August 3rd, 2011

An Educational Moment: The “Do’s And Don’ts”

of Art Collecting By Roger Hurlburt

From The Palm Beach Investment Newsletter, “At Joe’s Cigar Bar”…

DO some homework. Check out exhibitions, prices, and, most of all, what the artist creates that might interest you. The Internet has changed everything. Most of the time, it is easy to research an artist via a website.

DON’T make a gallery owner your art advisor. Galleries are great places to visit, but remember that gallery owners are in the business of selling.  Avoid the hard sell, the promise of how prices for the artist’s work will surely soar, the “better get one now” pitch… that sort of stuff. No one can predict an artist’s market. Editor’s note: be wary of any gallery that makes you promises that are market conditional– this isn’t someone you want to work with anyway. An art gallery and their staff can certainly advise you on other purchases outside of their gallery. Get to know the gallery and staff.

DO some traveling. There is nothing wrong with living in Kansas and buying art at a local art gallery. But if you strive to put together a collection of beauty, interest, and value, you must go to New York City. Since WWII, Manhattan has been the hub of the art world, and every artist longs to exhibit there. Want to find new and exciting talent? All art roads lead to The Big Apple. Look about the multitude of galleries both old and new, big and small.

DON’T expect the average interior decorator to fill your home with fine art. They are adept at “furnishing” a residence with art objects for a hefty fee. But virtually none will ever be worth anything. Often, for nearly the same budget, the homeowner can become a collector of material of value. So maybe there isn’t the sense of immediate gratification. Patience is a collecting virtue.

DO pay heed to the words of art critics and reviewers. Their observations are born of knowledge, objectivity, and an intimate connection with the art trade. If they say some up-and-comer is worth watching, watch that artist. And, if you like the work, consider buying it.

DON’T buy art at a gallery that runs “sales.” Prices for viable artists—established artists whose work may or may not appreciate—invariably rise, but they NEVER go down. Never. Steer clear of mall galleries and ersatz art emporiums that are really framing stores in disguise. And those weekend hotel-lobby extravaganzas promising “original oil paintings.” If you want to match a painting to the hues in the couch cushions, call your decorator.

DO maintain a sensible art-buying budget. You don’t have to mortgage the house to collect quality art. Collecting does cost money, but it is not how much money you spend—it is what you spend your money on.

DON’T “invest” in copies, facsimiles, or reproductions. They are worth nothing—tangibly or emotionally. All collectors, whether or not they recognize it, desire satisfaction in a work of art. Something outwardly bogus will never deliver.

DO develop and follow your own collecting eye, taste, and spirit. Shy away from trends, who celebrities buy or endorse, and who just caused a sensation at the Venice Biennale. Art collecting is one of the most personally rewarding of endeavors if you stick to your own emotional and visual guns.

Don’t consider becoming an art collector if any of the previous “do’s and don’ts” make little sense. There are always baseball cards, Beanie Babies, and vintage wines to collect.

Contact Info: Roger Hurlburt is an art historian, fine arts critic, and acquisition consultant. If you would like to contact him, you may call him at (561) 251-9860 or email him at