A Poor Collector's Guide to Buying Great Art

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Spending August in the city with the unbearable heatwave dried up all inspiration and creativity and left me dreaming of an oceanside holiday. When a friend of mine invited me to his summer home on the stylish and quiet island, Ile de Ré, in the west of France for a week of indian summer, I happily obliged.

I threw on a pair of espradilles and packed up my new book, A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art by Erling Kagge, to learn, poolside, how a girl of moderate means, but subjectively, million dollar taste - could start collecting art.

Pastis in hand, I started to flip through a not only very concise and informative guide to buying great art on a budget, but a book where more or less every line is quotable. Kagge shares tips from his art collecting career and adventure from making five million in a few months a on a single piece, to which rules to follow and which rules to break. The saturated burnt orange fabric bound cover and bold yet simplistic graphic and layout design make this book a luxurious addition to one's library, yet still at a reasonable price for us poor but fabulous budding collectors.

He mentions starting with five thousand euros, which means I may even be too poor to use this guide at the moment... Never-the-less, 'A Poor Collector's Guide to Buying Great Art' was a great read that will definitely come in handy once I do gather 5k in my future art buying fund. It seems as though the best advice for the truly poor budding art collector is to start small, invest in subscriptions to art and design magazines, go to art fairs and or purchase signed editions of photos, prints and or sculptures. Numbered and signed editions offer some of best value in today's market and allow one to begin collecting, and when sold will earn you enough to keep on collecting.

All in all, investing is always a risk and collecting quality art is no different. With that being said, I'd rather take the risk on an artist I believe in than another wolf on wall street.

I'll share some of my favourite of Erling's tips below. 

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What Erling Taught Us


"To be a successful collector, you must learn to follow your own instincts and see, listen, read, buy and perhaps sell as much art as you can."


Be Obsessed.

"Successfully collecting art does not just mean being obsessed, it also requires being informed."

The most common questions budding collectors ask -
"I have five thousand euros, what should I do?"

"Accept that there are no rules, only deals."


"Quality art is much like a good novel; some things are said, others remain unsaid and in the end some things remain unexplained".


How to Build a More Interesting Collection Than Oligarch

"People with unlimited budgets usually have boring collections. Great collectors often suffer; they buy works they cannot afford, take on debt they don't know how they'll pay back and must constantly fight for better prices."


"Buy what you like. That is lousy advice. If you buy only what pleases your eye, you may end up with a boring collection."


When to Buy an Artist

History proves the following:
1. The avant-garde nearly always gets assimilated.
2. Young people always get older.
3. Most artists, even those once considered great, will be forgotten.


"Artists usually need time to develop their skill, develop a cadre of loyal collectors and catch the eye of a galleries who loves their art and can help build their career".


The Gallerist Holds the Key.

"Look for gallerists who believe in their artists and stick with them. Gallerists who try to follow the latest trends generally have banal taste and only offer short term value."


Will You Make Money?

"There is a chance that you make money on your art and a greater chance that you don't; the difference is largely luck. Equating a popular asset with a profitable asset is misleading. From an investment point of view, art seems to be a very tangible prospect."

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