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The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Art Collection

ByNathalie Soo
The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Art Collection

Takayuki Tanaka, Homage to JAKUCHU vol.19 // Available on The Artling

Whether you are looking to acquire art for decorative purposes, as an investment, or for a love and passion for the arts, building a strong art collection requires time and knowledge.

If you are interested in starting an art collection but are unsure of where to start, through this beginner’s guide, The Artling shares the fundamental and essential tips on what, why, and how to collect art. Upon first sight, the art world may seem like an intimidating and daunting space that is tough to crack, however, we want to assure you that it is anything but. The art world is a wonderful place to explore, with plenty of artists of diverse practices to discover and learn more about. Whether you want to buy your first major work, or simply want to enhance your experience at a fair or gallery opening, all it takes is an open mind and some curiosity.

We understand that buying your first artwork can be an intense task, especially if you don’t know what to buy, where to buy, or how to buy within your budget. If you are looking for a contemporary statement piece, or want to invest in art for your home, there are many ways to build an impressive art collection without breaking the bank whilst simultaneously having a rich, rewarding experience. Continue reading, as The Artling shows you how to curate an art collection you love and feel proud of.

Carla Sa Fernandes, The Emotional Creation #291 // Available on The Artling

Why Collect Art?

There are numerous reasons to start an art collection. Individuals may start to collect as a form of investment, a means of collecting a precious piece of history, or as a way to support the arts – the list goes on. Collecting art is a very subjective experience, but it is also a great way to showcase aspects of your personality and make a statement about who exactly you are.

Drop those preconceived notions you have on art collecting – it is not just for the wealthy and famous. Many new art collectors today actually start on a small budget as they learn and navigate the art world. There can’t be a better example than Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. Once described as "proletarian art collectors," this couple amassed a collection of over 4,782 works while working as civil servants in New York City. Their collection, consisting mostly of minimalist and conceptual art, has been called one of the most important post-1960s art collections in the United States. What truly set them apart from what most may consider the stereotypical art collector is that they only bought pieces they personally liked and could carry home on the subway or in a taxi and displayed and stored their collection in their rent-controlled one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Allan Borebor, PUFF // Available on The Artling

What You Need to Know to Get Started

Set a Budget

Before you even start looking for works to collect, the first step for new art collectors is to establish a budget. This budget will allow you to decide what is available for you to buy and where. Start small and gradually increase your budget as you grow your collection, confidence, and understanding of art. A budget of $1,000 or less could be a good starting point but this could vary depending upon your income. 

Consider your purchasing patterns. Do you intend to buy one original artwork worth $1,000 every month or multiple lesser-priced pieces? A good rule to follow is quality over quantity since your budget is not a static indicator and will change in the future.

Pauline di Valentin, Villa yoga // Available on The Artling

Define Your Goals

What are your intentions with this art collection? Defining your motivation or goals for buying art will have a huge impact on the kind of collection you end up building. A good approach is to buy what you love and brings you joy. You will have to live with the art you purchase, so it is better to invest in something that will inspire you every day.

Creating and sticking to your budget is important but that doesn’t mean settling for something you don’t love. In the same breath, don’t devalue an artwork because it is priced below your perceived price of “good art”. If you really like the artwork, buy it, whether the price is $50 or $500. The more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean the better the work.

Many collectors start collecting for aesthetic reasons, for example, to enliven their living room. Art can no doubt transform a space and create beautiful interiors, but what happens when their collection outgrows their space? As art collections grow bigger, art collectors need to think about the logistics, installation, insurance, storage and conservation of their works. It is always useful to have a few reliable companies in mind just in case.

Many people think of buying art as an investment. While it is a considered line of thought, it's critical for new buyers to understand that there are no guarantees when it comes to investing in art. If a return on art investment is your primary driver for collecting art, you will have to look at mid-career or established artists which means more expensive works.

Samantha Donaldson, Chromatic Vug in Blue & Fuchsia

Do Your Homework

Now that you have set your budget and defined your goals, it’s time to do some homework. To ensure that you have an enjoyable experience collecting art, immerse yourself fully in the art world and do some research!

Learn about the various types of artworks, mediums, and styles; read up on artists, visit museums and galleries, or find artworks you love on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). When you see more art, you will start understanding the difference between various techniques, mediums, and styles used by different artists. Most importantly, you will train your mind and eye to identify the types of art you love and enjoy more than others.

This will give you a better idea of what kinds of works you envisage in your collection. You may find yourself gravitating towards abstract painting, printssculpture, or black and white photography.

Kara Yong, My bones are bored with all the waiting ; 2020 // Available on The Artling 

Where Can I Start Looking for Art?

Art Fairs & Galleries

There are many places to discover and find art you love. A more traditional method is to attend art fairs, go to exhibition openings and visit galleries. These are excellent places to find artists and artwork to build your collection. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, make connections, and read artists’ biography pages. The best way to gain access to insider tips is to speak with other like-minded collectors at these events.

Browsing Online

Another way to find artwork for your collection is to browse art online through reputable websites. On The Artling, we categorize artworks according to medium, size, theme, orientation and color, which comes in handy for those wanting to narrow down their search. If you are interested in collecting art from a particular region, you can also pick the country of your choice.

With transparent pricing, easy access to a wide variety of artworks, and the ability to compare artists, galleries, and prices from the comfort of your home makes buying art online a very efficient and economical option for new art collectors. No more asking for price lists from multiple galleries and studios with limited inventories. You can take your time, browse artworks from all over the world, buy your favorite original art for as little as $50, and have it delivered to your doorstep.

