How to Collect Art

You may not have even thought about it this way, but you have an art collection. It may not be a large or a valuable collection, but if you have framed art hanging on your walls, you have an art collection. Obviously, art collections can vary from a few inexpensive art posters or reproductions to an extensive, sophisticated, and valuable collection of fine art originals by world-class artists. Most of our customers land somewhere in between these two extremes. The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about your collection, what it means to you, and how you might want to develop it over time to gain maximum enjoyment of both the process and the result of collecting art.

First, a few random thoughts about collecting art. Most of us don’t even think about our art as a collection. We just buy art when we’re on vacation, when we see something in a store that grabs us, or from an artist we find at an art fair. Or art finds us – the ugly painting your mother-in-law bought for you from her “artist” neighbor , the child’s painting that comes home from school, the sentimental piece from your childhood you rescued from your parent’s basement, the free poster you got for becoming a member at a museum. You get the idea. Most of us end up with a mostly random collection of stuff that changes over time, often to fit the changes in our home décor – a new framed piece to go over the new couch or a new piece for the bathroom to coordinate with the new paint and towels. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the random unplanned art collection. It is fun to have mementos from our trips. Having art that coordinates with furnishings can look unified and attractive. Framing kid’s art makes them feel important and records a point in the child’s life.

Your art collection can be more than just the pretty and sentimental pieces that happen into your life and home. Art can have meaning. It can have historical significance. It can have religious or philosophical importance. It can have monetary value and can appreciate over time. It can connect you to people, places, causes, experiences, artists, or ideas. It can be stunningly beautiful or intellectually challenging. The point is, your art collection can be anything you want it to be. There’s nothing wrong with having an eclectic collection, just as there’s nothing wrong with having a focused, unified collection. It is unfortunate when it is just an accumulation when a little thought, planning, and care can make it so much more. Here are just a few tips, ideas really, to get you thinking about how you can start making your collection unique to you and the most meaningful and enjoyable it can be.

1. Before you buy a work of art, ask yourself if you are still going to like it and want it in your home in a year. Or two years, or five. The real test of value for you is your opinion of the work over time. I have found that I appreciate good art more over time. The pieces I have bought only because the color worked perfectly with some other decorative element in my house do not hold up well over time.

2. Think about the meaning of the art you are considering. Emotional connection to a work of art makes it so much more enjoyable over the long haul. This can take many forms. Meeting or knowing the artist adds meaning. Subject matter that you connect with makes a big difference. Some artists’ personal stories or stories about their art are compelling. Sometimes it is just shape or color or motion that moves us. A work that was purchased on a great vacation or on a particularly enjoyable day carries with it the memory of the experience. You can love a work of art for a lot of reasons. Just make sure before you buy it, frame it, and put it on your wall that you have some kind of connection to it.

3. Don’t think of art as just another decorative element in your house like a pillow or a paint color. It’s not that art isn’t a decorative element, it’s that it can be so much more. Usually you don’t want your art to clash with your decor, but it also doesn’t have to match everything else in your home. Art should go beyond your decorating, tying into some elements of your décor but letting you go beyond what’s there with additional visual interest. Plus if you choose art because you love it instead of choosing it only because it has the same colors as your couch, it will still look good in your home when you redecorate or move.

4. Art and framing is one area in your life and in your home where you get to be uniquely you. Art can be a reflection of your interests, your values, you personality, your tastses — whatever you want it to be. Be open to something new. Don’t blow your chance to add a little something extra to your life and home.

5. Art doesn’t have to be expensive to look good. Of course, quality often increases with increasing cost, but not always. Some of my favorite works of customers’ art have been no-name local artists, quirky antique store finds, or even kids’ art. We try to offer local, regional, and national artists’ work that is worth more than the cost.

6. In general, having a few good pieces of art is better than having a lot of art, none of which is very good. We are big fans of affordable original art. Many of our customers cannot afford a house full of original art by national artists. There are relatively affordable options, however. One or two really good pieces strategically placed will make a bigger impact in a room than a bunch of boring art. Buying art you love and framing it well to set it off to its best advantage will help keep you from having to replace it in a short time because you are bored with it.

7. Have a plan. Look around your home. Pick out the spots in your home that call out for a good piece of art – above the couch, above the fireplace, in the foyer, on the big blank wall. Figure out approximately what size piece you need for the spot and be on the lookout for art over the next month to a year. Prioritize. Fill the spots first that most need it. As the budget allows, work on art for the other places in your home that need it. If you have a hard time visualizing what you need, get help. Ask a friend with taste or call us. We love to talk about art, and we do in-home and in-office consultations. We can help you look at art, make suggestions, and send some art home on approval to let you see it in your home before you buy.

8. Even if you are not in the market for art right now, look around and enjoy the art around you. You never know when you will stumble into a work or an artist you like. Go to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Stop in at galleries that cross your path. Go to art fairs. Look around the offices, businesses, and homes you visit. Art is one thing that you can enjoy, even when you don’t own it.