How to Start an Art Collection, According to a Curator
While we may aspire to being proud owners of a coveted art collection that's brimming with valuable masterpieces one day, it can be tricky to know where and how to begin. Founder of Curatorial+Co.—a curated collection of exclusive, one-of-a-kind and limited edition works from around the globe, created especially for new collectors—Sophie Vander, thankfully knows exactly where and how we should start our collections.
The fine arts graduate launched the online art collection with the aim to make beautiful and original art accessible to everyone—think of it as browsing dozens of art galleries from your very own sofa. Vander makes starting your own art collection sound completely unintimidating and like a (enjoyable) piece of cake. Scroll on, your impressive gallery wall starts here.
An ‘art print’ that you find in a chain store, a mass marketplace or even in some Etsy stores is not an original artwork. It is the equivalent of taking a file to Officeworks and printing off thousands of copies of the same image, putting it in a frame and calling it ‘art’. If you are looking to start a true original art collection then steer clear of anything titled ‘art print’. Instead look for:
Limited edition: This can encompass photography, traditional printmaking (like etchings, screenprints, lithographs, linoprints), limited edition prints of an original painting or drawing, and some cast sculpture works. Look for an edition number that looks like a fraction. The bottom number represents the total number of that particular work that has been produced, and the top number represents your specific work. For example, if a photograph’s edition number is 4/20 there were 20 of those photographs printed and your work is the fourth produced. Traditionally, the lower the number the more valuable the work. Limited editions are a great place to start your collection as generally prices are more accessible.
Original artworks: Original works are always one-of-a-kind. This includes painting, drawing, mixed media, ceramics, sculpture, textile arts, and all other one-of-a-kind art creations. A common myth is that original works are very expensive and belong in an intimidating highbrow gallery, but not anymore. Accessible original works can be found in online galleries like Curatorial+Co., local art galleries and community art shows or direct from the artist.
Be careful of ‘original’ paintings that are sold through discount sites online. They are generally mass-produced paintings that copy an original—only now there are 2000 ‘originals’ of the same painting! Always purchase your artwork through a reputable art gallery or directly from the artist.
A great way to begin your search is online. Follow galleries and art publications on Instagram and Pinterest. Start clicking and you never know what amazing creative genius you’re going to discover. Once you discover a few artists whose work you are drawn to, find their websites and see where they have exhibited, when was the last time they exhibited (make sure they are regularly showing their work), if they have done overseas residencies, what studies they have completed or are working on. The more the artist is involved in showing their work and is committed to growing their practice, the likelihood is that they will continue to grow in experience and reputation. Making an investment in their work early on will give your collection a head start.
It can be scary walking into a traditional white-wall gallery when you’re unsure of what the prices are going to be. So instead of going in cold turkey, sign up to email lists for local galleries and go along to a few exhibition opening nights. You’ll be able to talk to the artists directly about their work and it’s important to know where your art comes from. Art school graduate shows are a great place to find fresh talent at very reasonable prices. If you’re looking for a specific established artist, try an art auction—search for ‘art auctioneers’ in your area. Alternatively, online art galleries like make the browsing process very easy—it’s like walking into dozens of galleries from the comfort of your sofa. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the artists or works, and if the online gallery is in your local area you may also be able to view the work in person.
The more research you do, the more exhibitions you attend, the more online searches you perform on your artist and their works, the more you’ll get to know what their pieces are worth, and therefore what fits into your budget. You can purchase a framed ‘art print’ and still spend $200 but visit an online gallery, or get in touch with an artist directly, and you’ll find that a limited-edition or truly original work can be the same price. Invest in the originals and you’ll be well on your way to starting a lifelong journey of art collecting.
Shop a selection of our favourite works from Curatorial+Co below.