Inspired to start an art collection but unsure of where to start? House & Garden consults the experts - dealers, advisors, gallerists and academics - who provide nine golden rules to set you on the right path
Rule 1: Buy what you love
Crashingly obvious perhaps, but be sure you love what you buy. 'It should give you that fluttering feeling in your stomach,' advises gallery owner and art dealer, . The vogue for buying art as an investment or for profit is not recommended. 'It is very difficult to predict price patterns, even in the long term,' cautions Wentworth Beaumont, an art advisor and co-founder of . Furthermore, as Patrick van der Vorst of and says, 'If you treat art like stocks and shares you won't develop a true feel for the material.' Instead apply the criteria set out by Juan Cruz, dean of fine art at the : 'Ask yourself does it resonate with you; does it have meaning; is it something you will enjoy living with and sharing with people; will it enrich your life and make you feel happier?'
Rule 2: Look around
To discover what sort of art you want to collect you need to look at plenty of it. Visit museums, follow the programmes of independent and commercial art galleries with which you feel an affiliation, browse auctions and online auctions and look at the graduate shows of respected art schools. A good place to start is the major art fairs, such as Frieze, PAD, Masterpiece and Photo London, which bring together hundreds of dealers in one location.
'When visiting a graduate show, give yourself plenty of time. At the Royal College, we have around 100 students exhibiting so there is a lot to see,' says Juan. 'Remember that the students will only display some of their work; you can always ask to see more. There is also no harm in an amicable discussion over price. Students are in their earliest engagement with the market so their ideas about price may not be too fixed.'
Rule 3: Do your research
'Too many people jump straight into buying,' says Patrick. 'If you seriously want to start a collection you need to train your eye, decide what you want to collect and then do your homework. Only then should you step into the market,' says Patrick. Homework might involve reading books, newspaper articles, journals and periodicals, and attending talks or even taking a course. But it should definitely include talking to experts whether they be dealers, specialists at auction houses or galleries or experienced art advisors. A resource not to be overlooked.
There are also a number of initiatives in this country that help to make the financial aspects of art buying more feasible. offers interest-free loans of up to £2,500 to purchase a single piece by a living artist. The sum is then paid off in instalments over the course of 10 months.
Rule 4: Give your collection a focus
'Concentrate on a particular medium, period or theme. This will sharpen your eye and focus your learning,' suggests Caroline Douglas, director of the . Wentworth concurs: 'Have a strategy. It could be anything from a common subject matter or links between the artists. Buying pieces here and there is a common mistake that makes for a poor collection.' Robin Stewart, a specialist in modern and post-war British art at , suggests: 'Consider focusing your money on a single work of greater value rather than buying a number of works of lesser value.'
Rule 5: Have fun
'It is supposed to be fun. Collecting is one of life's pleasures. People seem to forget that,' says art and antiques advisor William Iselin (), 'Don't be held hostage by your collection. I raised three children in a house full of antique porcelain. Caring fro such objects requires common sense and good insurance. If you are reasonably careful, pieces very rarely get broken, and if they do, they can usually be repaired, so enjoy them.'
Rule 6: Be bold
Don't be intimidated by the art world. 'Make sure the gallery or dealer understands what you like and what your budget is. If they don't want to spend time talking to you and working with you, find another gallery that does,' advises gallery owner and art dealer . Likewise, cut through verbal posturing and jargon. If you do not understand something just ask. 'There is no such thing as a stupid question,' says Robin.
Also, avoid following trends, not least because they can cause dramatic, but temporary price inflations. 'Have the courage to make choices that are not obvious, but are meaningful for you,' advises Aino-Leena Grapin, the Europe and Middle East managing director at . That said, it is sensible to start buying at the lower end of your budget. 'Collecting is a way of learning about art and making mistakes is part of it,' says Juan. Those mistakes will be easier to live with if they are on a modest financial scale.
Rule 7: Don't be afraid of auctions
'Auctions allow you to get up close and personal with the art and handle it in a way that is not permitted at galleries,' says Robin. 'When bidding at auction, it is easy to get swept away. Stick to your budget and remember the price is subject to VAT and a buyer's premium. But don't worry about accidentally bidding for things. That only happens in films.'
For Aino-Leena, charity auctions are a win-win: 'Profits go to a good cause and there is no buyer's premium.' However, Patrick advises that 'when bidding at auction, especially online, read the descriptions very carefully. Remember there is human power behind online auctions. If you want more information or more pictures, just ask.'
Rule 8: Connect with the artist
Living artists are not sacrosanct. The very well known may be hard to reach, but many others give informal talks, attend gallery openings and are open to meeting collectors. They may even allow studio visits. All will be enriching experiences. 'Take up any opportunity to meet the maker. It will improve your understanding of their work and provide a deeper connection to the pieces you collect,' says art dealer . 'Look for an artist whose work is developing. Some hit on a formula and essentially produce the same thing throughout their career. Evolution is the sign of true creativity.'
Rule 9: Presentation is key
'Minor works can look fantastic with the right frame and lighting. Likewise, the wrong frame and bad lighting can lessen the impact of a major work,' says Wentworth.
'I have never found a painting that does not look good against "Mole's Breath" by Farrow & Ball.'
'Some dealers will even bring objects to your home for approval - a useful service that allows you to see how a piece will look in the space,' adds Adrian.
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