Does the idea of art collecting conjure up images of auctions at Sotheby’s New York with outrageous prices or stuffy rooms full of antiques? When it comes to collecting and displaying art for beginners, the whole enterprise can seem intimidating, expensive, or even boring.
But it doesn’t have to be. Art collecting is not about the price, and it is not about the so-called prestige. Starting your art collection is as simple as curating an interesting combination that reflects your personal soul. And art is for everyone — not just for people with trust funds! It’s about finding pieces that make you happy and turn a space into your space.
The best part? Making art look expensive is not nearly as difficult as it sounds. All you need is a keen eye and a few tips. Avoid the traps of beginner art collecting with our advice below!
Mistakes to Avoid When Collecting Art for Beginners
1. Caring too much about other people’s opinion
What is the biggest mistake beginners make when it comes to art collecting? Prioritizing other people’s tastes instead of your own. The first step to art collecting is to remove any assumptions of what art is “best” and start finding out what styles speak to you.
If you want to start cultivating an art collection, you need to know what you like — not what your mom likes or what is currently considered fine art! After all, many artists are not appreciated for their genius at first, and art trends change. Start asking yourself questions as you look to focus your art collecting around your personal style and preferences. Do you love paintings? Pottery? Or a less conventional art?
Taking the time to consider your favorite styles will improve your collecting so that you have a thoughtful mindset of “a collection of art,” not just separate pieces that lack cohesion. Plus, if you buy art based on other people’s opinions, then your home will be filled with what they like, not what you like.
Always buy according to your style and your preferences. A convenient way to expose yourself to new art and to learn is to read art magazines or art books or to browse artist platforms online. However, remember to keep in mind that these are a way to develop your taste and experience new art, not a rulebook.
2. Rushing to fill empty space
As you start collecting, the inevitable urge to decorate everywhere may start to creep into your mind. A truly mature personal art collection is accumulated over time. Every blank wall does not need to be filled today with the first piece that you can find. Rushing just to have a piece of art for the sake of it shows immaturity and won’t lead to a satisfying collection. It could also lead to blowing your budget big time!
Instead, slow down and enjoy the process of hunting for that perfect piece. Naturally, add the pieces that call to you. Collecting art as a beginner just requires that you be creative with where you find art.
3. Not having a budget…
Whether it’s a generous amount or a little, only you know what you can spend safely while still being able to afford your bills! Decide how much you’re willing to invest in art for your space.
4. … but also being afraid to spend on the right piece
Seem contradictory? While it’s important to set parameters for what you can afford, your budget should have some wiggle room. Don’t let hunting for deals and inexpensive art make you afraid to spend money when you do find an expensive piece that captures your heart and mind.
When looking for art, give yourself permission to splurge on some items for your collection that you know you will love for a long time. Think of your quest this way: find deals and steals when art collecting so that you have the funds to splurge when the time comes.
5. Forgetting to frame
One cost you should always factor in: The price of getting your art framed. The way the art is displayed is monumental in projecting a sophisticated vibe. Once you have a few pieces, you’ll want to display them nicely. The first tip to displaying art like an adult is simple yet absolutely key because of how much of a difference it will make. Frames. They are so important to take art to a whole new level and make everything more polished.
Bought a print from a local artist? Do not use a five-dollar frame from the craft store. This is a flashing sign of immaturity. The way to make the print pop and look polished is to actually have it framed by a professional with backing and matting. Re-invest some of the extra money you saved by seeking deals on the art into a unified, sleek display, and you will not regret paying for professional framing.
6. Opting for posters over prints
When it comes to acquiring and displaying art for beginners, there’s one wall decoration that strongly sends the wrong message. For mature art collecting, stay away from posters. They belong in the dorm, not in an adult’s array of pieces.
Instead, opt for prints that can be displayed in a number of sophisticated ways and are still relatively inexpensive. Giclee prints are an excellent alternative to pricey original art.
7. Keeping art styles separate
Pro tip when it comes to art for beginners: You don’t have to only collect one style. When crafting your arrangement of art, don’t be afraid to mix mediums in the same area of your home. A collection that highlights a combination of different types of art shows your varied interests. Place pieces in areas and groupings that suit how you like to look at them.
If you want to display your art in a creative, funky, unusual way, then do it! Embrace DIY for creating the way you display your art. Maybe you are building a way to put all of your prints on your wall in a unique way. Perhaps you have a collection of masks from different cultures, and you are making a system of hooks to hold them all. Become a creator yourself and make the exhibition method that suits your collection best. Have fun and enjoy leaning into your own creativity to solve the best way to fit your collection.
