Guide to building your first art collection

Collecting fine art can be intimidating for a first-timer. News of paintings and photographs selling for astronomical sums at auctions can often scare away the potential collector for fear of the financial strain of the hobby. However, there are many ways to build a very valuable fine art collection while staying on a budget. The most expansive and impressive contemporary art collection of the 20th century was that of Herb and Dorothy Vogel. For more than 40 years, the Vogels amassed some of the most important contemporary works of their time, and all on the budget of a post office worker and a librarian. When the Vogels' tiny Harlem apartment ran out of room, they donated 40 truckloads of art to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. That collection became part of the Fifty Works for Fifty States program, from which each of the 50 states in the U.S. received 50 pieces of art from the collection for its own museums. The Vogels were able to amass such an incredible collection by following a few basic principles that amateur collectors can embrace when building up collections of their own.

Follow your gut
The pieces of art you choose to purchase should be those that you are personally attracted to. The art world is often dominated by a handful of critics whose columns regularly declare which artists are worth what. Unfortunately, if every art collector followed their prescriptions, every art collection would look the same. Your collection should have a sense of you in it. It should reflect your personality by reflecting your tastes. When looking at art, do not be swayed by the artist's reputation. Instead, consider whether or not you are actually drawn to the piece. Never hang a piece of art in your house that you couldn't stand looking at every day.

Fit the pieces together
Buying one piece of art that speaks to you and formulating a cohesive collection are two different projects entirely. Try to develop a sense of how each of your purchases fit together in a cohesive manner. What does your collection as a whole say about you? What does each piece say about each other? These are important questions that every collector should think about. Always keep in mind that the art of assembling a collection is just as valuable as the art of creating the paintings themselves!

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