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Top Tips from Collectors

ArtULTRA's Roundup

Over the past months, ArtULTRA interviewed many emerging collectors who have shared some useful advice on how to begin and what to keep in mind when new to the game. We picked out the best tips from our past collectors’ conversations, in the hope that these conflicting and at times similar insights on art collecting will offer some guidance and inspiration to any art aficionado.

On keeping a budget

Cathy Wills, a London-based collector of art from emerging women artists, is a firm believer of a strict budget. “I would definitely advise my younger self to have more of a plan for financing my collecting, and to be a more focused collector. The best collections have a set range and theme, and make a comprehensive whole” explains Cathy.

However, not all collectors share Cathy’s belief.  Robert Downer, a New York based collector, has a more unorthodox view on budgets: “I’m not the biggest believer in allocating a budget for art collecting. As a young collector it’s okay to spend slightly above your means because hopefully, your means will increase, and in my opinion it’s better to live slightly ahead of your means and then have your circumstances catch up. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to be very disciplined if you follow this approach” Robert advises.

The importance of research

The importance of research is crucial to all the collectors we have interviewed so far. Cathy Wills says: “Research is critical. With websites like Artsy and Artnet, it is easy to find out information about individual artworks, find out the prices of similar works and make sure that you’re buying at the right level. I would advise budding collectors to use a competent art advisor when they begin, to help steer their purchases and to avoid being taken for a ride”. Sophie Elfrief, Paris-based collector of contemporary art, also stresses the importance of comparing prices to stay in the know . She says: “I do my research to find out if the price is right. Often this involves looking at auction records and digging deeper into the artist’s background.”

Edee Simon encourages young collectors to ask plenty of questions and advises against impulsive buys: “You need to wait,  ask lots of questions and speak to the gallerist or the curator about the artist and their background. Look at other work they have made in the past to see if their style is consistent or not. Ask what their work is sold for - it’s totally okay to ask. It's good to walk away and think about it for a little while, too.”

What to buy

Knowing what to buy can be tricky when building a collection. Some say buying art is an intuitive process, while others believe in a more strategic approach. Here are some questions from Robert Downer that could be useful to consider before investing in a piece. 'What is it about this piece that made me stop?’ Is it purely aesthetic? Does it have something to do with the artist, or provenance? Does it have a link to existing pieces or themes in my collection? I find this back-calculation or rationalisation to be a useful exercise, but also, it’s totally fine for there not to be an immediate answer other than ‘I like it’.”

Knowing what you like in a piece and what interests you is crucial when buying, however, thinking outside of the box and looking for fresh ideas and originality can lead to unique finds. Sophie Elkfrief says:  “When I buy an artwork, I often ask myself: can the artist do something different? Can they evolve? I have little interest in artists who keep churning out the same thing.”Lastly, when buying a piece, listen to your intuition and trust your gut feeling and your emotional response to the piece: “When collecting works by visual artists, I look for beauty, originality, and a powerful sense of emotion captured in the moment” says Cathy Wills.

To learn more about collecting, browse our interviews with industry professionals here.

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