If you are contemplating becoming an art collector or wondering how best to spend your time, you’ll want to better understand the various tasks you’ll need to accomplish and how best to spend your time.
Maintenance and administration may feel like chores, but there’s a lot of fun to be had as well! Who doesn’t love the thrill of the chase? Our art collectors guide has a wealth of information for you.
What Is an Art Collection?
An art collection is typically a series of works that have one or more multiple themes connecting the individual works of art.
While museums may have a macro-theme that applies to all of their holdings such as “modern,” private collectors may pick and choose multiple themes that include artists, locations, styles, and subject matter. The Vanderbilts collected French Impressionists including Renoir and Monet (one theme) but also 16th-century Flemish tapestries (another theme), all now housed at the Biltmore Estate.
While original paintings and statues such as Macon’s public Otis Redding sculpture fall into the more classic “fine art” definition, photography is now included as well. That doesn’t mean that you won’t find collectors of other types of art such as video or music, but you don’t typically hear that the term “art collector” used to describe holders of commercially produced reproductions.
You’ll also find some confusion in the popular press related to “NFT artists” and their collectors. These purchasers of NFTs are actually collecting a special digital token that references a digital image, but don’t possess or have exclusive access to the art. Perhaps in the future, a digital file type will exist that actually supports true uniqueness.
To be done right, a collection should be managed properly. Considerations include:
- Physical preservation (stored and on display)
- Location and loan tracking
- Documentation tracking for proof of authenticity and provenance
- Estate planning
So a proper art collection is well-preserved and relatively simple to summarize to a 3rd party, which helps art collectors grow their collection (via auctions, art buyers, and more) and share their collection via loans to galleries, museums, and others. In both cases, the 3rd party should be able to understand what pieces are part of the collection and how they fit into the broader art ecosystem.
What Do Art Collectors Do with Their Art?
The most fun activity for an art collector is to display it so that it can be enjoyed.
Quite a few art collectors got started during the Covid-19 pandemic with middle-class art collecting popularity on the rise. Why? All of a sudden, office workers were spending all day at home, often in home offices. What better way to make a home office more enjoyable than by adding original art?
For larger collections with holdings of interest to auction houses, institutions, and the wealthiest investors, displaying art is a more complex undertaking. At private homes, collectors will want to display art where they can see favored pieces frequently and with good lighting. At the same time, care has to be given to not placing valuable works in harm’s way (within the grasp of small children, in humid areas, in direct sunlight, etc.). There are better and safer ways to hang paintings than perhaps many novice art collectors realize.
Private art collectors may have their own gallery rooms that can easily be climate controlled and secured separately from the rest of a home, with adjustable lighting to accommodate a rotation of paintings and sculptures from time to time.
On public display, care has to be given to ensure valuable works are at minimal risk of being stolen, damaged by passers-by, etc. An art collector may want to show pieces at an office building, for example.
When working with public-facing institutions, art collectors may already have a degree of certainty that risk and enjoyment have been optimized by a gallerist, museum, or others seeking to borrow a piece of a collection for a period of time.
What about art that isn’t on display? Collectors often build specialized storage spaces with similar features to those used by museums. In a large collection, art will rotate between storage and on display as the collector desires to freshen up surroundings or create new experiences for visitors.
For the ultra-wealthy that take taxation into account on their art holdings, they’re also using the services of freeports, warehouses specially designed to keep art away from those that might want to track and tax it as it changes hands at appreciated prices.
What Do Art Art Buyers Want?
Thinking about a growing art collection, perhaps held by someone of sufficient wealth that they employ freeports, what would expectations be for an art buyer tasked with growing that collection?
First, the art buyer needs to understand the theme that guides their hunt for new pieces. Under the employ of a wealthy art collector, the desire is to add new pieces that fit with others already in the collection in a certain way that must be defined. Is the task at hand to find pieces by a certain artist? That’s perhaps a more directed search. Alternatively, the instructions could be broader. “I’d like to add to my collection of French Impressionists.” That task would encompass multiple artists. What about “Could you help me add to my collection of portraits of royalty?” Now we have a very complex ask that spans not just many artists but many locations and time periods.
Once an art buyer understands the general parameters of the search, they’ll want to identify as many candidate pieces as they can quickly. A search for new art for a collector can combine both active and passive measures. Much like a recruiter, an art buyer may engage in a network they have already created to ask for tips on pieces that might fit their criteria. An art buyer might also act more like a job-seeker and join private groups where works for sale are posted. In the search phase, the art buyer really hopes that all the work they have put into networking pays off by efficiently finding a number of potential acquisitions.
What Do Kind of Art Do Collectors Seek?
Understanding already that art collectors are seeking pieces that fit aesthestically within the parameters of their existing collection, there are other considerations that make certain pieces more attractive.
A simpler consideration is the state of repair of the piece. Like any collectible, those in perfect condition are most desirable and sell for more in general.
Another consideration for art collectors is to what degree a work of art has a story of its own. For works by Renaissance masters, there is implied history, but for works by artists of the 20th century, a work that has passed through the hands of celebrated art collectors, galleries, or museums tend to have more value than those pieces that have not already been proven desirable by others seeking them out.
Whether or not a work has passed through certain hands that may add value or not, feeling certain about its provenance is critical. No collector wants to pay top dollar for what they believe to be a painting by a celebrated artist only to find out they’ve been scammed and received a replica.
Like purchases of other valuables, an art collector will want to be sure as possible that no one else may have a claim to own the piece. Has the collector or art buyer been able to successfully establish that the seller has good title to the art? ETChster makes it easy for artists to record their original works at inception as Etchings and for subsequent purchasers to establish authenticity. That process of establishing authenticity and provenance is much more difficult for works by deceased artists, however.
Being an art collector is a fantastic endeavor. You’ll bring yourself great joy by owning and preserving masterpieces by the artists you choose. You’ll also bring great joy to those in your orbit.
While there are plenty of other ways to spend time and discretionary income, beginning an art collection means you’ll also get to meet so many interesting people in the art community, not least of which are artists, who will help you broaden your perspective.
Getting started is easier than you think. You’ll find a fantastic selection of artists around the world who have already created Etchings, a non-crypto, physical NFT that you’ll receive upon purchase, so you can establish provenance and authenticity.
Start with ETChster’s free art collecting app that holds up to 100 Etchings or upgrade to the Pro version if you’ve already established your collection.