How to build an art collection: five rules to remember

The first piece of advice when buying art is to buy from the heart! Finding out what you love about original art is a process. Visit local galleries – artists, dealers and collectors can be fascinating and anxious to help you learn.

By Carrie Colton

The excitement of searching for and deciding upon a piece of original art can be a hugely rewarding journey that expresses your individuality, perspective and personality. The building of an art collection is influenced by a number of factors. Some consider their collection to be very personal, an extension of themselves. Others may seek a more formal collection that is a reflection of more focused factors, such as exclusively contemporary Canadian artists. Here are five rules of buying and collecting art to keep in mind to be a truly satisfied and successful collector.

Buy from the heart. My number one piece of advice is to buy from the heart! I truly believe that the main reason to buy a work of art should be based on whether you love it or not.

Why do you love it? It is important to find out what and why you love it, yet it can be difficult to put your feelings about art into words. Here are some questions to help you get started in this process:

Do I respond positively to the aesthetics of an artwork; the colours, shapes, composition and textures?

Is it well designed and crafted?

How does it make me feel: happy, nostalgic, impassioned, relaxed…?

Does it remind me of my own history and life stories?

Do I like it for the ideas it communicates?

Does it reflect or inform my perspective on some aspect of a subject or my life?

Does it portray or present ideas, styles, techniques or materials in new and interesting ways?

Take your time and do some research. Finding out why and what you love about original art is a process so take your time and do some research. Start following the Instagram accounts of artists and art galleries and visit local galleries that can answer your questions. Make this a fun process of discovery! The people you will meet–artists, dealers, collectors–are generally fascinating, passionate, often eccentric and typically generous with their time and anxious to help you learn.

Other factors to consider. After the emotive qualities of the piece, you can also consider the artwork’s medium, technique, whether it is an original or a part of an edition and the artist, as these factors all affect the price of an artwork.

The rarity of a piece will greatly impact the price. A print edition that is one of 100 will be priced significantly lower than a piece that is one of a kind. The medium of the piece will contribute to the pricing as well; for instance a work on canvas is often more valuable than one on paper. The value of an artwork is also greatly impacted by the artist’s career. A sought-after, well established artist will be priced much higher than an emerging artist who is just starting to exhibit their work. Their reputation will be amplified by the gallery. A reputable gallery provides you with a guarantee of the value of your art purchase. Art galleries are built by the discerning tastes of their curators or directors, providing the gallery with a personality that can help you find artwork that you are seeking. For example, some galleries may be more contemporary with a variety of media, while others may be more traditional or exclusive to one medium. A good gallery will partner with you in helping you learn about and find the artwork you will love.

Considering budgets. Certainly an unavoidable and determining factor in building an art collection will be your budget. Setting a budget and understanding what you are comfortable spending on art will be an immense help whether you are deliberately building an art collection or just looking here and there to buy a piece that you love. If you fall in love with a piece it is okay to splurge if you are able to, but the last thing you want to experience is buyer’s remorse over something that should bring you joy and pride.

These five base elements to building a collection can strengthen your collection, provide insight and add greatly to the pleasure of finding and purchasing art you will love.

Carrie Colton is a designer and art advisor and is the director of the Studio Sixty Six gallery. She can be reached at 613-355-0359 or

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