you.