Jeon Hee Kyoung, Ideal Life II // Available on The Artling

What Should I Purchase?

After carrying out your initial research, you will be able to determine the kinds of themes, genres, and artists that you are drawn towards. You should have a rough idea as to what styles you would like to start incorporating into your collection. Still unsure as to what exactly you want to start collecting? Take a look at our brief overview of the different kinds of materials and mediums you can purchase.

Photography and Limited Edition Prints

Unique works like paintings are one-off and therefore, can be expensive. Photography and limited editions are more commonly created in multiples which means they are generally more affordable. Limited editions are also cheaper to ship since they can be packed rolled for shipment. If there is a particular artist or a famous artist that you like but whose works are too expensive for your budget, consider their limited editions as they will likely have a lower price tag but are still valuable, especially if signed by the artist. Embracing prints is a great way to begin your art collection. 

If you’re interested in collecting a specific category of works, check out our guide to buying photography and how to identify high quality prints worth investing in.


Tommy Kwak, "Chroma" - Pink Rock // Available on The Artling


Han Youngsoo, Seoul, Korea 1956- 1963 // Available on The Artling

Sculpture & Design Objects

When buyers think about starting their art collection, they tend to favor framed canvases as their first works, and as a result overlook sculptures and design objects. However, these three-dimensional works of art are fantastic additions to a collection, and make wonderful display pieces within the home. We recommend considering small-scaled sculptures and design objects, as they are usually priced to sell. Well-made objects signed by the artist can be a valuable addition and add variety as well as an eclectic feel to your collection.


Gidon Bing, Solid Man // Available on The Artling 


Kirsty Macrae, Large Vessel // Available on The Artling


If original paintings are your preferred choice of medium, there are some ways you can buy museum-worthy pieces for a much lower price. While paintings from mid-career to established and famous artists can cost a fortune, investing in their smaller pieces is a balanced way of collecting new art. You get the essence of the artists at a less intimidating price. 

You can still add stunning original paintings to your art collection if you are willing to explore emerging and slightly lesser-known artists. Buying from these under-the-radar artists means you will be among their early collectors and supporting them at the beginning of their careers. Added benefits include unique works hanging on your walls instead of replicated prints, and the right to brag about your knowledge of and support for emerging artists.

So how do you find an emerging or a new artist with potential? Start with their CV, look for any solo shows or stints at art residencies, appearance in group exhibitions, if they’ve received any press coverage or if they are active in interesting and thriving communities. Follow them on social media and observe reactions to their artwork from their followers. Remember, starting an art collection is about using your eye over listening to others. If you like the work of an emerging artist and it's within your budget, buy it. 


Kanwal Zafar, The Gold Mine // Available on The Artling


Jose Antonio Reyes, Juice // Available on The Artling

Quick Tips for First-Time Art Buyers

If you have never acquired a work of art before, there are a number of important things you should consider before making that decisive purchase.

Keep Certificates of Authenticity

When you purchase a work of art, the Certificate of Authenticity is crucial to prove that the work is indeed authentic. The document will come in handy when you need to insure the work. Plus, you never know when in the future your art collection may grow to a point that you decide to donate or sell certain pieces. The loss of the certificates may cause great trouble in the future. This is why we recommend that art collectors keep important documents for their art collection safely.

Quality Not Quantity

Buying art can be quite addictive once you really get into it. However, the best thing is to not get too over-zealous. Take your time between buying works, you might find that what you bought six months ago is no longer to your tastes. Also, remember that even if you really love a work, it is always better to buy a work that is in good condition – having to restore a work in poor condition can drive up the cost of it significantly.

Weigh Up Your Risks

With any form of investment, higher returns are often tagged to higher risks. You may see or hear of other collectors buying young emerging artists and making a good profit reselling them later – and it’s tempting to follow suit. However, we strongly recommend that art should not be purchased for pure investment. You need to like the artwork, be willing to live with the piece, and believe in the artist's career. If you’re completely new to the field, it’s better buy something a bit more conservative and collect the tried and tested favourites.

Zhou Chengzhou, A coloured top // Available on The Artling

Taking Care of Your Art Collection

If you have already started your art collection, or just bought your first work – that’s great! However, it is important to make sure they your new work is stored properly to ensure longevity of the item. The best person to probably ask is the person who sold you the work, which could be the artist or the gallery.

If the work is one that is slightly older, you could also approach a conservator that specialises in that particular medium, as they would be able to advise you on how to restore it and maintain the condition. You should always invest in proper framing: works on paper should not be placed in direct sunlight, use UV-protective plexiglass where possible and make sure that works are mounted on acid-free paper.

Sabine Lintzen, Common Ray Honey Caramel // Available on The Artling

Hiring an art consultant

Are you short on time or still unsure what artwork to select and need further guidance? Don’t fret, working with an art consultant is a very convenient option. An art consultant can quickly find a wide variety of artworks based on your requirements and budget, but they will also help you make a more informed purchase. Having a basic understanding of your requirement will save time for both you and the consultant. At The Artling, you can avail of our dedicated art consultancy services or chat with our expert curators from any product page.

Eva Davis, Mutations Color08 // Available on The Artling

We hope that this comprehensive guide thas given you all the tips and key things you need to know to start an art collection. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you ever need help with your art selection. 

There is no short cut to connoisseurship and it does take time, energy and money. Talking to artists, other collectors, curators and art advisors and using the plethora of information available on the internet will increase the pace of learning! 

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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