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Collecting Art

November 28, 2009 by · 1 comment

By Ellie Ivanova Ponti

Photo: Leo Ponti

Many people see collecting art as an investment. And it is true that its value over time will probably grow. However, building a relationship with art is really a way of self-expression. It is an affirmation of our own worldview and creativity, even as viewers. Collecting art that reflects our worldview is our commitment in such a relationship. It is an extension of our selves that we can share with others and can bring us joy and inspired fulfillment. Here is some advice for those who are thinking about it.

To build a collection reflecting our own creative worldview, we need to understand that worldview better and articulate it. Start by asking yourselves questions about your tastes, reactions and ideas about art, and find a focus and a personal point of view. Does abstract art inspire your inner thoughts? Do you find folk sculptures become part of your everyday world easier than everything else?

Do oils fascinate you because of their texture and richness of color? Or maybe it’s pop art that stimulates that rebelliousness you promised yourself to keep all your life? These are some ways to find the style that you could look at all your life and always feel enriched. Look at everything with an open mind and train your eye on characteristics and themes you enjoy the most.

In other words, to discover what inspires you is to find the art of your heart. Visit galleries, subscribe to art magazines and sign up for art mailing lists. Learn about art: read reviews by art critics, talk to artists and museum curators and do internet research (but always look at art in person, because that gives you a real impression of its impact).

Gallery owners are always happy to answer questions about art they exhibit and also give you pointers to other artists working in similar media and styles. If you sign up for their mailing lists, you’ll receive invitations for openings and special events where you can meet artists and understand their work better.

There is something to be said about following critics’ reviews and recommendations. They are an important barometer for artistic trends. They are also useful for understanding the context of an artist’s creative approach. 

But while they are a great tool for understanding art, don’t feel compelled to follow them literally. Take them as an opportunity to expand your horizon of expectation regarding art and accept different points of view on the meaning of particular artwork. It’s also useful to read artists’ resumes, as well as their statements, to get a sense of their creative ideas, as well as some background information of how their careers are unfolding.

Develop a relationship with an art dealer who is ready to guide you, but remember that in the end, it’s your call what to buy.

If you don’t intend to spend millions to build a collection of impressionist paintings or early Picasso (which you won’t be able to find on the market anyway), there are some practical steps to find art that you love, is valuable and fits your budget. Familiarize yourself with art schools and art programs at local universities.

They usually have end of year shows for graduating seniors where you can spot the perfect piece for you by an emerging artist while his or her prices are still low. Visit charity art auctions, smaller galleries and especially artists cooperatives. If you develop a lifelong relationship with an artist, you’ll not only be able to build a collection in a style that reflects your vision but also, maybe, get special pricing.

Don’t give in to pressure to buy anything, especially the most fashionable and marketed artists and styles. The most important thing to have in mind is always to buy art that you like, not because you are looking to make an investment.

After all, its value may grow, but only over a very long period of time. In the meantime, the artwork you buy will live in your house. Make sure to enjoy that!

You can read other articles by Ellie Ponti on her blog.

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