How to collect art? 5 tips from art specialist

By Andrea Cuevas

What kind of advices you should listen and follow when you are starting an art collection or wanted to keep the well health of the collection you’ve already started?

Besides the very popular tips from going to fairs, hiring an advisor and have a good taste (whatever that means), here are five advices—listed from the most obvious to the most risky one—in voice of both amateur and established collectors, dealers, and art institutions, which are addressed for those people interested in make a bet for art and going further than simply buy.

Artist: Santiago Pani Title: De la serie “retratos”


IT specialists Tony and Anne Greenberg might not be the most popular art collectors in the world but they certainly have a simple but essential advice: «Pick art you can live with for a long time».It seems like a very obvious recommendation specially for those who are starting a collection. The truth is the vast majority of people believes the more expensive an art piece the better the investment. However, it is very important to follow your instinct—even if you think about as something idealistic or romantic when you are spending millions of dollars—and find meaningful art works for you. Don’t forget you will live with it for years. Find and artist or a period interesting for you and keep your mind open for selecting works from different periods.


«Keep and eye on graduates»it isn’t a common practice among art collectors as they prefer to focus on emerging artist chosen by commercial galleries. It is true galleries give the artists a reputations, mainly for those starting their careers, but if you take seriously advice number one then you should trust in your instinct and your knowledge to “discover” a talented creator before an art gallery pick her to be part of their list of represented artist, and increase her or his value up to heaven. According with the Royal College of Art in London, «by building relationships with artists, you become their personal client and will ge to hear about new works first». So please attend to graduate shows, meet the artists, visit their studios and ask them everything you want to know about their work.


«Don’t just focus on one artist» is the first tip Harold Porcher (Director of Modern and Post-war at Doyle Auction House in New York) gives to his clients. Probably you have one or two favorite artists and it is fine if you are deciding to support her or his career. However, unless you are planning to keep your collection in storage, sprinkle money into one single artist is very risky. Why? First of all, as having an art collection is a matter of investment, you can lose money by putting all your efforts in an artist whose career might or might no take off. Is like throwing a coin in the air. On the contrary, if you invest into various artists you will increase the possibilities to have at least one hit on the road. Secondly, as one of Porcher’s clients who only bought a series of abstract post-war paintings, you take the risk to exhibit your works in only a few places or shows and depreciate both the economic and historic value either the piece or the collection.

Artist: Ardan Özmenoglu Title: Laundromat Year:2014 Technique: Mixed media on Post-It notes Size:Variable


What kind of advices could offer the first mountaineer to reach both North and South Poles about collecting art? Believe it or not, Erling Kagge is a Norwegian lawyer and art collector, known for having works of international contemporary artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Urs Fischer, Franz West, Klara Lidén, Olafur Eliasson, among others. He also wrote in 2015 A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, an extensive guide—as the title suggest— to build a collection despite having a limited budget. He certainly has several tips but we choose one of the most essential: «Be obsessed. Cultivate the perfect eyes, nose, and ears». For Kagges, is essential to research and train your eyes. If you are not committed with yourself as an art lover and professional collector, money is worthless—even if you have an advisor—when buying art.


Regarding money, Eugenio López has a very forceful opinion:«Money isn’t the key neither the safest way to have an important collection. I don’t put my money on things that I don’t understand». This is hard to believe coming from one of the richest persons in Mexico and the owner of the most important contemporary art collection in Latin America, which includes works from contemporary Mexican artist such as Gabriel Orozco to iconic figures like Damien Hirst. But it is true, if you don’t love art or if you are only interested in improve your personal finances, you can build a meaningless collection valued in billions of dollars. If you are an art lover, then your interest learn about art will come naturally.


This is maybe the most risky and challenging advice: «The challenge comes from the money limit». That is to say: having enough character, will and imagination to built an important collection with a limited budget. This advice could only come from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, an adventurous Venezuelan philanthropist and art collector who has opted—since more than 30 years from now—to collect art from Latin American artist in a time when worldwide collections were exclusively formed with works by European or North American artists. For Phelps Cisneros, having a limited budget force you to find and discover new talents.