Some Tips for Beginner Art Collectors

Saturday, I will be moderating a panel about collecting African American Art at the Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center. The panel presentation is scheduled from 2 pm until 4 pm and will feature art collectors Henry Thaggert and Najeema D. Washington and their advice on collecting art.

I thought I would re-post an article I wrote a few years ago about starting an art collection as a warm-up for Saturday’s discussion.

Having a collection of original art is an essential addition to any home interior. Original art can add a certain aesthetic beauty to any room. It can balance your space or it can start a lengthy conversation. Whatever the reason, you should start thinking about developing or enhancing your own collection. However, many people who do not consider themselves art experts tend to be intimidated by the process of buying original art. The thought of going into an art gallery usually conjures preconceived notions of a snobby atmosphere, and high prices that can scare away the most art-loving collector.

You should keep in mind, however, that buying an original piece of art does not have to be a hard or scary process. Also, it should not be an expensive endeavor. Original art refers to art that is created by the artist’s hand and is not reproduced mechanically. Some mediums that artists may work in to create their artwork include oil, acrylics, pastels, watercolors and mixed media (a combination of materials).

If you are fed up of art posters and magazine cut-outs hanging on your wall, you should start thinking about collecting art as a hobby and an investment; not only for yourself but for the artists you love.

Following are some tips to consider when starting a collection:

Buy art because you like it, and because it moves you. Do not buy art because it matches your sofa or your boyfriend likes it. Remember, you have to live with it, not anyone else. Buying art for decoration may lead you to owning pieces that you no longer like.

Visit as many art galleries as possible. Gallery staff can be helpful guides in your art education. Ask questions about the art that interests you and specifically about the artist. Is the artist local or national? What is the medium (oil, acrylic, etc.) the artist uses to create the work?

Get onto gallery mailing lists so you’ll be invited to openings and special events.

Visit and join your local art museums and nonprofit art centers. Curators and seasoned collectors often give lectures on art collecting.

Attend national art expos and art fairs whenever possible. Don’t forget the local art festivals as well. Some very talented artists may live in your neighborhood.

If you do know art collectors, talk to them and find out what they know and what they’ve learned about collecting.

Read reviews by local and national art critics. Keep in mind that reviews usually reflect only one person’s opinion.

Read art books, especially those focusing on collecting art (see resources below); Subscribe to a few art magazines (see resources below).

Once you’ve educated yourself and have fallen in love with a work of art…buy it, take it home and enjoy it.


The Intrepid Art Collector: The Beginner’s Guide to Finding, Buying, and Appreciating Art on a Budget by Lisa Hunter

The Art of Buying Art: An Insider’s Guide to Collecting Contemporary Art by Paige West


American Art Collector
Art Forum Magazine
Art in America



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