How to start an art collection: a step-by-step guideline for collectors

Embarking on the journey of art collecting ushers you into a world that transcends the mere acquisition of aesthetic items; it's an odyssey filled with cultural discoveries, personal challenges, and the potential for financial rewards. 

In this article, we will share exclusive insights and strategic touchpoints that can guide new enthusiasts toward creating meaningful and valued collections. 

Essential tips for new art collectors

Before you can truly navigate the art world, it is essential to adopt a well-informed, strategic approach. Below, we outline critical steps that can transform a novice into a savvy and discerning art collector.

Expand your knowledge in art collecting

First and foremost, take a deep dive into the study of the art market. Research artists and artistic movements that pick your interest. A deep understanding of historical periods and styles can act as a compass for your future acquisitions.

Immerse yourself in the art world

Art is meant to be experienced, not just acquired. To truly participate in the art scene:

  • Visit art fairs and auction exhibitions: these events are superb opportunities to explore a variety of works and grasp market nuances.
  • Experience art in situ: immerse yourself in environments where art is the focal point. This immersion creates a more intimate connection with the arts, fostering confidence and familiarity.

Conduct thorough research

Never underestimate the importance of thorough research. Spend time getting to know galleries, auction houses, and studying the background and works of artists that interest you.

Turn learning into practice 

With the wealth of information gathered:

  • Embark on cultural outings: museums and galleries are inexhaustible sources of inspiration and education.

Seek out specialized literature: reading books and subscribing to art-related periodicals are ways to stay abreast of the latest trends and critical analysis.

To enrich your knowledge, subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on current art market trends, available exclusively to our subscribers.

Define your taste and criteria 

Art collecting is an extension of your identity. Determine which styles, periods, or artists resonate most deeply with you. A personal collection might start with a simple fascination or reflect your personal values.

Establish a budget 

It’s critical to determine the amount you’re comfortable investing in your first piece of art. Consider this: is your goal to enrich your home with pieces that touch your heart, or to diversify your investments with assets that may appreciate over time? Once you’ve decided, remember that the final cost involves more than just the purchase price of the piece; there are additional expenses that should not be overlooked such as:

  • Commission fees if buying through galleries and auctions;
  • Import taxes if the work is from overseas;

Transportation and insurance expenses, ensuring the piece arrives intact to your home or exhibition space.

If your purchase is investor-minded, financial planning adds another layer: that of the return on investment (ROI). Evaluate the art market’s history, trends, and the potential appreciation of the work or artist over the medium to long term. 

Being well-informed and seeking expert advice can be crucial for ensuring the allocated budget brings not only personal satisfaction but also financial returns in the future.

Verify provenance and authenticity 

When considering a work of art, always verify its provenance and authenticity. This can include the artwork’s history, documentation of preview collections, catalogs raisonnés, and even certificates of authenticity. A work with clear and well-documented provenance is a safer investment.

Here’s how you can ensure the legitimacy and value of your investment:

  • Certificate of authenticity: think of this as the artwork’s ID. Only select institutions that represent the artist, along with qualified experts, have the requisite authority to issue a certificate of authenticity. It acts like a stamp of quality, safeguarding you from buying a pig in a poke (or, as the saying goes, “buying a cat in a bag”).
  • Catalogue raisonné: an artist’s catalogue raisonné is an extensive and methodical compilation of all their known works. Listing a piece in this catalogue endows it with a mark of authentication, which makes the publication an indispensable resource for verifying the credibility of the artwork.
  • Provenance research: a more specific approach to verifying an artwork’s origins is through research that includes tracing its history across past auctions, besides sourcing receipts from collections it previously belonged to.

Connection to the artist or experts: if the artist whose work you’re interested in is still active and selling their art, great! Speaking with them can provide unique insights into the work and even ensure authenticity. If the artist has passed away, seeking out representatives or experts on their work is crucial. They are like the custodians of the artist’s legacy and can offer valuable information about the pieces.

Free appraisals & inventories

Do you have a piece of art at home and are unsure of its market value? Let SSAA appraise it for you. Our rigorous methodology involves researching auction results and gallery sales prices to provide a realistic basis and the best sales strategies.

We also offer authenticity checks and documentation for your potential acquisition. Get in touch with us to learn more about this essential service.

Collection building assistance (buying and selling)

Besides general guidance, it’s important to have a service that goes the extra mile, supporting you in every aspect of your collecting journey. The Sophie’s Collection Building Assistance Service is crafted to align with your specific tastes and objectives, ensuring that each acquisition or sale enhances the prestige and the value of your collection. 

With access to our expert knowledge of the art market, you’ll have assistance navigating unique opportunities and making advantageous transactions.

Whether you’re a new collector aiming to lay down sturdy foundations or a qualified collector looking to elevate your collection, this tailored service is an invaluable asset.

If you aspire to build a collection with expert assistance, reach out to discuss how this service can guide your collection to the success you desire.

Remember: collecting art is a personal journey that reflects your own narrative and worldview. Enjoy each step of this incredible process!

Essentials you can’t skip in the process:

Take care of your collection diligently

How you maintain your collection is pivotal to preserving—and possibly enhancing—the value of the artworks over time. Consulting with restorers or conservators can ensure that your pieces remain in top condition.

Document your collection

Keeping detailed records of each piece, including photographs, certificates of authenticity, invoices, bibliography and exhibitions, value assessments, and any correspondence with artists or sellers is crucial for both insurance purposes and provenance history.

Share your passion

An art collection truly comes alive not just in private moments of appreciation but also in being shared with others. Moreover: by sharing, you enrich the art culture and inspire other budding collectors.

Exclusive tips:

  • Partake in private collection tours and, in the future, host tours of your very own collection.
  • Engage in art conversations, both online and offline, to build your knowledge and network.
  • Consider hiring an art consultant to assist with initial acquisitions.
  • Follow auctions and stay alert to opportunities to purchase works with an attractive market value.

Content that will improve your journey:

  • “The Art of Collecting Art” by Kimberly Douglass and John Spence.
  • “Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art” by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo.
  • The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report


  • The Price of Everything (2018)
  • Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World (2017)
  • Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art (2020)
  • The $50m Art Swindle (2019)
  • The Square (2017)


  • The Story of Art  by E. H. Gombrich
  • The $12 Million Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson
  • Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Tornton
  • Breakfast at Sotheby’s by Philippe Crochet
  • Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freedland
  • Vasari Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari

Chercheurs d’art: Les marchands d’art hier et aujourd’hui by Yan Kerlau

When you navigate the art collecting journey, the greatest awards frequently are the knowledge gained and the experiences gathered. This is what makes each piece of your collection a truly keepsake of meanings

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