How to Start a Fine Art Collection

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How to Start a Fine Art Collection

Lot 3158, "Intermission at the Opera" by Ludwig Gschossmann (1894-1988), Louis J. Dianni (February 15, 2016)

Starting a fine art collection can be daunting; it’s important to invest time understanding what you like, plan to spend wisely, and figure out placement in your home.

Celine Rabago, Fine Arts Consultant at Pacific Galleries and Auction House, has been in the art sphere for over a decade. She shared with us the most vital tips for budding collectors, and the one secret that all art collectors should know.


Let’s say I want to start collecting fine art for my home. Where do I start?

Celine Rabago: Visit galleries, museums, and auctions, and read art books for styles, artists, or art movements that you are personally attracted to. Then find places that offer that type of art, whether it’s a gallery, an auction house or live auction platform, or the artists directly.

In the end, finding your own personal style and preference is what matters the most. