Where do you start? Of all, a collection should begin with love. A love for an artist’s work, a love for dedication, for history, for knowledge, for expression and yes, even a love for money. There's no denying that for some collectors, money is the name of the game — for others, however, it’s more valuable than that. "I think a life without culture – and art belongs to culture – is a life not worth living," states Thomas Olbricht, a collector of curiosities at the me Collectors Room in Berlin. He continues, "I was just really starting to be interested in old things, seeing the craftwork, asking myself, how could they do that?"
Choosing a piece to buy can be tricky business. Art follows a trend, but does that mean you have to? Berlin gallerist Michaela Helfrich, for instance, goes on instinct: "You should get goosebumps…it should fascinate you, make you stop in your tracks." Can't afford it, you say? Don't stress it, just cut out your 3 a.m. kebab for a few months; art is becoming more and more affordable with artists recognizing this beginners market.
Russian photographer and collector Lucia Ganieva, for example, without a thematic focus other than that which catches her eye, has merely eight pieces of art in her house (so far). She buys them with the help of her husband and hangs them not in an archive like Olbricht, but simply in her own living room. You see, the space is not really an issue, so what’s stopping you? Is it the fear of skulking around dead silent galleries, not sure if those glasses of white wine sitting there are free? Fear not, you can keep your pajamas on now with the rise of online galleries!
"Everyone is an artist," is the famous dictum of Joseph Beuys, but when we sat down to talk with Euphemia v. Kaler from Curart, an online art gallery, she similarly expressed that "everyone can be a collector!" Of course, she's referring to the accessibility offered by the internet, from buying a t-shirt to buying a work of art – all from the comfort of home. Who knew being a collector could be this easy? Or perhaps you’ve ventured out into this scary art world in your freshly ironed pants and find a fresh, original up-and-comer's work with the wow factor. You proudly return with your investment, hang it straight away on that lonely bare wall and voila! The question is: are you a collector now?
Collector City, Population: You
The simple answer is: yes. This is the start; the first step on a long shaky ladder to the land of ‘The Collectors.’ It will take time, and yes some money. Here are some tips: build relationships with the artists you appreciate and find similar artists in the genre you’re interested in. Art is not about being told what to do, art is about acknowledging to yourself what you like. It can be hard not to get swept up in the constant barrage of hype and speculation. Take time to see yourself reflected in your purchases and don’t focus on the money. Take for example Estonian photographer and collector Liisa Kivi, who buys art from friends: "I know the story behind it, I watch it grow and so it grows on me. After sometime, I have to buy it even though it costs more than I can afford."
Time has passed and you've become a veteran; collecting art is second nature. You drink white wine in galleries (it was free after all!). You browse new works online with your smartphone and artists welcome you into their studios like a cool summer breeze. You look back at where it all started, that first piece, the one that you sacrificed four months of U-Bahn for. And now, years later, you realize ‘Holy crap, it's worth more than my apartment,’ so you lift the work ever so gently from the wall, ready to wrap it up and ship it off to the auction house. Yet, something is missing; the wall is bare and alone again.
That decision has been with you so long, like your first love's midnight kiss; it’s something you will never forget. So you hang it back up where it belongs. Your investment was a flop – you're too attached to the work now. So you may still not be a millionaire, but at least if anyone asks, you can proudly say: "Ya, I’m an art collector."
Article by Tristan Boisvert
Editor's note: This article originally appeared on artparasites in July, 2013. Don't miss these other great how-to's: