Ashley McKenzie-Barnes

A black and white portrait of a woman

The Toronto-based curator and creative director shares her top tips for new art collectors

Soho House Toronto member Ashley McKenzie-Barnes is a creative director, curator and academic professor. She has served as a curator for the renowned overnight art festival Nuit Blanche Toronto. And she’s also worked on exhibitions and installations for TEDxToronto, Scotiabank, Samsung, Bell Media, WE Charity, Manifesto Festival, Artscape and byMinistry, among others.

McKenzie-Barnes was also on the winning team for our Soho House Summer League two years in a row. And during the 2017 finals in Miami, she fell in love with Soho Beach House Miami. ‘It hands down has the best vibe of all the Houses,’ she says. 

Here, she taps into her curating experience to share her top five tips for new art collectors. 

Take your time with researching what you do and don’t like
‘Art collecting should be organic in practice, and therefore it requires you to be exposed to different types of artists and art forms. This allows you to start evaluating what you are attracted to and why. You should attend gallery openings, research artists online and on social, and travel to see different museums, art institutions, and large art fairs.’

Don’t follow trends
‘You shouldn’t start buying big, notable names or Instagram-famous profiles just because it’s easy and accessible. You probably aren’t connecting with the artist and their work that way, and there’s a chance that you will have a disconnect with the work in the long run. You are in this for the long term, so choose wisely and fall in love with your choices.’

Purchase within your budget
‘Art collecting isn’t for the wealthy or upper class only. It’s a practice for everyone – whether it’s to beautify your home, showcase your appreciation for art or use as an investment. Depending on your intention, there are ways to purchase artwork for less. Think about buying from the artist directly, rather than from a gallery/ gallerist, or looking into Giclée or limited-edition prints.’

Grow your collection slowly
‘Keeping the previous points in mind as to why you should invest in your collection slowly, there’s also the possibility that your taste will change as you see more and evolve personally. Your budget may also grow, allowing you to purchase larger works, or more financially valuable pieces.’

Catalogue the value and provenance of your collection
‘Keep records of the original price and current value of your works, along with who and where you purchased them from. This is helpful for your own knowledge, and it’s also important for getting your collection insured and keeping it protected. It’s a good idea to have an appraisal done of your collection, and get it covered under your homeowner’s policy.’