Buying your first piece of art can feel like an intimidating leap of faith. However, the online art auctions offer a less formidable process where you bid to buy from the comfortable atmosphere of your house rather than a hectic auction room. Having access to a world of auctions or fixed price sales through online browsing of art brings awareness to the buyer of potentially high value artists/designs, or already established artists in various mediums and styles. It’s all about making that leap of faith and buying your first piece. We got a few tips together to help you kickstart your art collection.

Jan Peter Tripp, Aquatint Etching, ‘Open Air‘, Germany, 1989. Price: € 350 Auctionata This piece is included in Auctionata's Young Collectors selection
Jan Peter Tripp, Aquatint Etching, ‘Open Air‘, Germany, 1989. Price: € 350 Auctionata This piece is included in Auctionata’s Young Collectors selection

Do your research but also look into your heart.

The art world is full of information and it can be overwhelming if you are trying to determine where your interest and taste lies. Some art advisors say a new collector should spend a year looking and not buying. While a year is maybe too long for our day with such great access to everything, it is a good idea to allow your inner eye for art to develop. Everyone has an inner unique taste and the only way to unfold it is to be informed and refine all the information through your own sieve.

  • Browse websites that can help you categorize your taste, such as Mearto, where you can find an exquisite selection of art, design and antique objects, from the premier auction houses of the world.
  • Reading blogs and magazines like this one or Artsy, Art Newspaper and so on will help you get a grip of what is going on in the sector.
  • Attend art events, or at least follow them online and read reviewing articles. Keeping and eye on art fairs like Art Basel or Frieze Art Fair and following the exhibitions of established museums and galleries like MoMA or White Chapel Gallery in London, or any museum that features exhibitions for your area of interest will give you an idea of what is going on.

While doing all this research, keep in mind to trust in your gut feeling. It is of course essential to learn about the rising trends in the market, record auction results, an artist you want to buy a work by, their education, style, media, process and their next exhibition. But the main question is “what do you love?” And it is a very personal decision.

Another affordable example from Auctionata's Young Collectors selection: Thomas Kleemann, Abstract Composition, Color Serigraph, 1998. Price: € 210 Auctionata
Another affordable example from Auctionata’s Young Collectors selection: Thomas Kleemann, Abstract Composition, Color Serigraph, 1998. Price: € 210 Auctionata

Form your art network.

As we said before, collecting art like a pro is about being informed. And the more people you can discuss art with, the more you will be in the know. Which artists are most coveted lately? Which artist is praised by established collectors or press and is shown in museums/galleries? What is the next project of the artist?

  • Join young/beginner collectors’ clubs. Try to find an organization in your city that suits your interests. There are many organizations around the big cities of the world that bring young collectors together with artists, dealers, curators, experts and so on.
  • Be active in your local art scene. You can do this by following exhibition/gallery openings that suit your interest, which are almost always open to general public and are not as intimidating as people think they are. Plus, there is probably free wine.
  • Use social media to be informed. Instagram and Facebook rank as the two most popular platforms for online art buyers according the Hiscox Art Report of 2016. Especially Instagram offers limitless visual content. Try to follow artists you like; collectors who buy them; galleries/auction houses that sell them; art critics who review exhibitions new works of an artists and art events; and websites like Mearto that feature many auction houses together to have a broader idea.

Make a budget.

Now that you are informed, aware and in the art circles, you can start determining your budget. It may sound cliché but there is really something for every budget in the art market, especially if you buy online. We have listed a few strategy options along with examples, from low to high in price:

  • A flying start for your art collection with a pack of lithographs from a favourite artist and/or favourite art style:
    Keep an eye out for auction lots where numerous lithographs are sold as a pack. This is the lowest risk/cost and highest reward option. 9 composition lithographs in color by Egill Jacobsen, a Danish Abstract painter, are open to bidding as a pack on Bruun Rasmussen website. This is one of the best examples of a collection starter purchase.
    Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 09.42.37               Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 09.43.44               Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 09.43.54
    Nine compositions. All signed Egill Jacobsen, 61/100. Lithographs in colours. Sheet size 33 x 23 cm. Price est.: € 1,350-1,600 Bruun RasmussenThis way you will have a substantial set of material about an artist and that art movement.
  • If you want to buy works by established artists then you have the options of buying etchings, lithographs or editions. Etchings are the most expensive option here. Etching is basically printmaking, where the artist carves the metal and then it is printed on paper in limited copies. An exquisite example is this piece by Picasso, the 109. copy of 250 in total, made in 1927.

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    Pablo Picasso HOMME ET FEMME (B. 77; BA. 118) etching, signed in ink, numbered 109/250, on wove paper, unframed, 1927 Estimate 3,000 — 5,000 USD Sotheby’s

Of course it is a bit high on price but it is signed in ink personally by Picasso and it could be the highlight of a new collection.

A more affordable example of an etching, this time also hand coloured, by Marc Chagall, French-Russian early modernist artist. Chagall has a distinctive style that usually depicts dream like scenes from his own life or Jewish-Eastern European folklore.

Marc Chagall, Etching, ‘The Woodcutter and Mercury‘, 1927 Price est.: € 1,700 Auctionata
Marc Chagall, Etching, ‘The Woodcutter and Mercury‘, 1927 Price est.: € 1,700 Auctionata

The etching was hand colored by the artist in yellow and red. It depicts a scene from the tale ‘Mercury and the Woodcutter‘ by Jean de la Fontaine. The work is part of the series ‘Les Fables de la Fontaine‘ and was printed from 1927 to 1930 by Maurice Potin for Ambroise Vollard. The series was published by Teriade for the edition ‘Verve‘ in 1952.

The lithograph is signed lower center in the plate ‘Chagall‘. It is an excellent addition or a good start for an art collection, one of 85 hand colored copies on Montval paper, and it carries the touch of the artist.

If etchings are not suitable for your budget, then you should look for lithographs. This color lithograph of an abstract composition by Joan Miró is an uncut proof copy, hence cheaper, but it carries the aesthetic of the colourful mind of Miró, therefore it can be the anchor piece of your new collection.

mearto miro color lith auctionata
Joan Miró, Color Lithograph, Abstract Composition, 1972 Price: € 950 Auctionata

If however you are more inclined to obtain the visual while paying a more modest amount, then the best option is purchasing lithographs from book editions like this example on Auctionata. It shows the exact same composition with the work by Miró above, however it costs € 340.

The online art market is more advantageous when it comes to finding more affordable works with higher variety. According to the Hiscox Report 2016, online art buyers are more comfortable with art works worth € 10,000 and below. The online auction houses and dealers cater to this need, making it more suitable for beginner art collectors.

Keep investment in mind but don’t get too wrapped up in it.

One of the biggest mistakes young collectors make is to get too preoccupied with the investment aspect of art collecting. Although the option of profit is a good reason to buy art, what emerges at the end of purchasing for profit only would hardly be called a collection. Especially in the beginning of your collection, it is important to buy objects that you find beautiful and want in your life because of your personal interest in them. Keep in mind our first tip: do your homework but also remember to trust in your gut.