An Expert's Guide To Starting Your Art Collection (On A Budget)
Because everyone needs art in their lives.
Here at Lonny, we think every home needs some art to feel complete. However purchasing original works can feel like an overwhelming task when you aren't familiar with the buying process or are limited in funds. But don't be scared to dive in! Art is for everyone and we should all have access to amazing works.
To give us a little insight into the art buying world, we tapped an expert for some advice. Anne Huntington is no newbie to the art world. The Colgate art history grad is now co-chair of the Young Collectors Council at the Guggenheim Museum and a founding member of the Future Leadership Council at the Whitney Museum on the side of her full-time gig as VP of business development at Huntington Learning Center.
"There is a misconception that art collecting is not accessible, but that is simply not true," shares Huntington. "Anyone and everyone can collect! The first step is understanding what to collect and then it’s how to make it happen. You need a realistic budget that works for you."
"I purchased my first artwork at auction while in college for under a thousand dollars. The work hangs on my wall to this day surrounded by works acquired over the years," she notes. "When I purchased my first work, I did not think of myself as a collector. Overtime, I’ve caught the collecting bug and sure enough, here I am today. It’s a great time to start or continue an art collection because there are so many ways to collect that are accessible and fun."
Look & See
“Start collecting by looking and seeing what’s around you,” shares Huntington. “Look up when walking around or taking a taxi and discover the visual world. Do you see grafitti, murals, subway tiles, artwork at your local coffee shop or other places during your routine? Start observing what you gravitate towards. Chances are you have an unique sense of style and taste, but you you may not know what that translates to in the context of art.”
“Take this one step further and venture into a local gallery or museum,” she suggests. “Start including art in your day to day to understand what you really see. I advise new collectors to get out into their communities and start to look — you will quickly determine what you like and don’t like.”
Huntington adds, “Be open and realize that it’s okay not to know what you are looking at. That’s the fun part about collecting — you continuously learn. Until you look and see you will not know.”
“You’ve started to discover art by looking and seeing. Now, get involved,” advises Huntington. “Whether you live in a suburban or urban setting you can find organizations that focus on art in all its forms. I advise new collectors to think about what they like or aspire to and start investigating organizations that are similar.”
“Organizations tier membership levels so that it can be as easy as possible for interested individuals to get involved. Research what the different organizations have to offer, email the contact, and ask to get more information like a membership schedule,” she suggests. “Check out if the programming interests you. Ask if you enjoy artist lectures, studio visits, private museum access, curator led discussions, special opening accesses, or more. Getting involved enables you to develop a community around an interest and start to learn more about art from all perspectives — your fellow patron, curator, artist, and everyone who makes up the industry.”
“It takes time when you get involved. Over the years I’ve been involved with numerous organizations,” notes Huntington. “Right after college, I got involved with everything from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the New Museum, which are on completely different ends of the spectrum. After surveying many institutions, I realized that in order to make an impact, I needed to focus on what I was interested in.”
Connect With Influencers
“I’m always discovering new art and artists by connecting with influencers,” remarks Huntington. “An influencer may be an artist, curator, collector, writer, enthusiast — really anyone who has a point of view and passion.”
“You never know where you may discover art. At this point, you are now looking and seeing and getting involved in communities that interest you. The next step: to connect and build your network,” she says. “By speaking openly and honestly with your communities you will learn. We cannot be everywhere at once, so listen and learn from those around you. I discover good (and bad) art everyday on social media and through emails from galleries and gallerists. Get on email lists and start following artists, curators, collectors, and writers online.”
Explore Online Resources And Communities
“You’ve connected IRL, but realize you cannot attend everything and may have experienced FOMO. The internet is your friend to research and even purchase art,” says Huntington. “Over the past decade, tons of platforms have developed and now there are more resources than ever to learn about art. Websites like Artsy, Paddle8, and Artnet and apps like Magnus are great places to start.”
Attend Art Fairs
“Fairs are an efficient way to see a lot of art all at once,” advises Huntington. “They usually coincide with key auction dates, so chances are that when there is one in New York City or London, there are also art auctions at the main houses.”
“The art world may seem like a black box to an outsider, but it’s a world that once you understand, you will realize that there is a clear method to the madness and seasonality to everything,” she says. “March is filled with fairs and auctions in New York, April has benefits, May sees fairs and auctions in New York, and June has auctions in London and a fair in Basel, Switzerland.”
“You may have heard of Art Basel — there’s one in December in Miami, which has become a massive party in and around the city, one in March in Hong Kong, and one in June in Basel,” explains Huntington. “Both Hong Kong and Basel are targeted for art-world insiders and Miami is more accessible.”
“Frieze is another big one that started in London, and expanded to New York on Randall’s Island and a third in Los Angeles,” she notes. “Another fair is Nada, which is for emerging artists and dealers in multiple cities. Each fair has an identity like anything in the art world — there is a particular curated approach. Many museum membership groups offer tickets and access to art fairs, which is another benefit to getting involved.”
“If you're interested in art, but also interested in for-good initiatives, a neat way to start collecting is to attend nonprofit fundraising events, many of which often have an auction components,” suggests Huntington. “You can often find great works of art at reasonable prices, and your donation will also benefit a worth cause. It’s a win-win!”
“If you haven’t already, now’s the time,” says Huntington. “You’ve done your research, built communities, and are ready to start. Be mindful of your budget — this can be a lifelong journey, so take your time. You will grow with your art and with your communities.”
“It’s really exciting and fun when you make art part of your life,” she says. “We decorate our homes, so why not decorate them with works that mean something to us?”