How to Start a Home Art Collection—Without Breaking the Bank

Brush Up on Art History

Collecting original artwork can be daunting, particularly if you don’t already have the art education to know your Monets from your Manets. Doing a bit of art research before you buy could spell the difference between a sound investment and a costly mistake.

Make it a point to visit museums, galleries, art fairs, and online art resources to get a sense of the various art styles and movements—and, most importantly, what types of art speak to you. “We call it ‘training your eye,’” says Elena Soboleva, special projects curator at Artsy, the world’s largest online database for contemporary art. “Even if you can’t afford the pieces or they’re in a museum context, research is very valuable. It will inform you on a scale that you can afford.”

Artwork at home

Skip the “Easy” Piece

Fight the urge to splurge on the very first piece of original art that you fall for. “You have to love it, but you have to love it in a complex way,” says Soboleva. Since the artwork will hang in your home for years, likely in a spot where you’ll see it every single day, try to find a piece that is a bit of a challenge for you and that has many layers. “If it’s too simple or has one punch line, you’re going to get sick of it,” Soboleva says.

Three pieces of art hanging on a wallPhoto: ShutterStock

Build a Theme for Your Home Art Collection

It’s one thing to invest in one piece of original art, but what about adding a second and third canvas to your ever-growing home art collection?

According to Soboleva, it’s important to choose a theme to guide your selection of artwork. “A theme gives a collection some focus,” she says. “You want to end up with a collection of pieces that contextualize each other and create a greater narrative than the pieces by themselves.” The theme could be based on the historical period the artwork was created, the style of the pieces, or the subjects depicted. “You don’t have to be too rigid,” Soboleva says. “It can be more of an underlying theme.”

Couple hanging artwork at home

Invest in Art that You Like

You might think it goes without saying, but if you’re purchasing art to display in your home, it’s important to invest in pieces that you actually like. As Soboleva says, “You’re buying it for life,” so decisions should be based on what speaks to you rather than what complements the current colours in your decor.

“Even a humble art collection can be very meaningful,” says Soboleva. “It’s one of the few things you can pass along to your kids.”

Woman thinking about moneyPhoto: ShutterStock

Don’t Be Overly Concerned About Resale Value

When investing money into a home art collection, it’s natural to think about whether or not the pieces will appreciate over time. According to Soboleva, however, that’s likely not worth losing sleep over—unless you’re a particularly high-roller, that is. Any piece of art under $10,000 isn’t likely to spell a financial windfall for you—or your heirs. “At that level, there are a lot of artists, and it’s not clear who is going to succeed,” she says. “Again, that’s why you should buy something you love and are going to enjoy.”


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