9 Tips for Building Your Own Art Collection

Lorenzo Bonfiglio
4 min readOct 3, 2023

Once someone begins to acquire a bit of discretionary income, they often opt to invest. One of the best investments is art, which you can appreciate as it appreciates. But how do you know whether to simply buy what appeals to you, in terms of its future market value, or whether to invest in collectibles that might not be quite to your taste?

As an art collector who also advises local artists and gallery owners on business matters, here are some of the tips I’ve learned along the way in building my own art collection:

· Buy with your heart. I don’t recommend investing in art if art doesn’t interest you. Unless you’re planning to store the pieces you acquire in a vault, you’re going to be living with and looking at them daily. So the first step is to decide what appeals to your aesthetic and focus on that. Visit galleries, attend exhibits and art shows, pour over art books, and perhaps even enroll in an art appreciation class if you have the time. You can also explore online marketplaces to find more affordable, original art by independent artists: Etsy and Redbubble are two sites that enable artists to showcase and sell affordable art. You may also find artists you’d like to learn more about on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and then you can visit their website, if they have one.

· Consider your space. Do you have a lot of blank walls? Are you seeking art for a studio apartment or a five-room house? Or just something for your office or bedroom? Where and how the art will be displayed will influence what you buy.

· Expand your definition of “art.” Paintings and sculpture are obvious choices, but what about masks? One woman curated an extensive indigenous mask collection from her travels all over the world. The masks, which graced her stairways and living room walls, were completely captivating because each came with a backstory. Some people collect vintage bottles or signs. If it speaks to you and it is collectible, it’s art.

· Decide how you want to curate your collection. Like the woman who collected masks from her global journeys, do you yearn to collect a specific type of art? Or art that focuses on a certain theme — for example, reclaimed pieces that showcase the importance of recycling? You can certainly “mix and match,” but knowing yourself and your reasons behind what you want to buy will help you create a collection that you can enjoy every day, regardless of its market value.

· Get acquainted with local artists. Emerging artists, especially, are usually eager to discuss their work. If you attend an exhibit or art fair where the artists are present, speak to those whose art catches your eye. This may be an ideal moment to acquire a piece from an up-and-coming artist whose work will increase in value over time.

· Start a collectors’ group. Networking with other new collectors is a wonderful way to rapidly expand your knowledge base and shortcut research time. You can also consider pooling resources to purchase a collection of pieces by a certain artist you all like, and then distribute them according to each person’s taste.

· Consider your budget. You don’t need to own a piece worthy of the Louvre or the Met to be an art collector! Art prints and digital art are two viable ways for people with limited resources to begin collecting art. Art prints, especially limited-edition prints, are a more affordable way to own a piece of work from an artist you admire. Research various printmaking techniques, such as lithography, etching, and screen-printing. Also, pay attention to the edition size, as smaller editions often carry more value. And just like the originals, art prints can appreciate over time.

· Request the certificate of authenticity. This verifies that the artwork you’re buying is a legitimate original. If and when you decide to sell your collection, certificates of authenticity help increase the value of the artwork.

· Ask a lot of questions! It’s vital to know the right way to package, transport, frame, install, insure, display, and maintain your acquisitions — especially because any of these steps, done incorrectly, can devalue or even ruin the piece. For instance, you never want to hang paintings in direct sunlight or in an environment that’s overly humid or dry. So pepper your gallerist, art dealer, auction house or exhibitor with questions before you complete the purchase in order to ensure happy results for many years to come.

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Lorenzo Bonfiglio

Lorenzo Bonfiglio, a Los Angeles global executive, is head of expansion and strategy for Swedish-based xNomad, a marketplace for short-term retail space.