How to Start Collecting: Nine Tips for the Emerging Art Collector

Building an art collection can seem daunting, but even the most inspiring and esteemed art collectors began somewhere. Regardless of budget, new art collectors can build a captivating collection of art in following creditable advice and relying on reputable sources. From years of experience in consulting with art collectors, here are a few tips to begin your art collection:

1. Cultivate your taste, and buy what you love

This  sage advice comes from almost everyone in the art world. First, develop your eye for art. How? Visit museums, frequent galleries, and tour artist studios. Second, buy what you love. Release the false idea that buying art has to result in a return on investment. If you do not love the artwork and your investment flops, you are left with a piece of resentment hanging on your wall. Instead, focus on the works of art you will enjoy seeing every day so any increase in value is a bonus.

2. Embrace the art collector’s lifestyle

A refined, cohesive art collection grows and develops over time. Even if you have plenty of wall space to cover, slow down Do not get swept away in the idea that your home has to be filled with art as soon as possible. Instead, establish a clearly defined goal for your art collection and embrace collecting as a lifelong endeavor.

3. Explore online platforms

Include virtual viewing rooms and online platforms as tools for researching an artist or artwork.  In response to the pandemic, the art market has made extensive improvements to online viewing rooms, including an increase in transparency in pricing and technological advances. Art fairs have embraced the virtual art fair, with Art Basel's OVR at the forefront; galleries have partnered to offer dynamic exhibitions; and auction houses have increased their stronghold in the private sector.

4. Get curious and ask questions

While exploring art galleries and art fairs, ask the dealers questions about the artist and their career: “What other works do you have by this artist? And from which period of their career? Is the artist exhibiting in any recent or upcoming exhibitions? Which institutions are interested in their work? Has their work been acknowledged with any awards? What is your asking price?” Then, look to compare one work to another, paying close attention to the variations in composition, form, color, application of the medium, and overall treatment of the canvas. What appeals to you in one more so than the other? Never stop this process of discovery, even as you are actively acquiring.

5. Build relationships and keep your options open

In familiarizing yourself with the art scene and frequenting exhibitions, start building relationships with dealers and specialists. As your collection evolves, do not lean too heavily on any one gallery or dealer. Even if you prefer dealing with a specific specialist, explore your options, be open to what other dealers may be offering, and always do your own independent research.

6. Assess before you acquire

Even if it is a work of art you love, do your due diligence. Research how the price aligns with comparable works of art. No one wants to admit they overpaid. Likewise, if the deal seems too good to be true then it probably is. Whether in person or online, request a condition report and ask for the provenance to ensure a quality purchase.

7. Consider potential challenges

If the artwork is created with unique media, display and preservation issues will be unique too. Artists now use a range of materials, from acrylic and oil paints to food products and other ephemeral materials. In some cases, the artist is aware that these materials will change over time, and they may consider that change to be part of the work. Collectors of artwork that includes non-traditional materials should work with a conservator to ensure proper display and environmental controls are in place to help protect and preserve their artwork.

8. Ship and pack your artwork using only specialists

If purchasing artwork online or if intending to  move your artwork from place to place, it is important to use a packer and shipper that specializes in handling fine art, rather than a general carrier. Why? Transit is a major cause of loss or damage to art. If looking for a recommendation, contact your insurance carrier for vetted resources.

9. Don’t forget insurance

Most homeowner’s policies cover a  home and its contents but may not be enough to cover a fine art purchase or group of pieces. Make sure to contact your insurance agent or broker to see about an additional valuable articles policy that will cover your artwork, whether it is lost, stolen, or damaged, up to its retail replacement value.


Stephanie McNeil is Senior Fine Art and Collections Specialist for Chubb Personal Risk Services. She is based in New York City.

The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.