Ask the Experts: The Art Buyer

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

What should be hanging on our walls?
Trends and markets change, so you have to buy what you love. If you’re building a major art collection, try to acquire works that are somehow related. When you fall for something, buy it—particularly from a young artist. You’ll be helping the artist out, and she may become huge in the future.

Any other tips?
Many artists work in multiple formats, so if you’re seriously collecting a particular artist, consider pieces from all phases of her career. It takes a lot of hunting, but that’s the thrill of it.

Where should we be looking?
Explore online platforms like Artsy, and museum websites like San Francisco MoMA’s Artscope, a tool that lets you browse thousands of objects from its collection. Scan publications such as Art+Auction, Artforum, The Art Newspaper, and the website Blouin ArtInfo to get a feel for the styles, periods, colors, and forms that speak to you.

And then?
Visit museums and galleries to see what these works are like in the flesh. The more you train your eye online and in real exhibitions, the more you’ll develop your own taste.

Obviously, there are major advantages to buying art in person.
Sure, you can really get a feel for the textures and scale of a work, particularly if it’s sculpture or 3-D.

So why buy art online?
Because you can comparison-shop and purchase from galleries you can’t travel to. Just be sure to buy from trusted dealers and auction houses. Ask if certificates of authenticity are available. For historical works, the seller should provide detailed documentation of provenance. If the website seems too fly-by-night or the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That goes for galleries, auction houses, and art shops as well.

Can art collecting be affordable?
Absolutely. Prices don’t make art great. What matters is that you love it. You can also purchase functional pieces that double as incredible works of art, like a fabulous Stag stool by Rick Owens, which is a favorite of Kanye West, or maybe a Jonathan Nesci table.

Where are the best deals found?
Many major artists and galleries donate works to support nonprofits, so you can often acquire something affordable by going that route. There are also really great gallery works in the $1,000 range. You can find limited editions by major artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Walton Ford, Laurie Simmons, and Jeremy Deller, who exhibited at the Venice Biennale this year.

Where can we discover the future stars of the art world?
Look at nonprofits like Public Art Fund and Creative Time, which put on public events with younger artists. Galleries also visit art-school thesis shows to scout for young talent, and the Armory Show and Frieze New York attract artists from all over the world, so it’s a great way to see what and who is hot.

Trick of the Trade
“Become a patron at museums. If you want insider access, supporting public art institutions is key. Go to gallery openings and auction previews if you want to be a knowledgeable collector.”

Ask the Experts: The Art Buyer