The Joys of Collecting Art: Should You Consider Becoming a Serious Collector?

Of course you should - but only if you want to take the time and effort required to develop a passion.

Let's say you are passed the preliminary stages of buying artwork. You told your decorator you don't want any more $3000 window treatments which the cat will probably wreck anyway. Rather, you want to spend money on art for your walls. You've purchased a couple of nice watercolors by local artists from a gallery close to your summer vacation home, and the house looks pretty good. Buying the art was fun, and the pieces you already have give pleasure. Should you consider becoming a real collector? There is a substantial learning curve involved, but the rewards are great.

Being a part of the art world can be one of the greatest joys of your life 

  • Looking at art fills your life with visual stimulation.
  • The people you meet - artists, dealers, collectors - are fascinating, passionate, and often eccentric. Typically they are generous with their time and anxious to help you learn. 
  • The art world reflects a hotbed of intellectual issues. Contemporary art deals with personal poetry, politics, philosophy, and sociology. To attempt to understand it, is to grapple with the main issues of the day. 
  • The gossip of the art world is endlessly fascinating. What dealer is sleeping with what artist, whose live-in lover is getting a show where, and what big collectors are pushing for their favorite artists to get museum shows. 

You Can Become a Collector.

Just think about buying two or three things a year - perhaps on an annual basis - a birthday or Valentine's Day. This adds up. Perhaps you want to specialize in a category of art. Something that expresses your own vision such as art by women, blacks, outsider art, abstract paintings, still lives, etc. So often, by developing a coherent vision and point of view, a collector can create a collection that is more than the sum of its parts, and actually enhances the objects in it.

How Collecting Art Can Change Your Life - a True Story

The classic story of contemporary art collectors is that of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a decidedly middle class Manhattan couple who have been avidly collecting the most avant-garde art of their time for the past 35 years. Herbert is a retired postal clerk who made at the most $16,000 a year. Dorothy is a librarian. In 1965, they befriended the important conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, and after his first show, bought their first piece of art. They now have over 100 works by LeWitt. Early on they decided to use Herb's salary for collecting and Dorothy's to live on, and over the intervening years, have amassed a collection of over 1500 pieces by the most important artists of the 70's and 80's.

Totally unassuming, short - Herb is 5 feet and Dorothy slightly taller - and notably frumpy, they have become the darlings of the art world. The objects that cram their tiny one-bedroom apartment - under the bed, hanging from the ceiling, etc, - reflect a prodigious intellectual journey and the creation of a specific sensibility that gives each individual piece in their collection more power than it would have on its own. The collection is its own work of art because it creates a context; a specific time in contemporary art, and reflects a specific idea of what art can be. The art world is their life. The Vogels were not content just to buy the art, but befriended the artists of their time and gave them unstinting emotional support. They attend all the gallery openings, exhibitions and events. They have made the art world their home. In a particularly touching tribute, they were crowned King and Queen of the Art World in a ceremony at PS1, a non-profit avant-garde art space in New York. So, for the Vogels the art world has enriched their lives - visually, intellectually and socially - and a rich life it is on $16,000 a year.