First off, I am no authority on collecting fine art but I admire beautiful paintings and would like expert advice on how to build a worthwhile collection. This means being true to my tastes while acquiring pieces that are of value.
If you’re like most people, you know how to buy art on a piece-by-piece basis, but may not be all that accomplished at formulating a plan for making multiple acquisitions over the long haul, or in other words, building a collection. You can find art you like just about anywhere you look and in an incredible variety of subject matters, mediums and price ranges, but that can be confusing as well as intimidating. So how do you wade through it all and decide what direction to go in? How do you relate one purchase to the next? How do you organize or group your art together? How do you present it? And most importantly, how do you do all these things well? This is what collecting is all about; it’s the ultimate case of controlled purposeful buying.
Great collectors are often as well known and widely respected as the art they collect. Take the Rockefeller collection, the Phillips collection or the Chrysler collection, just to name a few. Collectors like these are famous because they demonstrate just as much talent in selecting and grouping their art as the artists show in creating it. Likewise, each work of art in a great collection commands premium attention as well as a premium price not only because it’s good, but also because of the company it keeps.
What makes a great collector great is his or her ability to separate out specific works of art from the millions of pieces already in existence and assemble them in such a way as to increase or advance our understanding of that art in particular or of the evolution of art in general. In any mature collection, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts, the collector comes to be accepted as a respected authority and in exceptional cases, goes on to set the standards, determine the trends and influence the future of collecting for everyone.
Regardless of how you view your collecting, whether serious or recreational, there are techniques that you can use to maximize not only the quality and value of your art, but also your own personal enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of that art. Step one is being true to your tastes. This means acknowledging that you like certain types of art regardless of what you think you’re supposed to like or what seems to be the current rage. All great collectors share this trait; that’s one thing makes their collections stand out. When personal preference is ignored in favor of the status quo, one collection begins to look just like the next. A few people dictate, the masses follow, everyone walks in lock-step, and the art you see from collection to collection becomes boring and repetitive.
Collectors who aren’t afraid to express themselves yield exactly the opposite results.
A few quotes I really like:
“Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing” ~ Marc Chagall
“Art is literacy of the heart” ~ Elliot Eisner
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance” – Aristotle