When you are out on the hunt for your next great find, keep in mind that an excellent way to have a mature collection (without spending oodles on every piece) is to mix the expensive with the affordable. The collection will have an eclectic vibe that reads as chic.
Where to find art for beginners
Looking for art is the fun part! Think and shop local to find art because local artists are often cheaper. An added benefit is that your art may be an original or a much rarer piece when you buy from a local artist. Bonus! Community markets with vendors are great places to meet artists in your community and buy new additions for your collection. If you don’t see anything that is quite right for you, be sure just to grab a card because they may have more on their website. In-person markets are also great places to discuss a possible custom piece with a local artist because you can interact with them face-to-face.
Another place to check for your art collecting is stored that sell a collection of items by a variety of local artisans. These stores are jackpots not only for art but (maybe even better) for information. Each local artisan’s name and contact information are usually listed, so you have homework now. This store gives you a whole bunch of potential artists to find online and connect with for more pieces. Make sure to pick up a card (notice a pattern here?) or take a photo of the information for every creator that you like!
Many local artists have their own galleries where you can see a wider variety of their work. Galleries can feel intimidating and overwhelmingly sophisticated, but just remember, you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Explore the gallery to see if you like the artist’s work. If you are worried about feeling pressured or uncomfortable, bring a friend so that you have someone to talk to and to help you feel comfortable. This art is probably the most expensive of the local art, but it also may really be worth it.
Meet the new best friend of an aspiring adult art collector: estate sales! Keep an eye out for these, and you may be pretty glad. Estate sales are different from a garage or yard sale. Some estate sales are truly an entire house worth of items, priced to move quickly. Often, they are the homes of older people who have passed away, meaning these sales frequently include marvelous art at a spectacular price. Your collection will have “expensive” pieces without the price tag, and we can keep that as our little secret.
A fun way to liven up art collecting is to put on your artist scout hat. Go to art events on the weekends; these are the perfect place to meet and see the work of up-and-coming artists. You may find someone who is just beginning as an artist but creates work that you absolutely love. A signed original by tomorrow’s hottest artist is just what will elevate art collecting to a whole new level of thrill. Plus, who doesn’t want to say that they knew an artist and liked their work before they became popular? Instant cachet in the art world.
Broaden your horizons on where to find art from the local to the international. These are still small businesses and artists, but you have access to so many more than just those in your area. On global digital platforms like Artrepreneur, you can explore artists from all over the world and sort the options by search term. You may find exactly what you want or realize you need something you didn’t know existed.
Similarly, Instagram has a surprisingly deep wealth of artists who sell through the platform, and you can connect directly with them for a more personal view of their artistic process. Don’t ignore the online options and opportunities to find special pieces of art; embrace searching Instagram for inspiration and new artists to follow. You just may find yourself with a new favorite artist.
Whether you are an avid globe trotter or an occasional road tripper, always bring a piece back from any travels. A diverse collection is a mature collection. Adding pieces from different cultures and different parts of the world brings a dimension to art collecting that cannot be feigned. To help include more geographic diversity in your collection, ask for art as a souvenir from friends or family whenever they travel instead of a T-shirt or a mug. These gifts certainly do not need to be expensive. Suggest a print or a piece of pottery by local artisans. The important aspect is that the art should be something representative of the location that you can now incorporate into your own collection. This provides sophistication to the collection without breaking the bank.
The takeaway on collecting art for beginners: Enjoy the process!
As you reframe your thinking, build your art collecting, find new places to buy art, and create your signature display, keep it fun. If you aren’t excited to find new art and happy to tweak your display method to include a new addition, then check back in with yourself to make sure you are focused on the right part of art collecting. The price and the prestige connected to art should be secondary; the love of art and joy in collecting are first and foremost.
The tips above are to help you do that on a budget while creating a sophisticated collection. They aren’t rules that are for every single circumstance. Let them spark ideas and your imagination for assembling your own collection using creative methods of saving money and curating a display.
Do you have any tips on collecting art for beginners? Leave a comment below so we can learn together!
Faith is a journalist and graduate of NYU. While at NYU, she was selected to study in the Madrid program. Faith's previous experience includes being a content producer for the lifestyle desk at Patch, an editorial intern at New York's El Correo newspaper and Cleveland Magazine. She also worked as a copy editor, writer and Culture Editor for Washington Square News.