Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Start an Art Collection on a Budget

Have you ever dreamed of owning an original Picasso or Renoir?  You can do it — the answer is to buy prints.  While paintings by famous artists can cost millions, original prints are surprisingly affordable.  Collecting original lithographs, etchings, woodcuts or silkscreens is an excellent way to own great art by the masters, on a budget.

One secret to buying prints is to look for the more affordable unsigned editions.  Artists during the 19th and 20th Centuries had different practices regarding the signing of their prints.  Usually, a small quantity of prints was signed and numbered in pencil — this increases their value but also puts them far beyond the reach of ordinary buyers, especially if the artist was famous.  But other, somewhat larger editions were also issued that were not pencil-signed but are still considered to be original prints.  It is these more affordable, unsigned editions which can be an excellent value.  Please note that an autograph pencil signature is not to be confused with a plate signature; some artists signed their prints “in the plate” (with a signature incorporated into the image) but other artists did not.  The presence or lack of a plate signature was simply an aesthetic decision of the artist and does not affect the value of the work.

If starting an art collection has been a personal goal for some time or you’re in the beginning stages of research and collecting art for the first time, there are some considerations to be aware of before making your first purchase. The motivations to collect art, just like baseball cards, stamps or another hobby, is a deeply personal one and may vary between collectors. For some, the main motivation to collect art is for financial investment.  The value of art does indeed appreciate with time, and this certainly applies to original prints that were created during the 19th and 20th Centuries.  Like other antique or collectible items, their value has greatly increased over the years because the supply diminishes as many become lost, damaged or removed from the market.  Also a growing number of collectors have become savvy about prints in recent years so there is more competition for the same pieces.

This much said, it’s not recommend to buy art primarily for its investment potential, but rather for its personal appeal.  In other words, you should love the art you collect. If your goal is to amass a personal collection to enjoy, go with your gut feeling and choose pieces you can live with for the rest of your life. Develop an understanding of a particular artist or movement of art. Start buying less expensive pieces and decorate your home and office. Discover what aspects of the works you enjoy and find memorable. This insight will make purchasing art a much more comfortable experience.

If you think spending more money will equate to a better art collection, think again. Some of the most renowned collections today evolved from initially small purchases. Don’t dismiss artworks just because you feel art worth collecting should be expensive. If you enjoy a piece and it meshes with your collection or future vision, buy it. Many online art galleries feature discounted sale pieces ideal for collectors on a budget! 

One advantage to collecting prints by famous artists is that multiple copies (known as impressions) were printed, so there will often be more than one on the market.  This is good news for buyers, as it promotes competition among dealers selling the same piece.  It really pays to look around, and with the internet it’s easy to compare.  Sometimes several galleries have the same piece for wildly different prices, so why pay more if you don’t need to?  Just do a little homework and ask before you purchase, to make certain that the art works you’re comparing were printed in the same year, on the same size paper and for the same edition.  Often art collectors see a high-priced lithograph, etching or woodcut for sale in a prestigious gallery, and then search online to find the exact same work for much less.  You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by shopping around!  This is true today more than ever, with more collectors wanting to own great art prints and more art dealers offering prints for sale online.

Learn about different artists and styles of art.  Visit art museums and galleries. This exposure will help determine what you enjoy and is a great first step in creating a meaningful collection.  Most of all, have fun collecting art that you love!

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