Many art lovers reach a moment when their artistic taste has become too sophisticated for posters but original fine art is still financially out of reach. Luckily, in the past few years many options have emerged, notably on the web, for building an art collection that looks great, reflects your personal style and won't break the banksy (art humor). What follows are our tips for building a contemporary art collection on a budget based on our experience working with artists and collectors at ArtStar. Show your walls some love and feel great about supporting working artists with these easy tips! In no time you'll be giving private house tours to all your friends and there won't be a dog playing poker in sight.
Start slow and inexpensive. Think about what you like -- photography, illustration, painting etc. -- and embrace your budget. Try buying a few small pieces from an emerging artist and hanging them salon-style for variety.
Try prints. Many of your favorite artists offer limited edition prints of their work at a lower price point than their originals. This can be a great way to start collecting an artist you love before you can afford their originals while still supporting their career. By the time you've worked up to an original piece, you'll already have a great collection of their earlier work!
Know the difference between wall art and fine art. Wall art is an open edition poster and is often made by a manufacturer and not a fine artist. A fine artist will sign and number their work and often holds a BFA or MFA and works with a gallery.
Use online resources so that you can go at your own pace and learn. Print galleries like ArtStar, 20x200, ArtSpace, LittleCollector (for kids) and Etsy are all great places to start and have strong educational resources that help introduce you to the artists and works on offer. Be wary of open editions, as these works will not retain their value over time and buy limited-editions when you can. Try to avoid garage sales and antique stores and support living artists directly who make an artist fee on each print sold.
Educate yourself and don't feel intimidated. Browse art blogs and publications like Art In America and Modern Painters. If you don't live in an urban center with lots of galleries and museums, check out local MFA shows where you're likely to find lots of up-and-coming local talent.
Trust your taste and don't overthink it. Your taste is already subconsciously guiding you, so let it lead you in the right direction. You will know what you like when you see it and don't feel pressured to buy something unless you absolutely cannot imagine living without it. Art is a big part of your home and reflects your personal style.
Buy framed art whenever you can. Unframed pieces tend to languish in the closet or under the bed until you can get to the framers. When buying framed art, acid-free mats and frames with Plexiglas fronts are best and will ensure the longevity of your art. Clean, simple frames look best with contemporary art. ArtStar offers four custom framing options and a white frame is always the best default.
When in doubt, go big! Make a statement and don't be afraid to be edgy in your choices. Who cares if everyone else hates it? It's a conversation starter. Defend your artistic choices with vigor.
Learn everything you can about the art you buy and the artist who made it. You will appreciate your art more if you are familiar with the artist's process and the concept behind the work. You'll also be able to speak about it knowledgably to your friends.
If you're interested in a local artist, arrange for a studio visit. You'll be able to see other work that might not be available through their gallery and see work in progress while building a relationship with an artist whose career you support. What could be better?
When you find a young artist you like, get an introduction to their artist friends and keep exploring. The best collections are built by networking with artists and buying directly when they are still young.
Chrissy Crawford is Founder and CEO of ArtStar, Grace Johnstone is Assistant Curator and Director of Content at ArtStar, and they will host "Learn to Collect Art on a Budget" on June 22, 2012 during S.H.E. Summit Week. S.H.E. Summit Week, taking place June 18-24, is New York City's first "women's week," with 35+ events designed for, by and about women to inspire each other in work, life & everything in between. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit shesummitweek.com.