Where to Start | Curating a personal art collection

As someone who gets so much inspiration when traveling, from the culture and diversity found in bigger cities, the arts, style and others––I found that sense of escapism this past year in design and art. I got more and more curious about discovering new-to-me artists––and then I kinda went wild after my girlfriend Katelyn (who happens to be an Art Advisor–you can find out more about her work and business: KD Art Advisory here) opened my eyes up to a whole bunch of galleries and online sites like Tappan that make finding emerging artists more accessible. I was spending my evenings diving deep and one artist would lead me to the next and so on. I think what was most interesting for me was that after months of saving favorite pieces, I soon realized I loved a certain aesthetic that all sort of flowed together and told a really cool story (if I owned them all, ha!). Katelyn has inspired me to think about starting a personal art collection with this thought in mind. Sort of as if your home was a gallery and what the story would tell as you walked through, room to room. (As with anything you bring into your home). The story and thought behind it is what I just love so much!

I also personally love that I was discovering all of these new-to-me artists during quarantine because I found it especially interesting to see what they created during 2020. And the pieces that I have purchased this year are a bit of a meaningful time capsule for me in that way.

Since it was Katelyn who inspired me the most over this past year I picked her brain to help me write this post, and here are her best tips if you’re wanting to discover new artists and are thinking about investing in original pieces but maybe aren’t sure where to start. I hope that this inspires you to get excited about the discovery process of finding rad artists and pieces you’re into, to bring pieces that make you happy into your home, and to think about curating your own collection in a personal and cohesive way. I’ve really found the process of discovery along the way to be so much fun and just the escape I’ve been craving!

Do some research / expose yourself to art (the more you learn about an artist and their work, the more you will love a piece in your home!):

  • Artsy-meta art site that provides a ton of info about art: interesting, accessible articles, pricing for artists, info on tons of galleries across the US, museum exhibitions, art history content
  • Social media–start following artists you like. It’s a great way to stay up to date on their careers and artists are always championing each other’s work so it’s a great way to discover new artists
  • Think about becoming a member or patron at your local museum–not only will you get to learn about new artists, but you get insider access to exhibitions and exclusive events like studio visits and private tours of collectors’ homes. Museums also hold annual benefit auctions where you can go to a fun event, drink wine and bid on art. The best part is you’re supporting an important institution and artist!
  • Graduate programs at local colleges–they culminate in an end of year master’s thesis exhibition which showcases the students’ work. Graduate programs are a great place for first timers to begin their art collecting- both artist and collector are navigating the art world together. (The price is right, they’re eager to do studio visits and talk about their work which makes it fun!)
Deck Drawing 4, Sarah Marlowe Hall
In Green and Black, Ethan Caflisch

Find your aesthetic (aka finding art you love that you will have forever):

  • Take and save photos. This will help you discover what you like and organically create a theme that unifies the art in your home- creates a cohesiveness (as you discover more and more artists you like you’ll start to see similarities in the work) 
  • Consider reaching out to a professional: Art Advisors do all the work (thankful to have such a knowledgeable girlfriend like Katelyn to tap for in this area!). They help you develop and understand your aesthetic and help you navigate the ins and outs of the art world. 
Momentum, Cheryl Humphreys

Where to buy art: 

Local galleries– go to their show openings and events. Gallerists may seem intimidating, but they are happy to talk about their artists. They welcome engaged visitors who support their programming! And if you’re interested in buying a piece- tell them you’re interested, tell them why, and ask for additional info about available work…it’s that easy!

The three major auction houses each have postwar and contemporary auctions throughout the year for first time buyers which showcase up and coming artists (ie, more affordable)- Phillips: New Now, Sothebys: Now and Christies: First Open. It’s a surprisingly very straightforward process- You just sign up and then can immediately bid online up to the point you’re comfortable with, and thanks to Covid, online sales are easier and more prevalent. Phillips now has a weekly auction called Gallery One. It’s a less overwhelming sale that has affordable artwork by emerging and established artists. But remember to factor in additional costs like buyers premium, taxes, shipping, etc. Reach out to department staff if you have questions. 

Art fairs are a memorable experience and fun way to discover / buy art, especially for people new to the model. There are big ones like FriezeArt Basel, The Armory Show, and Expo Chicago, but there are also amazing satellite fairs, like FelixUntitled and NADA happening at the same time that showcase smaller galleries. And again thanks to Covid, a lot of these fairs have become more accessible online, creating virtual viewing rooms that allow you to peruse galleries from all over the world at your leisure  

Check out online art galleriesTappan and Uprise Art are two great ones. Just be careful about purchasing art online from an unknown source.

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