Photo Courtesy Touchstone Gallery

Art Collecting 101

Buying art is possible on any budget. Not sure where to start? Here's some expert advice to help you get the hang of it.

For Arts Sake

It’s easier than ever to buy one-of-a-kind works—if you know where to go and what to ask

By Sophie Gilbert

When Herbert and Dorothy Vogel bought their first piece of art in 1962, they were unlikely candidates to become great collectors. Herbert, who died last year, was a postal clerk, Dorothy a librarian. They lived in a modest one-bedroom in New York on city-employee salaries. But they amassed one of the most significant collections of modern art, later bequeathed to the National Gallery of Art. What they lacked in income they made up for with an obsessive devotion to seeking out new, exciting work.

The lesson from the Vogels is that owning good art is possible for almost anyone.

Keep Reading

Buy What You Love

Plus other do’s and don’ts from seasoned collectors

Don’t . . .

make impulsive decisions or buy something unless you really love it Galleries will usually put something on hold if you want to think it over. But don’t wait until it’s too late, either. “I encourage collectors to buy with their heads and their hearts,” says Shira Kraft of Hemphill Fine Arts. “If you feel it in your gut, do what you can to acquire that work.”

buy something just because you think it’s a good investment you can flip in a few years If you get stuck with it and you don’t love it, it’s yours for the long term.

buy something because it matches your home decor Chances are in ten years you’ll still have the art but your couch/wallpaper/throw pillows will have changed.

be intimidated or afraid to have an opinion There’s no such thing as right and wrong when it comes to art. “Everybody has a different vision,” says Leigh Conner of ConnerSmith gallery.

be afraid to ask for a discount Galleries usually will take 10 to 15 percent off if you pay cash. But don’t lowball an offer: The price you pay can affect the long-term value of that artist.

Do . . .

think about where you’re going to put something “Most artworks shouldn’t be placed in locations where they get a lot of light,” says art consultant Jean Efron.

be open-minded “Viewing artworks in galleries and museums is the best way to reveal likes and dislikes,” Kraft says. “New collectors might be surprised to find themselves gravitating toward styles they never would have considered.”

pay attention to technique “When you take in more art and go to different openings and study it, you’ll develop an eye to discern what’s good technique versus what’s not,” says consultant and collector Schwanda Rountree.

be careful which framer you use One who is inexperienced can use the wrong types of materials and devalue an artwork. Ask galleries which framers they recommend.

know your budget Set an amount you want to spend. That said, if you fall in love with a piece and it’s close to your range, don’t rule it out if it’s a smart purchase.

Click and Ship?

You can find good art online—if you know where to look

The news this summer that Amazon is expanding into selling fine art has thrown the art world into something of a tizzy. Buying works over the internet has its pros (prices are easily available, and there are a huge number of pieces to browse through) as well as cons (you’re buying something you’ve never seen in person and whose origins you may know little about), but here are some sites worth scouting.

Billed as offering “insider access to the world’s best art,” this site sells work by big names such as Anish Kapoor, Andy Warhol, Chuck Close, and Rachel Whiteread. Prices range from less than $200 to $1 million-plus.

Nadya Sagner of the local art consultancy Blue Locket recommends this online arts-and-crafts staple because you can buy one-of-a-kind but inexpensive works directly from artists.

A curated online gallery founded by business and art-history students at the University of Arizona, it sells works by new and established artists—and even has free shipping.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Posted at 05:24 PM/ET, 10/15/2013 RSS | Permalink | Guides