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Investment or Impulse: What Kind of Collector Are You?

03/06/2015 02:16 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2015


Kehinde Wiley, Diarra Mohamed and Mohamed Konate, 2013. © Kehinde Wiley studio and Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris. At The Armory Show, Pier 94.

What kind of collector are you? Do you consider long and hard before purchasing a piece or do you buy on impulse? Does your collection have a particular historic or geographic focus or does it follow the whims of your personal taste? Are you a risk-taker who likes to invest in artists early in their careers, or do you only buy works by established, proven artists? Do you buy works based on their historical significance, their investment value or how it will complement your home's décor?

The Armory Show, 2014. Courtesy of Roberto Chamorro for The Armory Show.

As winter ever so slowly loosens its grip on New York, collectors will be flocking to the Armory Show (March 5-8), now in its 17th year, at Piers 92 and 94, along with nine other fairs, from the prestigious ADAA Art Show (March 4-8 at the cavernous Park Avenue Armory), now in its 27th year, to the young satellite fairs like 4-year-old SPRING/BREAK Art Show (a curator driven art fair, March 3-8, this year taking place at Skylight at Moynihan Station, with the curatorial conceit "Transaction"). The sophisticated and cool Independent (March 6-8) returns to the old Dia building on 22nd Street in Chelsea for its fifth edition, while the solo booth-driven VOLTA NY (March 5-8) moves to a more favorable location at Pier 90, nestled right next to the Armory Show, its sister fair. Also moving up to closer proximity to the main event is SCOPE (March 6-8), which is taking over the Metropolitan Pavilion West, right across the West Side Highway from the Armory Show Piers; while PULSE (March 5-8) jumps ship from Frieze Week and moves in to the Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street between the Flatiron District and Chelsea. There's the tiny but well-positioned un(SCENE) (March 4-8), formerly known as the unFAIR, and the video-art-exclusive Moving Image (March 5-8) at the Waterfront Tunnel in Chelsea. There's even a brand new fair, Art on Paper (March 5-8), which will debut at Pier 36.

Pink Twins, Parametronomicon, 2014. Courtesy of the artists and Sinne, Helsinki, Finland. At Moving Image.

There is something for every taste and for every type of collector, from first time buyers to seasoned collectors, from museum representatives to corporate consultants. In honor of all the fairs, we've rounded up a list of 10 kinds of collectors you're likely to see this week, where they'll be and whom they'll be buying.

Zipora Fried, Delft Blue, 2014. Courtesy of Zipora Fried and On Stellar Rays, New York. At The Armory Show Presents, Pier 94.

Home Decorators: The top consideration for the vast majority of art buyers is how the piece will ultimately look in their homes. That doesn't mean that they're simply out to find something to match their couch, as the cliché goes, but it means that they are looking for artworks they can live with. This demographic can be found at all the fairs this weekend; where and what they'll be buying will largely depend on their budget and style but it will usually fit the criteria of being 2-dimensional and easy on the eyes.

Jimmie Durham, Clearly, Not Everything Functions, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Kurimanzutto, Mexico City. At Independent.

Investment Makers: These guys are looking for return on their money. The thrill they get from collecting art is predicated on the art star names that they know will fetch good prices at auction later on. They'll be snapping up every artist of recognition and with good art market stats, from Kehinde Wiley to Wade Guyton.

Alex Katz, Oona, 2006. Courtesy of Galleria Monica De Cardenas Milano, Zuoz. At The Armory Show, Pier 94.

Prestige Hunters: These collectors are likewise concerned with art star names. They'll settle for a work of art that they might not even care for all that much if it's by an artist they're hungry for. While most art collectors have a bit of the prestige hunter in them, a few collectors are driven exclusively by the prospect of status, and they'll only be seen at blue chip booths at the established fairs. These collectors are ravenous for Kiefer, Katz, Kusama--anyone known by a single moniker.

Gabriel Pionkowski, Untitled, 2013. Courtesy The Hole, New York. At VOLTA NY.

Impulse Buyers: A few renowned collectors are impulse buyers, purchasing a work of art using their gut, not knowing much more than that they like what they see.  This brightens the eyes of any art dealer at the moment when one of this ilk walks into the booth and points to a work of art, credit card in hand.

Donald Moffett, Lot 121114 (manganese violet), 2014. Courtesy of Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York. At ADAA The Art Show.

Consultants: Consultants have a busy week ahead, and will likely visit every fair. What purchases they make depend on their clientele. For corporate clients they'll be seeking large abstract works; for upper echelon private collections they'll be hunting for very specific artists. Young consultants looking to build their rosters of available artists will be scoping out art fairs with as-yet unrepresented artists like SPRING/BREAK and un(SCENE).

Emma Haworth, Abney Park by Moonlight, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Rebecca Hossack Gallery, London. At SCOPE.

First Timers: It's a watershed moment, that first purchase. First time art buyers will probably visit a booth a few times, carefully weighing his or her options before taking the plunge. Emerging art and editioned art works are likely entry points. And once the deal is done the elation that follows really can't be matched. Buying art truly is adrenaline inducing -- and addictive.

Carrie Mae Weems, Dreaming in Cuba: Wilfredo, Laura, and Me, 2002. Copyright the artist, Courtesy Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London. At The Armory Show, Pier 94.

Museum Representatives: Art dealers will drop everything when a museum rep walks into the booth, even if they're not buying. Getting your artist into a museum collection means a boost in reputation and value, but an equally generous compliment is when the museum rep is buying for her own personal collection. This is especially true for young artists and galleries at fairs that are known for launching careers, like VOLTA and PULSE.

Mona Hatoum, Turbulence (black), 2014. Courtesy Alexander and Bonin, New York, © Mona Hatoum, Photo: George Darrell. At The Armory Show, Focus: MENAM, Pier 94.

Niche Collectors: These are people whose collections have a very specific focus. They'll be on the hunt for works that fit a collection that revolves around a particular medium, era, genre or geographic location. Collectors of Middle Eastern art, for instance, are in luck with The Armory Show's focus on the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean (MENAM), and will certainly be snapping up works by Mona Hatoum, Nil Yalter and Mona Marzouk in the Focus: MENAM section of the fair.

Ryan McCann, Death to Obey. Courtesy of the artist and Inner State Gallery, Detroit. At SCOPE.

Street-savvy: The only thing rivaling their art collection is their immaculate collection of colorful designer sneakers. These collectors will localize SCOPE, looking for unique works with an urban edge, like Boris Tellegen and Ryan McCann, as well as Art on Paper, where they will be checking out Swoon and RETNA.

Jean-Pascal Flavien, Rose! There will be so much room, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Catherine Bastide, photo: Isabelle Arthuis. At Independent.

Cool Kids: The cool kids move easily from Fashion Week to Armory Week. They love art that's esoteric, ironic or self-referential. They're plus-ones for the art world afterparties with the most exclusive guest lists. You'll find them checking the latest art world lampoons from @Freeze_de on Instagram in the stairwells at Independent, conversing knowingly about the Finnish video art scene at Moving Image and sending goodbye air kisses to their curator friends at SPRING/BREAK before fluttering off to one of those aforementioned swishy afterparties.

--Natalie Hegert