The scene may feel like an impenetrable world from the outside. In truth, it’s within any art lover’s reach. The trick is knowing where to look – and how.
Last year, Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Salvator Mundi was sold through auction house Christie’s New York for a staggering $450.3 million – the highest amount ever paid for an artwork.
Such exorbitant sums could discourage one from considering a dabble in art collecting. But such mega-prices for precious works of art are rare. Money is not the defining requirement for collecting art, and there is a big difference between collecting art and investing in art.
And the biggest investment for a collector may not be monetary at all.
“To become an art collector, first and foremost, you need to invest time,” as you would with any hobby, said Andrea Jungmann, director of the auction house Sotheby’s in Austria, Hungary and Poland.
To develop an interest in art, Jungmann said, “you just need to look. Just go to galleries and look. Don’t buy anything yet. Just look at what is out there.” With time, “you will find some things you like, and other things you find really awful. That’s already a start.”
The trajectory of an art collection is never linear, and it rarely starts as a strategy.
“The best way is to start with what you like,” said Ulla Bartel, co-founder of ARCC. art, an emerging Viennese gallery and online art platform specializing in promoting young artists. “I think buying art to get rich is kind of strange. Even if you acquire [a work by] a very well-known and popular artist, it is still not so simple to sell it again on the secondary market,” such as auction houses, Bartel said. “It is not such an easy business.”
Her main tip to start your own collection is to first “find out what you love, learn about it, try to understand why it is important and why it is important for you.”
“Buying art is more than buying an expensive object, like a car. Artworks are always about a topic the artist is interested in; they deal with specific issues, like body art or female art, or techniques and mediums that are being questioned,” Bartel explained. “There is always a careful thought process behind it.”
There are other ways to educate yourself about art.
Sophie Höfer, who works for the Galerie bei der Albertina, has a straightforward tip on how to get into the art scene: take a deep dive into the vast art programming offered by galleries and museums.
“The best way to get an overview of the varied offerings is by visiting the galleries’ exhibitions, attending art fairs and going to the exhibitions of museums, which also offer many guided tours, lectures and discussions,” Höfer said.
Jungmann recommends finding “someone that you trust and that you would like to mentor you through your journey.” Attending vernissages – show openings at galleries – is a great way to get to learn more about the art world. “You may find a gallerist you think is nice,” Jungmann suggested, “make a connection, ask questions.”
Starting with a Blank Canvas
If you are completely new to the art scene, Bartel suggests starting with online platforms. “Instagram is turning more and more into a kind of art platform,” she hinted. “The hard part is knowing where to start from when you cannot yet know if the art is of good quality or not.”
But you can train your eyes and get specialised information and help only a click way. “There are incredible resources online like artnews or artnet,” recommends Jungmann. Got to established and renowned platforms websites to get the latest news on the art scene and market, research, and even buy and sell art online. “It is all available online and it is very easy to access. You can do that from the comfort of your home. Just look! Again, and again!” she emphasises.
All the larger galleries have their own online platforms too, such as Saatchi Art. A good tip is to follow on Instagram local galleries and artists that you like from exhibitions you have visited. Museums and often curators have their own Instagram account, too.
You can also buy affordable art online. Auction houses, like Vienna’s Dorotheum or Sotheby’s, have online-only auctions. ARCC.art’s online platform has an advantage in still being small, with works from international young artists starting at €500. More expensive works can be found in ARCC.art’s gallery space in Vienna’s trendy 7th district.
Another place to start is university shows. Twice a year, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and the University of Applied Arts Vienna offer student group shows and public studio visits. “It is free, and it is fun getting to visit a different world,” Jungmann suggested. “Plus, you get to buy really affordable artworks directly from the artists.”
If you are intent on becoming an art collector but lack the time to build knowledge and connections, “there is always the possibility to hire an art consultant,” Jungmann said. But that is generally expensive. She continues, “There are many routes into an art collection, but you must get involved in some way.”
If you have your heart set on a piece of art but don’t have the necessary cash, there are options, such as paying in installments. “So, you can invest in a more expensive piece once you are ready,” Jungmann said. “Instalments can go up to a year. You can ask about this everywhere, in galleries, fairs, at auction houses.”
An art collection is always very personal. There is no formula or recipe for how to do it – there is no right or wrong. It demands time, interest and participation. The search for art can be fun, and with a little extra thought, the artworks that you love can turn into a collection, and perhaps an investment.
The Collector’s Guide to Vienna
Our experts open their black books on the Vienna art scene and share how to get started on your journey to becoming an art collector.
1. First and foremost: Look, look, look
Art galleries that you should not miss.
Start by visiting these two streets packed with the most prominent galleries in Vienna: Schleifmühlgasse, in the 4th district, with galleries like Christine König, Gabriele Senn, Michaela Stock and Sanatorium. And Eschenbachgasse, in the 1st district, with galleries like Martin Janda, CRONE, Meyer Kainer, Krobath and Steinek.
2. Educate yourself
Magazines and websites to get you up-to-date with the latest news, events and happenings in the art world.
Artnews | Artnews.com
Monopol | monopol-magazin.de
Parnass | parnass.at
Spike | spikeartmagazine.com/en
3. Take the Art Fair Plunge
Every autumn, the spotlight of the global contemporary art scene falls on Vienna with fairs like:
Vienna Contemporary | viennacontemporary.at/en/
Curated by_vienna | curatedby.at
Parallel Vienna | parallelvienna.com/
4. Where to find affordable but precious art Young, up-and-coming artists to jump-start your collection.
Amart | amart.at
ARCC-Art | arcc-art.com
Galerie Reinthaler | agnesreinthaler.com/
Loft 8 | loft8.at/
Bäckerstraße 4 | baeckerstrasse4.at/en
Sophie Tappeiner | sophietappeiner.com
Galerie Schleifmühlgasse 12-14 | 12-14.org
5. Galleries you can browse with a mouse click
Like a traditional auction house, but online.
Global galleries at your fingertips.
Learn about the artists that you love and buy their work(s). Prices cater to first-time buyers and experienced collectors alike.
Artnet is the leading online resource for the international art market, and the destination to buy, sell, and research art online.
From furniture and jewellery to art and antiques. Prices for first-timers and connoisseurs alike.
Sotheby’s Online Only Auctions
Viennese online art platform and gallery specializing in young artists from around the world. Their online shop sells artworks for up to 500€.
6. With a little help from the experts
Art Advisors contemporaryartadvisors.com