7 Tips on Buying Your First Piece of Art

Peter Hort
Jul 24, 2013 9:26PM

The most important tips for any new collector:

1. Figure out what you like. The better education you have, the better collection you’ll have. 

I suggest going to museums and art galleries and trying to familiarize yourself with different periods and styles.This is also where the internet, and specifically Artsy, can be a wonderful resource in figuring out what your taste is, and discovering artists you didn’t know exist. For example, you might come across emerging artists on the Artsy network, through galleries organizations like The Rema Hort Mann Foundation, which supports the careers of emerging artists in New York and Los Angeles.

Very often you evolve from what you originally thought you liked—sometimes it’s before you buy your first piece, because you did a little research. But unfortunately sometimes it’s after you buy your first piece; this could be because your taste becomes more sophisticated or you find that you like abstract or conceptual work better, which is often tougher to take as a first piece.

2. Determine what you’re buying: Are you buying something that you love and you want purely because you think it’s great? Or are you buying something that you love but you secretly want to be an investment? There are different types of purchases in the art world.

If you’re buying it because you love it, it’s much easier. All you have to do is figure out if you can afford it, and if the price is something that you think is worth the passion you have for it. If you’re buying with an eye toward investment and you want it to actually have long-term value in the future, it’s a little bit more tricky. It’s very important for a first-time collector to know that there are various factors that affect the price of the work, for example, a work on canvas is generally more valuable than a work on paper by the same artist; or if it’s an edition versus a one-of-a-kind piece.

3. Set a budget. In your mind you really need to set a budget in terms of what you can afford, and I would say you have to be prepared to spend a little bit more. The things that I regret in purchasing are not any works that I purchased, at least so far, but the works that I didn’t purchase. They were things just a little outside my price range but, man, I loved it and I didn’t buy it. And then I lost the opportunity. If you really love it, trust your instincts. As my grandmother used to say, true love is forever. Set a budget and be prepared to spend a little more, A, because there’s shipping and insurance and things like that; but, B, because if it’s the something you really love and it’s a little bit over your price range, I would say “stretch”. Life is short and you want to be inspired.

4. Do your research. The art world really can be overwhelming, so you should talk to people. I suggesting talking to other collectors, or appraisers, consultants, or other gallerists (but be aware that gallerists are trying to sell you something). When you learn a few things about the art world, you’ll learn that the listing price is always the sale price. Galleries will sometime give discounts to collectors because sometimes they’re rewarding a collector who’s been loyal or sometimes they’re trying to build [a relationship] with a new collector. So do your research.

5. Understand that size does matter. You want to be sure that this [work] fits in your apartment or home. I can’t say how many times people I know—especially early collectors—fall in love with a piece, buy the piece, and then they bring it home and it doesn’t fit over their mantle. You must have a pretty good idea that you have the right wall space for an artwork before you buy it.

7. Track your purchase. There should be a clear, traceable path from artist to owner, and it should be documented: save emails, invoices, and receipts. If you eventually want to valuate or sell a work, it’s important to have this documentation.

The works shown are by artists whose works I have in my own collection.

Explore Collect with Artsy.

Peter Hort