Where to Start When Collecting Fine Art and Common Rookie Mistakes

Where to Start When Collecting Fine Art and Common Rookie Mistakes

Fine art collection is often perceived as a pastime or investment strategy reserved for the wealthiest of the wealthy, out of reach for those of more average means. Part of that reputation may come from the seemingly indecipherable nature of the art market, where abstract installations like this famous one involving a banana leave many people scratching their heads. 

But we’re here to tell you that anyone with a passion for fine art can become a collector, even with a modest budget. And, what’s more, the process that leads to the acquisition of new pieces can be just as mind expanding and satisfying as admiring the work of art once it’s in your home. 

If you’re ready to dive into the wonderful world of fine art, here are some suggestions to help you know where to begin and which mistakes to avoid in order to get your art collection journey started off on the right foot. 

Educate yourself on fine art 

Well, that sounds a bit intimidating. If you’re a bookworm, maybe you’ve already grabbed your copy of History of Modern Art and are flipping to the page where you left off. But if that’s not your style, no worries. The point is to research contemporary art with the goal of discovering artists, mediums and styles that speak to you. Below are a few of the ways you can do that: 

Visit museums and galleries

Going to museums and galleries is an ideal way to immerse yourself in the world of fine art, and it can also be a fun social activity if you invite a friend to join you. Seeing the works of art in person allows you to fully appreciate details such as the texture and brushstrokes. If there are guided tours available, be sure to take one to gain a deeper understanding of the artwork on display. 


Man and two women observing fine art in a gallery


Explore art websites, social media accounts and online marketplaces

There are plenty of websites and social media accounts that offer a wealth of information on artists, fine art movements and current exhibitions. Oftentimes the artists themselves are active on platforms like Instagram, where they showcase their work and even share behind-the-scenes glimpses at their creative process, which can be fascinating for collectors. 

Read books and articles 

Reading books or articles is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of a particular artist, movement, or fine art technique that interests you. By analyzing and interpreting artwork through the lens of various art critics and historians, you’ll also begin to form your own opinions and perspectives on art, which is fundamental when it comes to making purchasing decisions. 

Establish your intentions 

Some fine art collectors like to start off by just acquiring works that they love, without deciding on an overarching theme that unifies their collection. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if your goal is to create a collection with a lot of coherence, you should decide on the logic it will have beforehand to avoid spending too much of your budget on art pieces that will seem out of place. 


Some questions you can ask yourself to help define your intentions are: Do I want to create a comprehensive collection, with multiple genres and mediums, or a more limited collection? Will I display the works of art in a public space or a private residence? And, most importantly: Is there one artistic style or movement that stands out to me as particularly inspiring? 

Define your budget 

Not defining a clear budget is a common mistake that rookie art buyers make, as well as failing to identify their intentions for the collection. As you may expect, the two factors go hand in hand. You may want to first think about your dream collection—how would it look if money was no object? Then set a realistic budget and, if necessary, adjust your vision accordingly. 


Taking the aforementioned steps before buying fine art will make a huge difference in how positive your initial experience as a collector will be, since you’ll be able to focus your efforts and better invest both your time and money. The end result will be a collection that truly reflects your unique tastes and goals. 

Make space for your work of art 

Another mistake that rookie collectors often make is not giving enough thought to how they’ll display and care for their artwork after they take it home. 


When deciding where to place your art, first think about its size and the size of the wall where you want to hang it. A small piece of art may appear insignificant on a large wall, while a large piece may dominate a small room. Additionally, consider the height at which you want to place the piece. As a general rule, the center of it should be at eye level, or about 57 inches from the floor. 


Secondly, consider the lighting in the room where you want to place the art. Ideally, the space should be well lit, but not overly bright. UV rays can cause damage over time, so avoid placing the piece in direct sunlight. Consider using accent lighting to highlight the artwork and create a focal point in the room. 


A woman carefully positioning a work of fine art.



Framing a piece of artwork is important in order to preserve it and make your display look complete. To choose the right frame for your artwork, first consider its style and the style of the room where it will be displayed. A traditional work of art may look best in a classic frame, while a modern piece may benefit from a sleek and minimalistic frame. 


Additionally, think about how the color of the frame complements or contrasts with the colors in the artwork. A frame that matches the dominant color of the piece can create a cohesive look, while a color that doesn’t appear in the work can create an interesting contrast. 

Pay attention to provenance 

Provenance refers to the origin and history of ownership of a work of art. It’s important to pay attention to this factor because it can have an important effect on the value of the art. Just think of Andy Warhol’s cookie jar collection that sold for a quarter of a million dollars! 


If you follow the advice described above and try to enjoy every step of the process, collecting fine art can be not just an investment strategy, but an exciting journey that enhances your appreciation for art and enriches your life. 

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