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The Complete Guide to Collecting Fine Art

How to Collect Art:

You may have visions of gallery-style walls packed with original paintings and treasures from Old Masters to modernists, Academism to Impressionism, but taking that first leap into the art world can feel like a monumental step. Where do you even begin when collecting fine art? How will you be sure that you will love the work after a few months? Will it be a good investment? Where is the best spot to place it in your home? And how do you take care of it after you bring it home?
These are among the many anxieties that any new art collector feels as they consider their approach to collecting art. Buying a work of art, from famous portrait paintings to avant-garde works of rare art, should ideally be preceded by a little forethought and research. That is where we can help. Read on for our complete guide to collecting fine art, from what to consider before you buy, whether you wish to collect the work of famous sculptors throughout history or focus your collection on specific 20th century art movements, and, finally, how to keep your artwork in tiptop shape after you bring it home.
Florentine by Patrick Hughes. Dated 2022. M.S. Rau.
Florentine by Patrick Hughes. Dated 2022. M.S. Rau.

How To Start Collecting fine art:


While it would be ideal if all of the original artwork that we collected also turned out to be a great investment, a profitable return should not be your primary focus when deciding which work of art to add to your collection. These are works that will live with you in your home, that you will see every day and that you may someday pass on to your children. Thus, they should reflect your own personality and style. Do you have a pension for Greek mythology? There is a world of possibilities for historical and mythological stories. Collecting art should be a passion project that sparks joy; collect what you love.
There are so many beautiful and unique pieces of fine art in the world to discover. The best way to determine which style and medium is right for you as an art collector is to see as much of it as possible. Visit an art museum, gallery or an auction house when possible, read books about art or enjoy virtual exhibitions or art shows from the comfort of your home. When buying art, finding what kind of art most speaks to you is what matters the most.


The price of a work of art will vary widely depending on its rarity and its art history. Therefore, it is important to determine upfront exactly how much you are willing to spend when starting your collection. Even if you find you can’t afford an original work by up-and-coming emerging artists, a signed print may be within your budget. Knowing your limitations can help to make the entire purchasing experience clearer and more enjoyable.
Also, recognize that you do not need to invest in an entire fine art collection all at once – discovering and collecting art is a lifelong endeavor, and a fun one at that.
View of La Crau with Tree in the Foreground. Vincent van Gogh. Dated 1888. M.S. Rau.
View of La Crau with Tree in the Foreground. Vincent van Gogh. Dated 1888. M.S. Rau.


Once you have determined the kind of art that you like and exactly how much you are comfortable spending, it is time to do a little research. The internet makes finding new works of art and artists incredibly simple. Many websites such as Artsy and Artnet sort artworks in a number of different categories including medium, size, theme and even color, making it very easy to narrow down your search. Additionally, most online art dealers have relatively transparent pricing, which can help you determine if your preferred style of art actually fits within your budget.
Still, while the internet can be a good place to start for your initial research, it is always advisable to view a work of art in person before committing to a purchase.


While there are plenty of reputable online dealers from whom you can purchase art sight unseen, for new collectors, we recommend that you put your eyes on a piece before purchasing. The physical presence of a work of art is far different from its digital presence — you need to see the work in person to truly experience its impasto, its size and its wall presence, among other elements. Once you are a little more savvy or dedicate yourself to a particular artist, you may feel more comfortable buying works online. Truly, there is nothing like the in-person experience.

Many people find art galleries intimidating, but it is a great place to get any questions you may have answered and to simply converse with someone about a work of art that you love. You’ll likely learn more about a painting by speaking directly to the art dealer than you would ever discover by purchasing a work online. If you are collecting art created by a contemporary artist, you may even be able to speak with the talented artist in person. This additional knowledge can help you feel much more comfortable with your purchase, which is incredibly important for a first-time buyer.


Why you should start collecting fine art


When you have found a work of art that you love from a dealer that you trust, you’re ready to move forward with your purchase. This is when you will gather all the known details about a work of art. Has it been restored? What is its provenance? Has it been in any important exhibitions? Get all the information you can from the artist or dealer before taking your new work of art home, as these tidbits can add value down the line to your artwork. When it comes to purchasing fine art, there are several factors to consider in the world of art collecting.
How to approach the purchase itself depends on where you are buying your work of art. At an auction house, it is generally best to “play it cool” for the first few bids before jumping in. The bidding process can be exciting in and of itself, so remember to keep your budget in mind and don’t let the thrill of the chase get the best of you if a work of art exceeds your expectations.
Outcomes are generally easier to anticipate when buying directly from a gallery. Just remember that asking prices are not always set in stone — you can always try to negotiate a better price.

Benefits of collecting fine art


Tête de cariatide Head of Caryatid. Amedeo Modigliani. Dated 1910. M.S. Rau.
Tête de cariatide Head of Caryatid. Amedeo Modigliani. Dated 1910. M.S. Rau.
Congratulations! You bought a painting by a famous artist, a stunning marble sculpture, or masterful bronze work and took the first step in establishing your new art collection. Now what? It is important to care for your new investment, and that starts with finding a safe and lovely way to display it. We have an entire article on how to display your art, but here are some quick tips.
The ideal height to hang your painting is at eye level.
It can be difficult to eyeball the perfect height, and most of the time people end up hanging their artworks too high. As a general rule of thumb, the center of a painting should hang 63 inches from the floor.
Proper lighting is essential.
In order to protect your work of art, it is best to avoid hanging paintings in direct natural sunlight, as UV rays can damage it over time. You might even consider framing your collection with museum glass, which blocks 99% of UV light.
Keep it clean.
Art doesn’t require much maintenance – simply dust your works with a clean, lint-free duster every few weeks. If your artwork was exposed to smoke or other debris and could benefit from a deeper cleaning, never try to attempt this at home. Find an experienced art conservator.
In the end, art collecting should be an exciting and fulfilling way to add a little beauty to your life. If you buy what you love and take care of your new work, you’ll never regret the purchase. Ready to start your fine art collection today? From American art to contemporary art, browse our selection to find an artwork that speaks to you.
Looking to learn more about the art world? Whether you’re interested in the history of famous art exhibitions or want to discover different art genres and learn about art deco artists or art nouveau artists, we’ve got it all. Visit our blog to pursue all your art curiosities.


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