The art world is a vast ecosystem composed of many players, and while artists are front and center, even if you feel like you aren’t gifted with any artistic talent, there are many ways you can play an active role in the community. Becoming a collector is one of them. Still, it might sound like a daunting process, and the impostor syndrome is real (yes, not only for artists but for collectors as well!) Don’t waste a split second of energy on doubting yourself, and start changing your perspective today and buy your first artwork. Here are some practical advice to kickstart your collection today, even with one piece and not thousands of dollar in your pocket ( or your crypto wallet),

Not all collectors are the same, but we all have a lot of things in common. We all have one story of the one that got away (I have two, one is from 2016, and the other one is from 2017 at Independence Brussel, a series of 4 small works, exactly my type of art… Five years later, there is still a photo in my cell phone, and I keep thinking of this piece fairly often! ((needless to say that this is more than anytime I think about any love interest) we have a passion for art, collecting has become a bug that bites us, almost an obsession. We love talking and sharing with others, artists, and collectors, and we all remember how it started.

”The Art of our time is possibly as great as any period in history” – Confessions of a Poor Collector | Eugene M. Schwartz

One thing people should know about me is that I wasn’t born into art, I can’t remember a museum visit before I got my first passport and took my first oversea trip, which was the 3rd plane trip of my entire life, and I was 23. I come from a suburb of the second biggest city in Canada. I didn’t speak English till I went to university ( or not well, at least), I wasn’t well travelled, and while I had a deep interest in photography since my teenage years, nothing could have predicted that I would become a collector. But life is surprising, and a few years later, I keep collecting, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic when people ask about what hangs on my walls.

”If you do what you love, no matter how chaotic it looks, no matter if people understand what you are doing or not, if you put love into it and it has you DNA, it will all come together in the end. Everything makes sense; everything is part of your one story” – Collector Paulo Vierira  in Could Have Would Have Should Have by Tiqui Atencio

Piece of advice number 1 | Look at art, see it, don’t just browse
Believe it or not, there is a difference between browsing art, looking at art and really seeing it. Make sure not to rapidly glaze over it. With the (over) abundance of art today, online and at fairs, it is essential to look at the art and make a critical judgement on it. Furthermore, seeing the art, and not only the name or the price tag, will contribute to making sure that you are fulfilled with your purchase. While art has become a class asset sought by the wealthy as it is proven that what is called blue chip art will retain its value and most likely appreciate it in the future, pursuing a collection only for financial gain or pure investment shouldn’t be the primary reason for collecting. Furthermore, you should like, love and at least enjoy the artwork you purchase and feel like even if it doesn’t double, triple or become exponentially more valuable, it will fill you with pride to own it and to share its story, the one of the artist behind it and its acquisition for your collection when friends and family, visitors and the like of will stop by your place or your office.

”As a collector, I think my most important talents are my curiosity and willingness to make decisions.” – A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art by Erling Kagge

Piece of advice number 2 | Enter the dialogue and train your eye
Talking to artists, to friends who are passionate is part of how to become a successful collector. Engaging in the art and in the discourse is key to training your critical thinking and eye regarding art. Visit galleries, museums, art centers, artist-run centers, and fairs – see and look at as much art as possible. Join a philanthropic group at a museum close by your home, go to openings, go to artists talk and get engaged with what is going on in your city. Plan trips around art. Don’t only consume it like a cheeseburger from a fast food chain- think about it, reflect on what you are seeing and mentally (or in an actual notebook), take note of the emotions that you felt, what triggers your interest, what you like, love, hate. Date each entry and see how the words employed and how you describe things change over time and evolve as you train your eye.

A guided private visit for the Young Philanthropist’s Circle by Natalie Bondil then the Director General and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the exhibition D’Afrique aux Amériques : Picasso en face-à-face. Artwork by Moridja Kitenge Banza.

Piece of advice number 3 | Read, Read, Read
Another good way to learn to appreciate art and understand which piece should be first or next to integrate your collection is to read, grasp, and unpack the vocabulary around art. Learning about art history, movements, trends, and critical discourses will contribute to training your brain in the same way you train your eye. Reading is also the opportunity to learn from other collectors about good and bad choices, what they learn by collecting art and what realization they come to.

Some of my favourite books on collecting are the following:

  • Confessions of a Poor Colelctor by Eugene M.Schwatz | Erling Kagge mentioned in his book reading it, and it is the sweetest and the most gentlemanishhh thing you will be able to read about collecting art. It brought me back to an era I don’t know (collecting in the 60 & 70), but there is a vibe in it that makes me want to collect in a particular fashion.
  • A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art by Erling Kagge | a passionate and compelling memoir of a collector – I had the chance to listen to him talking about collecting during a Frieze week years ago – I am convinced that I started my collection because of him.
  • Could Have Would Have Should Have by Tiqui Atencio | packed with funny collectors stories
  • The Art Collector’s Handbook by Mary Rozell | packed with practical advice such as additional costs and consideration when you collect art

Piece of advice number 4 | Developpe your taste and build something that resembles you
Natural and orange wines are in ”vogue” right now, people geek out about them, but they might not be your cup of tea. And you know what – that is OK. More than Ok. When I was a kid and would ask to do something that seemed out of my character, my mom would say something like ” is it because so and so wants to jump off the bridge that you should do too?”. Your collection should resemble you, move you, and be important to you (ok, I am sure you get the point and I can stop sounding like Joe Golberg in that Netflix show) In short, don’t follow trends simply to be in. Be the trendsetter!

”I get to know myself throiugh my collection – Although it may have been cheaper to go to a shrink!” – Collector Muriel Salem in Could Have Would Have Should Have by Tiqui Atencio

Piece of advice number 5 | Have fun, and connect!
Only one thing remains to do. I hope this article inspired you and you feel ready to make your first purchase. Share with us on social media your questions, comments, and stories. Introduce us to new artists you discover or something interesting you read recently! .ART is also a community of people who care and have a passion for the arts – so let’s take advantage of it and create a dialogue!

I bought my first artwork at a small(er) fair in London years ago – I didn’t think or look back at it; I just say – I will buy this one. Is edition number 13 available? The piece wasn’t super expensive, I like it, and it felt right. Years later, it still is part of my collection and has remained proudly displayed in all homes I have lived in since my room in Brixton in a flat I shared with two other lovely women. Today, it sits on my desk and is one piece that nobody sees in my virtual meetings but that I stare at, and see most of my days. It isn’t the most valuable artwork in my collection, but it remains the first, and each has a story, making me smile, feel and have become an integral part of what defined my home (that and my silly coloured coded bookshelves)

Booths at 1-54 The African Art Fair in Harlem in May 2022

Happy collecting & Happy International Artist Day!