One of the most wonderful parts of being an art collector is the perfect opportunity it presents to deepen your knowledge of art, discover new artists and art movements that speak to you, and develop your personal taste and appreciation for fine art. However, some novice collectors aren’t sure where to start when it comes time to learn about artists, works of art, and galleries, which can make the process seem overwhelming.
The good news is that researching art pieces doesn’t have to feel like a chore. If you go into it with curiosity and an open mind, it may even turn out to be your new favorite hobby. In this blog post, we’ll give you some advice on how to find the information you need to make the best decisions when putting together your fine art collection.
If you want to get a deeper understanding of an artist’s work, one of the best ways is to immerse yourself in the details of their personal life by reading a biography (or, even better, an autobiography, which lets you hear their stories in their own words).
Books that shine light on an artist’s childhood, relationships, personality and the historical context in which their career developed can be revelatory when it comes to interpreting their works of art. For example, knowing that an artist grew up with a war going on in their country may explain some recurring dark themes or symbology in their pieces.
Go to art events
If you find yourself spending too much time at your desk already, don’t worry—there are ways you can learn a lot about fine art while also socializing and spending quality time with your friends and family. If you go to an art event and start talking to artists, curators and fellow visitors, you’re likely to discover interesting works of art, movements and styles that you might not have otherwise found out about.
If you feel a bit out of the loop regarding art events in your city, a good first step can be to discover more galleries (even just searching “art gallery” in Google Maps can help you find great places you weren’t aware of). Then see how the gallery publicizes its events—whether on its website, a mailing list, or social media—and keep up with every announcement. You’ll likely find a fine art event that catches your attention in no time.
Discover social media accounts
For many of today’s artists and curators, having an up-to-date social media profile is a requirement of the job. Having these accounts to reference can be a huge help for art collectors or anyone trying to get more information about a particular artist or art movement. And platforms like Instagram are particularly good tools if you know how to take advantage of the algorithm.
How can you use algorithms to learn more about works of art? Well, social media is famously addictive in large part because the platforms have been developed to pick up on the kind of content we like and offer us more and more of it. So, you can start by following some artists you know and love on social media, interacting with their page by liking or commenting on posts, and before you know it, the platform will recommend similar artists.
Of course, we don’t recommend that you use the algorithm as your sole method for discovering new artists, as you might find yourself in what’s known as a “filter bubble.” What’s amazing about social media is also its downside: it can help you discover amazing art, but once it knows what you like, it may not show you an art piece of a radically different genre or style that could have surprised you and expanded your taste.
Keep up with the critics
There has been talk about the “dying genre of art criticism” for some time now, as criticism in traditional media outlets like newspapers finds itself having to compete with critics that embrace video reviews and have a strong social media presence. However, whether it’s an article in the Times or a YouTube video by an art student you’ve never heard of, rest assured that art criticism is alive and well.
Keeping up with critics that you like is a great way to find out about up-and-coming artists, explore emerging movements within the art world, and even discover galleries and events. Since critics are journalists, they tend to prioritize communicating about the latest trends. That means that, if you keep a close eye on what critics are talking about, you might even discover a new artist and be able to get a work of theirs for your collection before they make it big.
Search art databases
Did you know there are online databases that serve the express purpose of helping users learn all about art? The internet sure is wonderful. Let’s look at just a few that can lend you a helping hand as you embark on your art research journey.
Google Arts & Culture
Google Arts & Culture is a platform that allows users to explore works of art, cultural artifacts, and historical sites from around the world. It features high-resolution images of art pieces, virtual tours of museums and heritage sites, and educational resources such as videos and articles on art and history.
Through the platform, users can discover art pieces from various time periods, from ancient civilizations to contemporary movements. Google Arts & Culture also enables users to create their own virtual exhibitions and share them with others, making it an interactive and engaging tool for exploring fine art and celebrating the diversity of human creativity.
Getty Research Portal
The Getty Research Portal is a platform that provides free access to digitized art history texts from some of the world's leading art research institutions. It currently contains over 180,000 titles, including rare books, exhibition and auction catalogs, and periodicals on art and cultural history.
The portal allows researchers, students, collectors, and other fine art enthusiasts to access valuable primary and secondary sources, making it an excellent tool for research. The platform's advanced filters allow users to search by author, date, keyword, language, subject, provenance, and more.
Additionally, the portal is continually updated with new additions, ensuring that users have access to the latest research and scholarship. This platform’s collaborative nature and commitment to making art research accessible to everyone make it a must-try for anyone interested in the history of fine art. If you’re just getting started exploring the art world, you may want to begin by checking out the portal’s virtual collections.
The Research Catalogue
The Research Catalogue is run by the Society for Artistic Research (SAR), a non-profit organization founded in 2010 with the mission of fostering research on fine art. The platform is open access and aims to support the dissemination of artistic research by providing a space where scholars can share their research outcomes.
What’s innovative about The Research Catalogue is that it allows artists and researchers to go beyond the standard textual format of journal articles and incorporate images and sounds into their reports. In addition, the platform encourages a publication process that’s ongoing and collaborative, inviting a more open-ended approach to artistic research.
No matter what you hope to achieve with your research, there’s one key that we suggest you keep in mind throughout the process: stay curious. If you’re at a museum, think of questions to ask the tour guide or curator. If you come across a strange work of art while surfing the web, see if you can find more information about it on a research platform. You might grow your art collection, and you’ll definitely expand your mind!