A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Art

I was so excited to participate in a recent panel at Soho House, Toronto, to discuss a subject that is near-and-dear to our hearts at Mason Lane: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COLLECTING ART. I can’t think of anything more fun than talking about why and how to collect. So a big thanks to Ninth Editions for inviting us!

Here’s a bit of what we talked about at the event as well as some tips on starting your own, personal collection.

HOW I STARTED MY COLLECTION

Ten years ago we knew we wanted to collect art, but, with competing priorities and expenses it didn’t happen until my husband and I made a pact to each put $20 cash in an envelope a week to start our “Art Fund.” We looked at it as a choice instead of going for that extra lunch out.

Our first piece: an editioned “Exist” sign by Kelly Mark that we are both still obsessed with.

Our first piece: an editioned “Exist” sign by Kelly Mark that we are both still obsessed with.

And so, we waited for the “fund” to grow while also keeping an opportunistic eye out for something we loved within our budget. We found this was an easy way for us to dive in since we already had money set aside.

HOW TO DEFINE PERSONAL STYLE

Go with your gut - find something that resonates and be okay with the reality that while your tastes may change,what you are drawn to is personal and unique. Turns out we like our art to have a little “a-ha”, a little joke - sometimes that’s obvious and part of the work, but in other cases we’ve bought art because it connected to our lives or an inside joke. The best collections reflect the individual(s) so when people walk through your space they know it’s uniquely yours.

MIX IT UP

One of my favorites from  Project Montreal  showing how a Melanie Authier abstract painting lives so beautifully with this James Carl sculpture.

One of my favorites from Project Montreal showing how a Melanie Authier abstract painting lives so beautifully with this James Carl sculpture.

Be open-minded to different types of art in your home - painting, photography, and sculpture can all co-exist really nicely. Avoid the matchy-matchy catalogue feel for your home and look for variety. That can mean textures, colors, framed and unframed works, graphic + abstract all creates visual interest. Bonus, incorporating sculpture + objects takes it to another level!

HOW TO TALK ABOUT ART

Don’t get sucked in to art-jargon, press releases, artist’s CV etc... Those are all amazing tools but can be overwhelming. Learn about the artist, their practice, or something about the piece that resonates with you. Talking about how you connect with it, or why you are interested in it is the first step to creating a unique collection and being able to articulate why you have it and  love it.

YOU CAN AFFORD ART

The first step is identifying how much you are comfortable spending and then finding the right channels - art exists at different price points so it’s really about navigating what’s right for you. And - that’s why Mason Lane is here too!!

Here is a great list of affordable resources - primarily in Toronto, but it also includes online sources (and don’t forget we recently launched our shop featuring a few artists we love!)

NOW WHAT?

You’ve purchased. YAY! Next: how to ensure your collection looks sharp:

  1. Framing - proper framing will make all the difference. Cheap frames with cheap glass looks foggy and it won’t preserve, protect or present your artwork well. Hot tip from Jeremy (from Jeremy Does Art Prints) : if you find an awesome vintage frame, get a professional to put in a proper piece of glass.

  2. Installation - hang art approx 60” from the floor. Be consistent and make sure other artworks in the room have the same centerpoint.

  3. Use picture bumpers to keep the art level. These can be found at a hardware store, or even online.

  4. The best gallery walls have a P-L-A-N. When in doubt - hire a professional.

Lastly, don’t take it all so seriously! You’ve made other, much bigger decisions - this should be fun! But if it isn’t - we are here to help.