I am often asked what an emerging collector should look for or, be cautious of, when making the first purchase of original art. Additionally, how a novice collector should proceed to collect work by emerging artists. The following are my rules for the novice collector.
1. Educate yourself. There are many avenues to explore to build your knowledge and gather information: museums, schools, libraries, galleries, and art journals. Avail yourself of the broad range of art magazines and books at your local library and bookstore. I prefer The Strand Bookstore (located in New York City), but, at any good bookstore you should be able to find books that range from H.W. Janson's History of Art, to, books that give information on emgerging trends in contemporary art such as Performance, Live Art Since 1960 by Roselee Goldberg or Peter de Bolla's book on "practical aesthetics", Art Matters.
I find the New York times (especially the Friday edition) a useful source for content and information on the emerging art market. As a daily publication the information provided is up to date, unlike art magazines that work three months in advance. Having said that, Art in America, The International Review of African American Art, Flash Art, Art & Auction and Artforum are important sources of information.
2. Go to museum lectures. Lectures are generally free with the price of museum admission. Most museums have late nights once a week when "suggested admission" applies (pay what you wish). Check with your local museums for information and do not be afraid to ask questions. Art courses are readily available at many museums.
3. Attend the previews for the auction houses in your area; this will give you the opportunity to see important works of art.
4. Visit art galleries as often as you can. Talk to art dealers about the type of art and artists they represent. Cultivate a relationship with an art dealer or art dealers you feel comfortable with and trust. Remember, these are the people in the trenches and they can provide you with key information.
5. Attend gallery talks and ask to visit the artist's studio. This will afford you a clearer picture of the art dealer and his or her artists. This will also give you an understanding of different art forms: painting, sculpture, works on paper, video art, and computer generated art, etc.
7. Only collect what you love and can afford. Collecting is about passion, not regrets.
8. Don't purchase with the immediate intent to resell, collectors should not try to become amateur art dealers.
9. With the initial purchase do not immediately try to negotiate a lower price with an art dealer or gallery. Galleries and dealers take their pricing policies seriously. The value of an artist's work is determined by many market factors; the volume of work produced, which, if any, museum collections the artist is in, which major contemporary collectors own the work, what galleries have exhibited the artist's work, has the artist achieved an auction record, market trends, prior sales records, whether there are books published on the artist's work, etc. Instead, with the first purchase, suggest a payment plan. Any reputable art dealer or gallery will work with you on the financial structure of the purchase. Once you've established a relationship they may be willing to negotiate price.
* It is important to recognize that the above mentioned (item #9) elements do occur in varying combinations and that each particular combination has it's own unique sequence of events. The complexity lies in the fact that the work of art is also unique.
10. If you are serious about collecting, never buy art on the street! Never!
11. Never try to avoid paying the sales tax on a purchase. It is illegal!
12. Art should never be selected to match the couch or a color scheme of a décor.
Following these rules will allow to enter a new world, which will become more meaningful and fulfilling the longer you engage with it.