Art collecting: alternative tips for beginners

There is a frenzy of talk about art collecting at the moment, with high-profile sales and strong returns attracting would-be collectors. Auction houses and dealers are enjoying record bids for contemporary works, provided by the elite of the art-collecting world.

Yet, we can't all afford the top pieces, and much of the advice out there is aimed at those with billion dollar bank balances. Paul Fraser Collectibles looks at alternative tips for the beginner on a budget...

Corner the market

Mugrabi Last Supper Warhol
Mugrabi's first Warhol purchase was one of his variations on Da Vinci's The Last Supper, but his collection has now grown to over 800 pieces

If you really want to see success in art collecting, you should attempt to corner your area of the market.

It is an extreme example, but collector Jose Mugrabi - known as the man with 800 Warhols - owns almost every major work by the shock-haired pop artist. This allows him to track the sale of other Warhols that hit the market and he is even known to influence final sale prices - overpaying for works at auction so that next time he sells, the value of his paintings will be increased ever further.

Jose's son Alberto admitted: "We're market makers. You can't have an impact buying one or two pictures per artist. We're not buying art like Ron Lauder - just to put it on a wall. We want inventory. It gives you staying power."

Obviously, cornering the market for Andy Warhol involves a sizeable salary, but the point remains - a well-developed, highly specialised collection allows its owner a certain influence among collectors, and this principle can be applied to your own collection.

Learn more about Mugrabi's astonishing collection.

Buy art collectibles

Freud's letters are dotted with illustrations and insights into the artist's mind

There is more to an artist's career than just their masterpieces. Almost every major artist has left behind a trail of now-collectible ephemera. Letters, memorabilia and personal items from top artists can prove the perfect basis of a strong collection.

In fact, Sotheby's Contemporary Art Day Sale in February 2014 sold an archive of love letters from Lucian Freud to one of his early girlfriends for $204,500, making a 2,350% increase on the $8,500 high estimate. What's more, these affordable items from the world's greatest artists are usually estimated at roughly the same price as a vague doodle by the same hand, and they are certainly a lot more interesting.

Archives of ephemera that have yet to be studied closely can also reveal fascinating insights into the artist's mind, and you may chance upon a game-changing letter that sheds new light on their working methods.

Collect online

Basqiuat sketchbook Christie's Adler
Christie's online-only auction of Basquiat works in March features the artist's sketchbook

Prestige collectors will always belong in the auction room (or their advisors, at least), but attending live auctions is a costly way of picking up your latest acquisition. There's the travel, hotels and all sorts of additional costs to think of, which could make your buy less of a bargain by the time you've got it home.

That's why more collectors than ever before are buying online. The internet is no longer solely the playground of rip-off merchants, and with the creation of various new security measures, 64% of international art collectors have bought online, with 26% spending more than £50,000 ($83,000) according to Art Tactic.

The online world also caters for your busy lifestyle. No more hanging around until an afternoon auction begins to place your bids - internet bidding ensures you are able to bid around the clock. Just make sure you pick a reliable company to work with, and double check for safety when making your purchase.

Check out Paddle 8, a recently established online-only auction site looking to compete with the mainstays of the art world or our sister company, PFC Auctions.

Affordable art

Judging by prices on the current market, you may think that even the least desirable pieces of artwork are out of your reach, but there are still plenty of ways to buy affordable art.

Don't forget that the fledgling artists of today could be demanding five figures in just a few years. Visit graduation shows of the top universities, the first major solo shows of up and coming artists, or even Christie's First Open auction to discover the hottest young talent.

The Catlin Guide is a perfect place to start, promoting Britain's brightest graduates and emerging names.

There's also Affordable Art fairs in the UK, where the price of pieces ranges from £40-£4,000 ($66-6,680). Get yourself on the mailing lists of all your local galleries and you'll be invited to countless events (many with free wine!), which are often the best places to find out which artists are buzzing as you mingle with fellow collectors.

Work with professionals

You may fancy yourself as an art aficionado, but it is incredibly difficult to know everything. The art world is littered with thousands of names in as many genres and, chances are, you'll need some help along the way.

If you can, enlist the help of a professional art advisor (money well spent) - or at least a knowledgable friend - to help you spot any mistakes you might be making, whether it's down to provenance, faults with the piece or it being simply not the right time to buy.

Even if you know the market inside out, it's good to have a second opinion to steer you in the right direction, especially when you're besotted with your latest buy.

Art books

William Blake
William Blake is said to have kickstarted the art books trend with his Songs of Innocence and Experience

If you simply can't reconcile yourself with not being able to own a Gerhard Richter despite your modest budget, you might want to start looking at art books.

Even prints from the blue chip artists can cost hundreds of thousands, but art books can be bought for just a few hundred and contain countless depictions of the artist's most famous works, all in a sumptuously bound book that is a work of art in its own right.

Produced in limited runs, these books can also become sought after collector's items. Take, for example, Taschen's Sumo, a testament to photographer Helmut Newton's extraordinary career. Just 10,000 copies were printed and made available at £6,000 ($10,047) upon release in 1999, but now editions of the book can make up to $430,000 at auction - a 4,180% increase in value.

Paul Fraser Collectibles' free weekly newsletter keeps you up to date with the latest from the art collecting world.

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