How to start your art collection

framed art above bed

Uprise Art founder Tze Chun shares five tips for first-time art buyers, ahead of her talk at DUMBO House

By Jacquelyn Lumley  Tuesday 10 March, 2020

In mainstream circles, curating a personal art collection has long been regarded as a luxury pursuit. Unlike discovering music at a concert or browsing new titles at the bookshop, art galleries can intimidate first-time buyers looking to view works in-person. Tze Chun set out to change that. She founded Uprise Art in 2011, with a mission of spotlighting original work by up-and-coming artists – at all sorts of price points – via an online gallery that greets buyers with transparency at the virtual front door. She calls it art collecting, simplified. Here, Chun lays out some simple guidelines for starting a collection of your own:

1. Loosen up, and notice what you notice
‘People are often surprised by what they’re interested in. One of the things that I try to have our art advisors convey to collectors is that they don’t necessarily need to come in with a list of what they’re looking for. When people look at art, they seem to think they need to have some sort of reaction but truthfully, you don’t need to rate every piece that you see. Instead, find the common thread between the things that you’re drawn to — maybe it’s work that is abstract and open-ended, or maybe you stand in front of geometric pieces for a long time and you breeze past photography. When you have a strong reaction to something, take note, and figure out why you’re reacting.’

2. Forget everything you think you know about the ‘art collector’ personality
‘The art world defines art collectors one way – with a capital "C" – but I like to think that anyone who is supporting artists and engaging with artworks is an art collector. Some people feel like they don’t have the tools or resources to understand what the art means. If you have Instagram, you are a curator. Ten years ago, the average person did not know what they liked visually. But now, everyone is curating. It’s more of a mentality. If you are interested in being a part of the art ecosystem and learning about the work you are purchasing, I consider that collecting work.’
framed abstract art
a living room with big window and framed art
3. Get to know the artist and their work like you would a new friend
‘Go to art shows. Sign up for mailing lists and collect information about artists, even if you’re not collecting their work. That way, you can at least spark a relationship with their output and what they’re creating in the studio. The more you learn about the artist, the artwork’s story, and how it’s made, the more you can connect with the work. Friends are bound to ask questions about your artwork too, so it’s a great conversation starter to understand the provenance and background of the work.’ 

4. Don’t just add to cart – wait to fall in love
‘There are endless options out there when it comes to art, so don't settle on the first piece you gravitate towards. Think about how you experience the work, and how it resonates with you emotionally and conceptually. Don’t just follow the market – in the long run, that’s not going to serve you. History has shown that outsider artists were doing what they thought was important, and that it often took until after they were gone for that work to be recognised. It’s much more like match-making. Curation is the focus. I always advise collectors to sleep on it; if they keep thinking about a piece of art, that's when they know it's the right one. And when you do fall in love, make it yours.’
a woman making art in a studio
5. Move it!
‘If you’re collecting art, the idea is that you are bringing something into your home, so it’s very intimate, and I think that is sometimes a little bit scary for people. The idea is to move the art around your home to different spaces, even to spaces that don’t “fit” – like a small piece above a large sofa, or a very bold piece in the bedroom. These decisions help you rediscover the artwork and literally see it in different light. If you’re feeling like you want to redecorate your home, why don’t you just start by moving the artwork around and bringing new life into your home? I tell collectors all the time not to be too precious about where they put the artwork. Hopefully you’ll have your art for longer than you’ll have your home.’

Images from top: Sean Litchfield; Kristin Texeira art; Tessa Neustadt art (all courtesy of Uprise Art)
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