The Beginners Guide To Buying Art

Art collecting is a lot more practical now that it’s no longer reserved for Jay-Z and white-haired, white guys in white suits, sipping white wine. The buttoned-up and intimidating art world has opened its doors to the masses in recent years, partly by choice and mostly by circumstance as the thin line between low-and-high brow art is disappearing faster than a Banksy stencil on a Brooklyn facade. Sure, you will probably never able to afford an Ed Ruscha original, but a print from the iconic pop artist won’t break your bank account and looks (almost) as good on your wall. Not to mention it’s a great conversation starter at a party. We know that landscape can seem massive, brutal and pretentious but we’ve boiled it down to a few simple, budget-conscious tips to get you started down the road to a respectable collection. Trust us when we say that as a man of good taste, your walls could use something more interesting than a black and white sinatra photo or that LCD Soundsystem concert poster.

The Art of Collecting
Whether by nature or nurture, males like to collect things. As young boys we amass baseball cards, GI Joes and comics with OCD-like fervor. In college, we proudly display empty Jack Daniels bottles as if binge-drinking was a badge of honor. As we grow-up (okay, get fatter and balder), we move onto “adult toys” like sneakers, watches or cars. Collecting art is a lot more sensible considering you can only drive one car at a time, wear one watch at a time and grounding Air Jordan’s on a shelf just doesn’t seem right unless your name is DJ Khaled. So yes, embrace it as a valid hobby, interest and pursuit.

Hobby v.s. Investment
Think of art as baseball cards for big kids. There’s a buy, sell, trade element to it, but remember that art collecting is first and foremost a hobby. That means buy what you love, whether it be a stencil from an unknown street artist or the latest limited-edition gallery print from your favorite artist. If you love something and cannot live without it on your walls AND it fits in your budget then swipe that credit card. Whatever you do, never purchase art as purely an investment. Sure, flipping art is big business, but art is subjective and unpredictable as are the artists themselves (i.e. - take a look at Retna’s Instagram feed @ironeyeretna). Even professional art dealers with keener eyes than you lose out on 40% of their investments.

Buy Smart and Cheap
There is no right or wrong to what you buy because art, like your favorite Hadid sister (Gigi or Bella), is in the eye of the beholder. A general rule is that if you’re buying high and selling low, you’re doing it wrong. Buying art based on potential and personal regard is the ultimate win-win. If the art’s value rises it makes you not only look smart and trend-setting, but rich as well. Sure, everyone wants a Cleon Peterson, but since you’re on a budget, a print is more feasible in price and availability. Stay clear from standard prints. Track down a limited-edition run and make sure it’s signed by the artist. If you prefer originals, locate an up-and-comer who hasn’t broken into the art scene yet. You might not get their best work since it’s early in their careers, but you will get them at their core. Drawings and sketches are niche collectors items, but are a smart buy because of their one-of-a-kind look into the artist’s technique and process. An easy and cheap way to break-in are art books, which condense an artist’s work into one form, allowing you to study the artist and his work, plus they look good on a coffee table. No matter where you start, your experience will grow and the reasons why you buy something will evolve, but always do your due diligence once something catches your eye: research the artist, find the story behind the piece and be honest with what you like.

Where to Buy
One of the main reasons why art is so accessible now is the internet. Sites like ArtSpace, Artsy, Kollecto and eBay are a virtual global gallery at your fingertips where you can discover, purchase and communicate with artists of all types. Of course, part of the fun of a hobby is geeking out with other like-minded collectors, which you can do at local galleries, museums or annual art fairs like Art Basel and NADA (Miami), The Armory Show (New York) and the LA Art show. Exhibitions also offer opportunities to not only see the art in-person, but to discuss it with the artists and curators, whom you can negotiate directly (always ask for a 10% collector’s discount). Buying art is a business transaction so there are no stupid questions and you can always blame it on the free wine. Seasoned collectors often designate a budding artist and buy with blinders on, purchasing as many works they can. An affordable way to do that is to peruse graduate college art shows, which are hit-or-miss, but you can get in on the next wave of innovation and form a relationship with an artist from the ground-level.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Our third favorite part of collecting baseball cards (after opening the pack and feeding the dry gum to our family dog) was sliding the good ones into a plastic sheet display (we still have 30-something Frank Thomas rookie cards sitting in a garage somewhere). Art is no different. A frame not only protects, but enhances the artwork itself so choose a framer you can trust. Call a gallery or ask the artist who their go-to is. Displaying art work is an art form in itself, but general rules apply (hanging on a centerline of 58-60 inches, cover photographs and works on paper with UV plexiglass if they will be in direct sunlight, frames aren’t needed for works on canvas). Art is a lot more expressive of who we are than a Restoration Hardware couch so display it in a room that fits the mood, theme and aesthetic. Conversation pieces work great in the living room, while more personal artwork can be saved for the bedroom or home office. Remember, to save all receipts, certificates of authenticity and other relevant written or printed materials. Good documentation increases the value of the art whether you’re going to sell it, keep it or pass it down to the next generation. Art collecting, like any hobby, is addicting so be prepared. Your first purchase will be your hardest, but once you do it you won’t be able to stop. That feeling of satisfaction when you look at something you love hanging on the wall will be worth the time and effort put into making it yours.