Specialist Tips for New Collectors

By Sotheby's

Beginning an art collection may seem like an intimidating endeavour – from choosing an artwork to deciding when to buy. But with a number of auctions offering works without reserves and starting bids of just $50, it is truly possible to become a collector on any budget. The current American Online sale offers a number of paintings at enticing price points from a sweeping scene of Niagara Falls to whimsical genre scenes. We spoke with our American Art specialist Elizabeth Pisano about her tips for new collectors. 


A Rule of Three

When it comes to guidelines for successful collecting, Pisano suggests balancing your instincts with your budget and space restrictions. 

Instincts: “If you can’t stop thinking about a work, that’s usually a sign you should own it," advises Pisano. "The collections I have seen appreciate most in value are the ones built by people who paid far less attention to trends and changing tastes and instead focused on things they truly loved and reacted to instinctively.”

Budget: “You will love something more if there is no financial guilt associated with it," she reminds prospective collectors, emphasising that financial limits encourage a deeper consideration of one's desire to own an artwork. 

Space:  Remember that the work will come home with you. “Especially in New York, do you really have the wall space for that 60-inch painting when you are using your oven as a supplementary closet?" 


Don’t Hesitate to Ask

One of the simplest ways to learn more about an artwork or an artist is to ask questions. “Get in touch directly with the auction house or gallery offering a work. Ask for additional images and a condition report, or speak to a specialist about it in more detail,” says Pisano. And even for online sales, nothing surpasses your own eyes. “Always go see the artwork in person if you can!” Pisano urges. 


Do Your Homework 

A solid grasp of history cannot be replaced. “Research is a collector’s best friend no matter how seasoned he or she is,” she attests. 

“The internet is an incredible tool to learning about particular artists as well as to review past auction records.” Familiarising yourself with these records can help even the most inexperienced collector get a sense of what he or she should be paying.  

But Let Passion Be Your Guide

When choosing artworks Pisano insists collectors should follow their intuition. “I really believe the primary reason for collecting works of art should be passion. You really can’t go wrong if you pursue things you genuinely love and want to live with. Who cares if no one else likes or appreciates it, it’s yours!”

Last Words to Collect By

“Just buy what you love. Forget the rest. This is supposed to be fun.”

More from Sotheby's

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.