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Why You Don’t Need To Be Rich To Collect Art

Rhianna Walcott, Associate Director Artereal Gallery and Art Month Board Member
Rhianna Walcott, Associate Director Artereal Gallery and Art Month Board Member.

Rhianna Walcott, Associate Director Artereal Gallery and Art Month Board Member, reports on why you don’t need to be rich to collect art. She also provides suggestions for finding artworks to suit any budget; from $200 to $20,000.

One of the biggest myths that pervades the contemporary art world is the belief that you have to wait until you are ‘rich’ before you can realistically collect art. Not at all true. In the context of the Australian contemporary art market, you can always find some gems by emerging artists for as little as a few hundred dollars, with artworks by more established artists starting for only a few thousand dollars if you know where to look.

So, if you are interested in building an art collection but you’re new to all this, where should you start? First things first, you need to develop your eye. To do this you need to start immersing yourself in art. This is the fun part. Start checking out galleries and artists online (most galleries have an extensive presence online and are all over instagram) and from there start visiting the galleries that catch your attention. The more art you see, the more you will start to develop a really clear understanding of your own taste, what it is you’re looking for, and what kind of options exist.

Art Month Sydney is a great time to launch your collecting journey because you can take advantage of the festival’s precinct nights and wonder around a neighbourhood gallery hopping late into the night!

Once you start visiting galleries make sure to talk to the gallery staff. Galleries can seem intimidating, but most of the time the people working in them are incredibly passionate about their job and very willing to have a chat about the artwork on display. If you’re ready to start your collecting journey, start a conversation with the Gallery staff and let them know the parameters you are collecting within.

For example, you might not want to spend more than $1,000. Or you might have size limitations and need a work that measures no larger than 70cm wide. You might have decided you want to focus solely on painting, or sculpture, or works on paper. The more information you are willing to share with the gallery staff the more they can start to help you find the works available that might suit you best. Don’t expect this to be a quick process. Part of the fun of buying art is the journey of discovery it takes you on. So ask the gallery staff to keep you in mind if any relevant new works enter the gallery stockroom.

Perhaps the biggest tip to remember when collecting art though, is that you don’t always have to pay for the entire artwork up front! Many galleries have traditionally been very happy to accept a deposit (usually around 20%) and negotiate an agreed payment plan with you. (Around 6-12 weeks would be considered fairly reasonable. And you’ll need to wait until the work is paid in full before taking it home). In recent years a local startup called Art Money have entered the scene, and that’s been a real game changer for the art industry. Think of them as similar to AfterPay, but for art.

white concrete statue near brown wooden chairs
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 Art Money allows you to put down a 10% deposit, take the artwork home then and there, and pay off the remaining amount in monthly instalments over a nine month period. And best of all there are no fees or interest charged. 

Consider buying photography, works on paper or ceramics. Artworks by younger artists working across these  three mediums tend to be more affordable than painting and sculpture. Right now is a particularly exciting time to look at ceramics, a medium which has often been denigrated as craft in the past but which in recent years has experienced a real renaissance and new level of acceptance in the contemporary art world. Check out Kil.n.it Experimental Ceramics Studio to start following the latest wave of bright young things. (You can also buy direct from some of the studios and they often have amazing open days!)

Support emerging artists and do your hip pocket a favour by collecting art from art school grad shows. Sydney boasts three amazing art schools: Sydney College of the Arts, UNSW Art + Design and the National Art School – all of which have annual end of year grad shows profiling many exciting new artists. The National Art School’s grad shows are notoriously popular – with many artists selling out their work on opening night. They also sell the work online, making it quick and easy to get in early and snap up an incredible work by an artist who may one day be a superstar of the next generation!

art gallery
Visit art galleries from small to large ones and support local art initiatives

On that note, you can also buy some pretty great work from Artist Run Initiatives (galleries run in a grass roots fashion by a collective of artists and often known as ARI’s). Sydney’s oldest ARI, Firstdraft in Woolloomooloo has been running for over 30 years now and is famous for it’s annual fundraising auction.

Other ARI’s to watch include Pari in Parramatta, Knulp in Camperdown, 107 Projects in Redfern, Cement Fondu in Paddington and Boomalli in Leichhardt. (Remember to ask if the artwiork is for sale if you see something you like. ARI’s can be a bit more cryptic to navigate, but often the artist will be thrilled to hear someone is interested in potentially collecting their work, so don’t be shy).

Start a collecting group! Get together a group of other interested collectors and agree on a set amount that you all plan to invest each year. For example, $2,000. Collectively ten couples might band together and before you know it you have $20,000 to spend as a group. This path is for those serious about collecting and needs to be treated seriously. Ask a lawyer to help you draft a constitution which outlines how decisions will be made, what will happen should someone choose to leave the group, and what will happen to the artworks at the end of the set period. Usually collecting groups run for around 7-10 years. Artworks owned by the group are regularly rotated between houses and then auctioned off internally at the end of the group’s agreed to lifespan. More work, but also more fun.

Pic credit for hero shot: Photography by Ella Harkin.

Written by Robyn Foyster

With over 30 years experience as a journalist and TV producer, Robyn Foyster is the owner and publisher of the lifestyle websites TheCarousel.com, GameChangers.com.au and WomenLoveTech.com.

Robyn was voted one of the 30 most powerful women in media at the 2015 B&T Women In Media Awards.

Previously, Robyn was the Publisher and Editor of Australia's three biggest flagship magazine brands - The Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day and New Idea.

Robyn won Editor of the Year at the 2007 Magazine of the Year Award and under her helm The Australian Women's Weekly won the inaugural 2008 Australian Magazine Award for Australia's best mass market magazine and New Idea won the MPA's coveted Magazine of the Year award.

She can be contacted on [email protected]

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