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Collecting on a budget

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

When people think about collecting, they often fear they don’t have the budget. While there are some million-dollar artworks out there, they do not represent the majority of artworks on the market. Creating a meaningful art collection is possible on a budget – you just need to know how to start!

Budget can mean different things to different people. Larger budgets can be amassed through conscientious saving, and this makes sense especially if you regard art collecting as a form of investment for yourself. However, regardless of your spending range, you cannot compromise on quality. If you’re looking in the right places, you can still build a meaningful collection of quality works that were made by good artists.

You first need to train your eye in recognising quality art that appeals to you and accumulate knowledge about art, the art history and the art market, and artists you like. Next, you should find your focus because this will assist your selection process along the way. Rather than focusing on what you cannot afford, such as famous Picasso paintings or ancient sculptures, consider which artists and artworks are within your price range.

Ayu Arista Murti, "I'm Watering Myself, 2018, Acrylic, charcoal, soft pastel, dust on canvas, 200x190cm, Courtesy of the Artist

Emerging Artists

Budgeting collectors may be attracted to emerging artists’ artwork because they are more affordable and may go up in value. As a collector, you play a key role in supporting an artist financially. Your investment can mean a lot to an artist trying to be seen and heard in the art market. New friendships can be gained through collecting –collectors may bounce ideas with an artist and encourage the development of their artistic career. As you learn about an artist’s process, you may become an advocate for their work with other collectors!

Another great reason to collect emerging artists’ work is the opportunity to support innovation. Throughout history, artists have strived to represent the ‘avant garde’ by developing new concepts and methods of art making. Emerging artists are often the pioneers of change and they are generally more open to new ideas and exploration. On the one hand, it can be harder to predict the future of their artistic practice. However, collecting emerging artists’ work might reward you with exciting opportunities for discovery.

My main piece of advice for acquiring work by emerging artists is to choose carefully and selectively. You should use your collection focus to guide your selection. There may be one artist that you love, or you may focus on several emerging artists who have a common theme or city of origin. Once you find a work that you like, get to know the artist’s process and ideas, use of materials, and connection to history. You may read, speak with the artist, or work with art experts who specialise in contemporary art.

Collecting in another region

Installation photo of Anida Yoeu Ali's works from the "Buddhist Bug Series", 2012-2014, Digital C-print, Courtesy of the Artist

You may find that other cities or countries have very different prices for art due to differences in currency, market and contexts. For example, an emerging artist's work in Australia may be priced the same or more than an artwork by an established artist in South East Asia. In other words, you may be able to acquire high quality work by exploring a different region and art market.

To collect internationally, you really need to visit the place and enjoy immersing yourself in its local art ecosystem. It’s much easier to navigate your way around a new city if you connect with someone who knows the artists, galleries, fairs, culture and language. Local experts will understand art history and the current socio-political issues; they should be able to communicate the context that informs the contemporary art being made.

Choosing art made in different mediums

Some mediums tend to be more expensive than others for several reasons, including manufacturing costs and the art market’s appreciation. You may want to explore artworks other than oil paintings and bronze sculptures and consider the option of paper artworks - photographs, drawings, and prints – or even video. An artist’s primary body of works, such as paintings or sculptures, may be far out of your range. However, you could still collect a piece of their history by purchasing one of their sketches or a print. Works on paper such as linocut prints are completed in editions, so the price point is generally much more affordable than a limited-edition painting for example.

Muhamad Uçup Yusuf, "Turn Back Hypocrisy", 2019, Lino block print reduction on paper, 56x80cm, 8 editions, Courtesy of the Artist

Lastly, be conscious of all the costs involved so you don’t overstep your budget too soon. These costs include: transport (particularly for international shipping), framing and installing, consultancy, the artwork itself, and any insurance you wish to obtain.

No matter what route you choose to pursue, there are opportunities for you to collect meaningful artworks on a smaller budget. You may acquire only a few works in your first years of collecting, which is fine! There should no rush to collect, just remember to find some continuity between the artworks you collect.

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