The various auction record prices will likely deter many potential art collectors from even considering building an art collection. But you don't necessarily need a thick wallet, and you don't even have to rob a bank. Of course, collections are created for different reasons, for example, to invest, to decorate the property, or even for the love of art, which also means different entry thresholds. One thing is sure: if someone sets out to build a collection, regardless of whether they have a large or small budget, they must act according to a well-thought-out structure. That's why we have collected a few essential steps and tips on how to get started and what a first-time art buyer should pay attention to.

Define your goals and set a budget for your collection

Think carefully about why you want to get into art collecting. Many people only start collecting to invest, but there are better strategies than this. Keep in mind that the risk is enormous in this sector, and your purchases may pay off or bring the desired results within 5-10-15 years if it produces the desired result. That's why you should start with pieces you can happily live with for years. Decide on a concept, why and what you want to collect, then set a budget for how much you want to spend per annum. Collecting is very addictive, and impulse purchases don't help that either. Your collection will also be most valuable if it is well-thought-out and conceptual.

Quality matters, not the quantity

If you already know why you would like to collect and have a conception, in outline at least, then you have to figure out what you would like to collect. The scale of the art collections is wide. You can start collecting paintings, sculptures, ceramics, graphics, photos, design objects, textiles, NFT, etc. Of course, you can have a diverse collection, but the quality matters, not the quantity.

Get to know the art market

Expand your knowledge of the actors and prices of the art market. Don't be afraid to ask for the help of experts, be it a consultant, an art dealer, or a gallerist. Go to galleries, exhibitions, art fairs, and auctions. Meet and talk to artists and visit studios, especially if you are interested in contemporary art. An essential aspect of building a contemporary collection is to observe trends, to be able to appreciate emerging artists and understand them, and to see their potential. The more events you attend, the more people you come into contact with about the art market, and the better and easier you will understand it. Be aware of the prices too. The largest international auction houses publish the result lists but feel free to ask domestic and international auction houses. During the auction season, you should pay attention to whether there is a bidding war, what prices go up continuously from auction season to auction season, and what is in demand. You will not see prices when you enter the galleries, but feel free to ask. There are also many art trade portals where you can scan the prices. Of course, most of them require a subscription. Also, make sure that what you buy is original. Ask for a certificate and provenance. Some people find treasures on an online classifieds site, but be careful and always write a sales contract, even if you are sure of something's authenticity.

Organize and ensure the safety of artworks

Before making a purchase, be aware of the artwork's condition. Before auction purchases, ask for additional photos from the auction house or gallery if you can't have a look at them personally. In the picture, something may look nice and seem in perfect condition, but that is not a guarantee. It is also in their interest that a given artwork looks good in the photos. Also, try to arrange the delivery so that it arrives safely to you, especially with packaging that does not cause damage to the artwork. If you bring it in from abroad, take out insurance. You also need to choose the proper storage that fits the artwork material, and whereabouts you should consult with an expert or restorer. If the number of artworks in your collection increases, it is worth considering its system. GalleryTool also provides a perfect platform to archive your collection using professional and secure artwork inventory software.

Kitti Váradi

Kitti graduated from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics with a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media Science, specializing in Visual Communication. She continued her studies at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, receiving a Cultural Manager qualification. Her work experience includes working in a commercial gallery and organizing cultural events, but she has also worked in the National Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest.