Longtime Art Enthusiast Anne Welsh Shares Tips for Starting a Collection

As a creator and collector of art that can be categorized across an incredibly diverse range of genres, I often find myself surrounded by canvases, prints and sculptures — not to mention all of the experimental work that simply defies categorization. I am quite fortunate in this regard, as I have many friends and acquaintances who are wonderful artists and love to trade something they have created in exchange for something I have created.

As a result, my art collection has grown without much concerted effort, but those who are just entering the art world or are otherwise unfamiliar often ask me for guidance on building an art collection of their own. While I have my own set of beliefs and strategies, I felt it would be wise to turn to a few friends who happen to be longtime collectors of fine works of art to see how their collections grew over the years and if they had any advice or could offer a few words of caution. What I found is that while we were in agreement on several major points, our opinions also differed regarding some of the subtleties and nuances of art collection.

General Guidelines for Getting Started

As someone who has been firmly planted in the world of art since a very young age, I didn’t realize that many people are unsure where to even look in hopes of discovering the kind of art that inspires them to begin collecting. Anne Welsh recommends that new collectors start with local artists by attending local gallery showings or art walks and talking to the artists whose work they find most appealing. In talking to these artists about their artistic influences, it is easy to find out about similar artists who will also be of interest.

Of course, many new collectors go overboard at first and quickly find that they have more art than they know what to do with. Instead of operating according to impulse and buying anything that is even remotely appealing, Welsh advises new collectors to be very discerning at first, noting that a collector should never buy anything unless they plan to immediately frame or display the piece in their home. While every collector should have a system for storage — flat files are great for this purpose — indiscriminate early purchases will prevent the buyer from being able to see their collection evolve over time according to their changing tastes.

Collecting on a Budget

Welsh provided some wonderful insight regarding art collection, noting that there is simply no getting around the fact that collecting art is an exceptionally expensive endeavor. This is often the reason beginners see collecting art as something they would like to do but simply cannot afford, but that is something of a misconception. For those operating on a limited budget, it is best to focus on new, up-and-coming artists whose work has not yet made it into the public consciousness and is therefore undervalued.

This strategy holds a number of benefits, including the fact that it allows the collector to make an important contribution to a burgeoning artist by serving as something of an early benefactor. It is very difficult to begin an art career, and one early sale may ensure that a talented artist continues to pursue a career in the art world rather than giving up for something more financially stable. This benefits art in and of itself, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that there is always a great deal of potential future value in the early work of an artist, especially if they are able to achieve acclaim for their future artistic works.

Art Appreciation, Not Asset Appreciation

One of the most common mistakes made by new art collectors is a matter of perception. It becomes very easy to look at works of art as an investment, and it is impossible to deny that there are many collectors who have made a nice profit by investing in fine art. As a beginning collector, however, it is important to view collecting as a form of art appreciation with little regard for a potential return on investment. New collectors should focus on art they wish to see displayed in their home for many years to come, and if its value happens to appreciate over time, then it should be viewed as nothing more than a nice bonus.

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