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Top Tips - Starting an Art Collection by Rory Guthrie

Posted on Mar 02, 2012

I often get asked by people the best advice in starting an Irish Art Collection. The beauty of owning a piece of art is that it is an investment that can be enjoyed. Its value may go up or down but the painting doesn’t change and it certainly won’t disappear in front of your eyes like a bank share. Equally, the process of buying or selling is to be enjoyed and in any market there will always be buyers and there will always be sellers. Therefore there will always be opportunity. With this in mind here are my top tips for starting your own collection:

Don’t be afraid to take advice
The art world can be quite intimidating to people looking in for the first time. Gallery viewings, auction receptions and the auction room in general can appear a closed shop environment for people. However this should not be feared. As auctioneers we are delighted to talk about art, offer our opinion on any artist and also provide additional provenance to auction lots. Just like any investment, taking advice can only increase your chance of making the right purchase.

The difference between buying what you like and liking what you buy.
Buying what you like has its problems when you are new to the process of buying art and are relying purely on your taste and not your eye. A painting doesn’t need to be bought just because it goes with the colour of the curtains. Inevitably, like your curtains, your tastes will change and you’ll subsequently recycle paintings. It is fundamentally more important I feel to instead ‘like what you buy’. Yes you have to like it but why not buy something that is also a bit of quality.

The one thing you are guaranteed in the current market is choice. Viewing as many auctions as you can and seeing what comparable paintings are selling for help to increase your knowledge. Every collector starts somewhere and you never stop learning, the trick is to apply what you have learned and be patient to make a purchase at the level you are comfortable with, whether that is €500, €5,000 or €50,000.

A poor picture will always be a difficult seller
Many buyers fall in to the trap of trying to move up a level in the artists they are acquiring and settle for a lesser work by a bigger name. The problem is this will always be difficult to sell, no matter who it’s by. It is far better to buy a work of quality by a lesser name, than inferior work by a bigger name.

Feel it, touch it, smell it
It always amazes me how people can buy a painting without even taking it off the wall. Before I look at a painting I look at the back as this is where the interesting stuff is. You can gauge its history, provenance and condition from the reverse, that the painting itself can never tell you. Personally, I love a provenance from The Dawson Gallery and The Ritchie Hendriks Gallery, gone now but two of the biggest Galleries of their day. You very rarely see a poor painting from either.

And finally, a practical one. Cleaning and framing a picture is probably the most important difference you can make and it’s instant. The amount of badly framed pictures that come to the market is huge. Many artists would not have spent much money on frames and to save on costs would often have used cheap materials. With the right frame, you can make a painting appear bigger, brighter and without doubt more valuable. If you’re tempted to buy for the first time, try only purchasing one you know you can improve.


I hope this proves helpful. The first purchase is always the biggest and probably the one you’ll hold on to, if not to remind yourself how your tastes have changed. You’ll probably learn more from the mistakes you make so go ahead, bid!

Guaranteed Irish

Posted on Mar 01, 2012

The most recent flyer from Solomon Fine Art just arrived with us.... I think it is a wonderful idea...A.F


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