How to build an art collection

There’s something so personally rewarding about building a collection, whether it’s matchbox cars, vintage clothes or mid-century modern furniture.  Perhaps collecting art is not that much different from collecting anything, as it’s all about putting time and energy into something you love.  What art does offer is that it helps us see the world from another person’s perspective.  It can bring hope during difficult times and help us process our own tangled emotions.  Art enriches our lives and makes our homes all the more special.

Where to start

It can be overwhelming knowing where to begin.  Learning about art will take a lifetime so there's no rush.  Enjoy the journey and you will have so many interesting experiences and meet some fascinating people.


Image:  Auckland Art Fair 2019

Buy what you love, not what you think you should be buying

It’s true that some works of art can become a great investment, but go with your gut reaction and buy the works that are meaningful to you.  Your taste is likely to change over time, and so could your budget, but don’t let this stop you making a start.  The famous Wellington Gallerist Peter McLeavey spent 30 years collecting photographs.  He believed "collections are essentially maps of the self.  A diary of the self.  They reflect back the lives of the collectors."

Increase your knowledge of art

The Nelson Suter Art Gallery offers sessions on how to look at a painting along with occasional tours of the stock room. Most months there are floor talks by exhibiting artists.  Commercial galleries have openings where you can talk to artists themselves and gain insights into their practice.  Sometimes it is possible to see someone's private collection which is always fascinating.  Mark Stevenson in Picton offers regular tours of his extensive collection of Contemporary Art.  

Listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and read whatever you find interesting.  A couple of my favourites podcasts are ‘Talk Art’ with Russell Tovey and Robert Diament and ‘Bow Down’ about women in art history.

Where to buy art

  • Commercial Dealer Galleries:  it's true that galleries haven't always been the most accessible places for people just starting out on their journey as art collectors.  They are more friendly than they look though and the gallerists are usually more than happy to talk about the artists they represent and the work on the walls.  If you get on the mailing list you'll be able to attend openings and meet the artists themselves.  One way of making art purchases more feasible is through Lay By options.   'My Art' offers a loan scheme to people so they can take an artwork home straight away and take up to a year to pay for it.
  • Auction Houses and Art Fairs:  buying art online has become even more popular this year with the impact of COVID19.  The Auckland Art Fair became a virtual experience when New Zealand went into Lockdown.  One benefit was that prices were actually stated rather than it being a tricky negotiation with the gallery.
  • From artists directly: Social Media, especially Instagram, has closed the gap between artists and buyers.  Many artists now have their own accounts so it’s easier than ever to actually talk to an artist directly and develop a relationship.  Some will sell their work online and others will direct you to their gallery.

Get inspired by these stories from other art collectors

I love hearing about other people's collections.  Dip into these stories by artists, gallery owners and collectors that have been gathered together by My Art

Paul Smith is an avid collector, although he never refers to himself as such.  Here is a clip about the importance of art in his life.