Updated: Nov 16, 2018
You don’t have to be a millionaire to be an art collector!
I decided to write this as my family and I have decided to invest more in the works of emerging artists. We have slowly added to our collection over the years, mostly through trading work with other artists and buying smaller works that we could afford. I have grown to love our little collection but also seek to expand it. Why do this, when we could be investing more in our IRA’s or college funds for the kids?
By owning art you have a personal connection to the artist. With art there is a unique relationship between the buyer and the artist that doesn't really exist with other objects. When you buy from a living and working artist- you are giving them a vote of confidence- especially if they have just started to build their audience. It is both a meaningful act for you and the artist you are supporting.
We also do it because we believe in the artist and the art that is being created. We long to support other emerging artists because we know what it feels like being artists ourselves and continually trying to find balance in our creative lives, work lives, and family lives. We know how difficult this is and we know first hand what it feels like to have the drive and absolute need to create above most things.
We hold day jobs to pay for this love of creating, and of curating. Also, a quick self-promoting plug here… this is why you should invest in emerging artists from artist-run galleries as well! We pour everything we have into our spaces and really want to support and represent our artists to the greatest extent we can. We always wish we could do more.
The artists take on risks by sending us new works, paying for shipping (something we wish to help with in the future), and by trusting us to represent their work. This is such a leap of faith, especially given our location- a small Mid-western town of 3,500 on the shores of Lake Michigan. Algoma, Wisconsin is a quant fishing village- not originally known for its art scene (although we have been slowly changing that).
We, as a gallery take on risk by making it our fulltime job to represent the artists through social media, PR, mailings, opening receptions, artist talks, meetings with potential clients, and by keeping the doors open. We take on the risks of keeping the lights on, property taxes paid, loans paid, keep the heat on, and continually trying to make our spaces the best they can possibly be. We are continually educating ourselves in the arts and challenging ourselves to be better. We strive for a contemporary space that still feels inviting. It is a continual struggle and at best we break even. We do this because we love art and love working with artists. We believe Algoma can be a major player in the arts community. We have seen how it has grown in the arts since we have moved here. We started with our gallery and a Ceramics Co-Op and have grown to over half a dozen galleries in a town of no more than 3500. This has contributed to the quality of life of everyone in the town, I am certain.
I got a bit off topic, so I made a checklist of why and how you should invest in emerging artists. Starting an art collection is more affordable than you think if you take the right approach.
-First and foremost you should love the art that you are buying. The art market is fickle and you should definitely collect what you like. How do you know what you like? You can listen to your gut but also educate yourself! See below.
-Educate yourself. Start by reading one of the most basic contemporary art books you find in museum gift shops such as: “The Art Book” by Phaidon Press. It is a simple A-Z outline of Modern through Contemporary art. This is how I educated myself before going to art school.
-Build a Library. Start collecting Art Books or checking them out from your local library. I used to sit for hours as a teenager in the art books section at our public library paging through images and learning more about the artist’s lives. Their lives and their art are equally fascinating, I promise!
-Subscribe to an arts magazine to keep up with current trends. Try Art Forum, Art in America, or New American Paintings
-Go to as many museums and galleries as you can and start looking with a critical eye. You should get an idea of what you are attracted to or not. If you are not attracted to a specific piece of art, ask yourself why not? If it is a simple abstract piece that you feel anyone could do- dig deeper, learn about the art movement, the artist, and the historical underpinnings of the work. You may surprise yourself. The more you educate yourself the better and more confident you will become in developing your own personal taste.
-Come visit us! We are always up for a chat about art. You can also make a special appointment if you would like a more in-depth conversation. We are also happy to offer free on-site art consulting. We will bring works of art into your living space or business and help you to see what will work in your space. You will be able to see first hand how art is able to transform a space.
-Get advice from other artists, art historians, designers, collectors, or galleries that you admire.
-Arrange a studio visit with an artist you admire. Seeing the studio itself is a great way to connect more with the art they make. See how the work is made and delve into a more in-depth conversation with the artists about the concepts behind the work. Visit galleries where you can meet the artists and develop a personal relationship from there. Follow them on social media and sign up for their newsletter if they have one. This is a great way to watch an artist grow and develop a connection.
-Become a member of your local art museum or non-profit. Being a patron of the arts is just as important as becoming a collector and will help you to expand your social network.
Art is an investment. It is an investment in the art that was created, as well as the artists themselves. Buy what moves you, that speaks to you. Art that is valuable to you regardless of perceived monetary value. Overtime, developing an interest in art can connect you with an incredible social network and diverse, rich community. Collecting art is not only a great investment but it is also deeply rewarding and can be a life-enriching adventure!