14 affordable ways to start your own art collection

Would you like to have an art collection, without breaking the bank?

Jump in!  If we wait until we have a fortune to buy original masterworks at Christie’s, then we might never get around to it.  There’s an energy about beginning to engage, not just standing back.

Here are 14 ways to begin.  There are 7 summary tips (fuller details here) from the staff who bring you the huge summer bonanza of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in London – and a further 7 tips from myself.

In summary:

  1. Trust your instinct
  2. Use Instagram to follow your favourite artists
  3. Buy original prints (more affordable) – try small independent galleries
  4. Buy graduate works at end of year shows
  5. Keep framing simple
  6. Act like a curator – move works around house to find best layout
  7. Rest pieces – when you get tired of them, store them for a while, then revisit
  8. If you have the heart and interest, make a resolution to start collecting what you can afford, get a list of current exhibitions near you and nationally – and start visiting in person or online
  9. Go to exhibitions, buy something, even if it’s just a few postcards, frame and display close together in your house.  (Small pieces grouped together make more impact than widely spaced apart).
  10. At an exhibition you like, buy a set of writing cards – use them for the next occasions when you’re sending cards.  They tend to be blank inside, so useful for whichever event crops up.  (Saves running around at the last minute, trying to find the perfect card for baby arrival, birthday, leaving do, get well card, thank you note etc)
  11. Similarly, visit the gallery giftshop to buy postcards to send short messages to friends interested in art.  Your eye is trained in the choosing, and perhaps they will send you postcards of exhibitions they visit.  A postcard will have details of the work and artist on the back.
  12. Mini mini exhibition – a friend buys a fridge magnet for exhibitions she visits at large galleries – her fridge is a reminder of amazing experiences, cheaply and easily collected.
  13. Can’t afford to go and visit an exhibition in a faraway city?  Buy the exhibition catalogue – major exhibitions produce a book of serious essays and art history, among pictures of what is on show.  It’s not the same as visiting – but better than always thinking with disappointment that you missed it completely.  A book produced for an exhibition will have a short print run, so buy early, around the time the exhibition opens.
  14. When a major exhibition of an artist or style is on in the capital city, get a Sunday newspaper with a review of it, for a lengthy, knowledgeable writeup.

All of these tips above will get your eyes evaluating, and your brain learning information about what you’re looking at.  When I visit a gallery with a friend, we play “So which ONE artwork would you like to take home with you?”  As you play this game, you’re not spending money, but training the thought processes and developing your own taste.  And it’s fun.

The most fantastic thing about all of this is that you only have yourself to please.  Have you ever walked into a large gallery and loved absolutely everything?  Probably not, but you can do, at home.  And because you don’t have famous originals, you don’t have to engage private security or maintain temperature controlled rooms etc.

Creative Challenge

Curate an exhibition this month.  Find out which shows/exhibitions are on, of interest. Pick a theme – may be the same as one of the exhibitions.  Plan.  Show it to a friend/group of friends.  Challenge yourself to find new resources – perhaps accompanying poems.  Go with what genuinely interests you.

Simple: collate and show online, perhaps via your blog or Pinterest?

Real: buy postcards or posters

Three dimensional: pick a room in your house and display the pictures or objects within it.  Invite friends around to see.



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