Back in the decadent 1980s, when contemporary art was mostly New York based, I launched The London Art Fair in Islington. I got to know many dealers by attending their private views to drink poor wine, practice art small talk and view their latest exhibition. This changed my taste in art forever, and I sold my small collection of old masters at a Sotheby's auction and started collecting modern and contemporary work. What's the difference between buying art and collecting? Buying sounds cheap but collecting sounds cultured. And collecting implies an ongoing commitment to building well... a collection.
Collecting art, especially contemporary work (from living artists) has become increasing fashionable over the past 20 years, and is no longer restricted to the rich and famous. Contemporary work is still comparatively inexpensive, is more accessible than ever, through art fairs and many, many new galleries, and the thrill of discovering a new star is ever present. Art enriches your environment and your life and, if you're very lucky, might even prove a good investment. So, if you're thinking of becoming a collector, here are a few tips to get you started...
SOME COMMON MISTAKES
Over negotiating and over consulting
Dealers have some leeway on price, depending on the artist's reputation, but not as much as you might think. If you ask friends their opinion a subsequent purchase may be riddled with doubt. Buying art is not a science.
Obsessing (over an artist)
Avoid the tendency to buy too much from one artist. This is not like fashion where staying with one designer brand suits your look. Diversify your taste and you'll never get bored.
Looking for the hidden meaning
Artists tend to intellectualise over their work, waxing lyrical about the deep message they are trying to convey or story they are trying to tell. Years later this is likely to change, because of memory lapse or a fresher version of the truth. Just ask yourself if you love the image and leave storytelling to authors.