Seasoned experts weigh in on how to build a collection
Buying art in this day and age can be daunting. The ongoing uprise in digital galleries and auctions has furthered the democratization of art, so much so that new routes to purchasing masterpieces – from the masters or relatively unknown works from emerging new talents – can seem endless.
While these new forays into online art buying have allowed a next generation of potential buyers into what was once considered to be elitist, exclusive collectors’ circles, geo-targeted, click-to-purchase social media ads have further confounded the acquiring of paintings, sculptures, photography and multimedia. In other words, it may be easier and quicker to buy art – but it is also easier to make hasty decisions about which works suit you the most. Here are five solid tips from trusted pros to help make your art-buying experience enjoyable and anxiety-free.
1. Size matters
Are you the type of person who falls in love with large-scale artworks as soon as you see them? You are not alone. Epically sized paintings and photographs lure potential buyers in ways that make them forget if an image is just too big to display at home. Leah L. Carey, senior advisor at Cowley Abbott Fine Art auction house in Toronto, says you can easily figure out what works for you before you go to a gallery or auction house.
“It is a good idea to know the measurements of the space you want to display art in – be it home, office or otherwise,” she says. “When you view art at an auction preview or exhibition, your impression of size and scale can get skewed by the number of works on the wall. As well, if you are buying certain unframed works, you need to consider the size of the mat and frame, which can increase the size substantially.” Aside from knowing the dimensions you are working with, Carey advises that you bring a specific “lifesaver” on your buying journey to keep things in proportion. “There’s a reason art specialists live with a measuring tape in their pocket at all times,” she notes.
2. Plan accordingly (at every stage)
If you’re on a budget, make sure you can afford to insure your work for the long haul. Works by big-name painters, for example, often need extra insurance – which may not be included in your homeowner’s contract, so check your plan and bank account before adding to your collection.
Whether you’re buying on-the-rise or blue chip artists and wish to leave friends, museums or art spaces your legacy collection at some point, be sure to look at what the work is made of before purchasing. Jenna Bryant, associate director at the Harbour Gallery in Mississauga, says the best way to do this is go to the source.
“A professional artist would be well versed in the use of museum-quality materials and a reputable gallery would safeguard the integrity of the works they represent. Some mediums are more fragile than others so that is a consideration,” she says.
Bryant cautions owners on where they should hang their works – especially in homes that have walls in direct sunlight, which can cause colour damage. The temperature of the environment should be another consideration. “Ideal conditions for the preservation of artwork include stable temperatures between 16 to 25 C and 40- to 60-per-cent relative humidity,” she says.
If you’re thinking of storing pieces for a move, Bryant says to be careful when transporting them. “Ideally canvas paintings should be stretched rather than rolled and works on paper stored within acid-free foam core rather than regular paper or envelopes.” To protect your investment, consider hiring a professional art installer or consultant.
3. Stay authentic
In our burgeoning era of AI fakes, confirming that the art was created by an artist and is legitimate is ever-more important. To authenticate it, check if your art seller is part of the Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC), which represents art dealers, gallerists, leading art experts and appraisers who are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards. If you’re buying prints, obtain an edition number that confirms the work is coming from the person who created a series. “Proper documentation,” says Bryant, “includes artist biographies, a history of sales to confirm the selling price on request and letters of authenticity or valuation which should be submitted to insurance companies.”
4. Research, research, research
Know what you’re buying, who you’re buying and the process the artist used to create the work. What kind of social statement or types of messages does the work represent that you are comfortable living with? Check out artist’s Instagram and TikTok handles. Talk to the gallerist, auctioneer or artist, or hire an art consultant before dropping your credit card.
“A responsible art buyer should be an informed one,” says Rafael Wagner, managing director of Odon Wagner Gallery & Restoration in Toronto. He suggests art acquisitions needn’t be hurried affairs and seeing many works can help fine-tune your decision. “Feeling overwhelmed by a good but large survey of work can be a common response, especially when visiting a fine-art fair, for example,” he says. “The best antidote is investing adequate time in the experience. A relaxed pace and the possibility of a revisit will make things more enjoyable and rewarding.”
5. Find community
While art groupies and experts can point you towards works expected to increase in value, your own opinion should matter most when starting or adding to your collection. To have a true appreciation of the skill, craftsmanship, colourwork and processes involved in art, try viewing an online series such as “Art Stories” – produced by Masters Gallery Ltd. in Calgary. On the gallery’s website, there are free videos hosted by the gallery’s owner, Ryan Green, that break down artists influenced by impressionism, modernism and contemporary art, as well as short films that offer a brief outline of works by early-Canadian artists and the Group of Seven.
Mia Nielsen, director of Art Toronto, which makes its way to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Oct. 26-29, says another way to sharpen your art game is by getting as many people involved as you can with your purchase. “Collecting art as a family is a wonderful way to bond while engaging in the process of selecting pieces together. It allows you to learn about each other’s unique styles and preferences and personalize the collection around each other’s tastes,” she says, noting that speaking to other art lovers and following them on social media can inspire you to engage in art events around the world.
“The more information you have, the more confident you’ll be in your decision to purchase,” she says. “In my experience, many collectors enjoy sharing stories about how they acquired a particular piece, the artist behind it and what drew them to the artwork. Each piece of art tells a unique story, and the more you learn about it, the more complete the story becomes.”
Art Toronto is being held at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, Oct. 26-29.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.