One of the hardest things to determine when starting your art collection is how to spot artists worth collecting. Should you grab the latest creation from an artist with the highest Instagram following, or the one who’s selling the most in galleries? Most importantly, how do you choose when your budget doesn’t necessarily give you room to collect a Rothko or Koons? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Use available resources to sharpen your eye for art and keep an eye out on emerging artists. A few visits to your local gallery is a great place to speak with curators and dealers who can offer tips on what to look for in good art. Regardless of the artist’s level of recognition, there are distinct signs that indicate their level of expertise. Having the ability to recognize good skill and quality artwork will help your intuition during the collecting process. Gallerists and museum curators have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to this information.
Read the market reports published by auction houses like Sotheby’s, ArtTactic, or Artprice. These sites offer reports and information on the latest auction results, lists of which works and artists are rising in value, and other information to help collectors make informed decisions. You can also subscribe to receive market trends on specific categories such as Post-War Contemporary Art, Impressionism or Modern Sculpture.
If you see an artist you like, do some personal research on the artist’s background, including his or her professional history, education, inspiration and past exhibitions. Get a sense of their trajectory and level of commitment. You may also ask who has collected their work and if they’ve participated in any residencies or received awards. At the same time, don’t be afraid to collect an emerging or unknown artist’s work. We’ve all heard the tragic story of how Wass Stevens threw away all those drawings Basquiat gave him. If you see a dedicated artist whose work you really like, buy early. Part of the mystery of learning how to spot artists worth collecting is that you never truly know how valuable a work may become. Many collectors lament waiting for an artist to “make it big” and not being able to afford their art later on.
Don’t forget the little details. As you browse an artist’s portfolio, look for inconsistencies or signs of plagiarism. If you’re purchasing prints, always remember that lower editions will be worth more, and try to purchase early on in the edition, if possible. Finally, never underestimate the power of advice. If you have a friend or collector whose opinion you trust, feel free to enlist their thoughts on a big purchase. While the choice is all yours, a bit of confirmation never hurts.