The artbeat


On Becoming an Art Collector

Initial research.  If New Zealand art is your prime interest, read books on New Zealand art; visit art galleries - both public and dealer galleries; go to art fairs; subscribe to auction house catalogues; attend auction previews and search the Internet.  Learning about artists, artistic periods, media and techniques will help make you a more discerning buyer.  Viewing original art will help develop your ‘taste’ and your ‘eye’ for art


Visit galleries.  Visiting dealer galleries may help narrow down the sources from which you acquire artwork.   Develop a relationship with the galleries that display work that you like; ask to be put on their mailing list to receive invitations to openings.   Ask to see what other works by a particular artist might be held by the gallery; request an artist’s ‘Bio’ (curriculum vitae) and exhibition catalogues.


If you are considering buying work by a particular artist, seek information from books, publications and the Internet.  Ask at your public art gallery if they have information on the artist.   If possible, take the opportunity to meet the artist at their gallery opening or to visit the artist’s studio.


Purchasing. Buying artwork may be difficult if disposable income is limited but many galleries offer layby options.  Another way to purchase art is to set up an art buying group where a number of individuals (say 10) each contributes a modest amount every 3 or 4 months and this pool of funds is used to buy art 2 or 3 times a year.  Over 10-15 years a small but quality collection (developed with proper guidance) can be amassed and shared by the group members. Such a collection might provide a return on investment when sold off.


Purchasing an original McCahon, Hotere or Smither may be out of reach, but there is a huge body of work by emerging artists available.  Drawings and photographs by New Zealand artists should also be part of the mix of any collection. Original prints such as etchings, serigraphs and woodblock prints are artworks which should be considered; because they are ‘multiples’ the purchase price is often very reasonable.  One should also consider smaller oils, watercolours and maquettes (studies) for sculptures as well as glass and ceramics by ‘sought-after’ artists.  A knowledgeable art dealer can be most helpful in selecting potential purchases.

Buying artwork on the internet is risky – there have been sales of fakes and poorly restored art reported.  It is best to view any artwork prior to purchase and by buying art through a reputable gallery one may be able take art on ‘Appro’ to experience it in one’s own home or office before actual purchase.  If need be you can put a ‘Hold’ on the item to give you time to think about it or to get a second opinion.  A gallery can also provide information on care of the artwork; produce an appraisal for insurance purposes; perform installation services if required and provide a ‘consultation’ to discuss your collection or your collecting goals.


To create your own personal art collection which gives you pleasure and is the envy of your friends and neighbours takes a conscious effort but should not be a daunting task – in fact art collecting can be lots of fun particularly if it is shared with family and friends.   When practical spend Saturday mornings wandering around art galleries getting to know what is on offer – it may prove to be a life-changing experience.