How to Start an Art Collection: A Beginner’s Guide

The art world is a delightful place to wander. It is filled with an abundance of artists and diverse mediums and styles. There’s much to discover and learn about.  If you are thinking about how to start an art collection but don’t know where to start, East End Arts can help. Just follow these tips, keep an open mind, and stay curious. Collecting art is a rich and rewarding experience and doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Set a Budget

Before you browse that first online gallery or grab your sunglasses for your first outdoor art fair, you need to set a budget.

You wouldn’t invest in stocks, bonds, or precious metals without first determining a budget, your art collection is no different. When you start an art collection, you are starting a new investment portfolio.

Not only should you determine how much you want to spend, but you should also determine how you will use the amount budgeted. Is your budget for 6 months or an entire year? Are you budgeting for a single $1,000 acquisition or four $250 pieces?

As a newbie, you’ll want to focus on quality over quantity. Your budget will probably change over time, so it’s important that those early pieces are pieces with real value. 

Determine Your Objective

So, why do you want to start an art collection? 

If your objective is purely a return on your investment, then your acquisitions will need to focus on mid-career or established artists. These artists have already created a track record that you can use to judge the value of their art. Unfortunately, this means you’ll focus on acquiring more expensive work right from the start.

Are you starting your art collection for aesthetic reasons? Are you looking to enhance your home or office space? If this is your objective, don’t skip over a piece of art because you think it is undervalued. If you love it, you should purchase it!

Humble New York art collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel only bought pieces they personally liked and could carry on the subway or in a taxi to their one-bedroom apartment home. They ended up with over 4,500 works stashed in every corner of their rent-controlled Manhattan apartment. Their clearly established objectives made it easier for them to add to their collection, even on a small budget (he worked for the post office – she for the library).

Start Visiting Local Galleries and Art Fairs

Now that you know why you are starting an art collection and your budget, it’s time to have some fun! Immerse yourself in the art world starting with your local galleries and art fairs. 

Special events such as the Summer Soiree and Mosaic Street Festival are a fun way to see works from a wide variety of local artists. And buying from a local artist is a great strategy for maximizing your art budget.

In addition, visit local art galleries. This is a great way to expose yourself to an array of artworks, mediums, and styles. 

The more you look at art, the more you will begin to see differences in techniques, styles, and mediums. You’ll start to identify the artist by the art.  In addition, you’ll begin to understand the art you love, and your eyes will be trained to spot it right away.

Check out Pinterest and Instagram. Once you identify artists you like, follow them on social media. 

Browsing art will also help you identify the categories of art you may want to collect. 

Identify the Categories of Art for Your Collection 

Do the sculptures at the local gallery speak to you? Or are your eyes drawn to black-and-white photography?

With so many mediums on the market, it’s important to identify the categories of art you want to collect. 

Limited edition prints

Have you found an artist you adore but whose original pieces are out of your budget? Look for limited edition prints. 

These alternatives to originals will cost less, but because their production is limited, they retain value. Signed limited edition prints hold a special value. 


Like limited edition prints, photography prints cost less than original paintings or drawings. Look for local artists and local subjects and scenes for an even closer connection to your art. Some artists only produce prints upon commission while others produce a limited number of prints. 

Original artwork

Original, one-of-a-kind paintings and drawings may cost more than limited edition prints, but they are unique after all. 

If you’ve fallen in love with an established artist and are looking for entry-level pieces, consider some of their smaller works. You still get the soul of the artist, just in a smaller and more affordable piece. 


Don’t overlook sculpture as an artist’s medium. These three-dimensional pieces of art make lovely display pieces in your home or office. Well-made objects add interest to a collection of two-dimensional art pieces and can be an affordable option. 

Local art fairs and galleries are great hunting grounds for this type of art. 

Collect the Art You Love

Whatever you add to your collection, make sure it is something that brings you joy. Whether it’s the colors or movement in the piece, the way it makes you feel, or the memories it calls to mind, buy art that speaks to you. 

Your art collection will become a true expression of who you are and what brings you pleasure.

About East End Arts

We are a gathering place for artists and those that love art. We engage and build community through cultural tourism initiatives and programs that collaborate with government, civic groups, private businesses, and nonprofit entities.

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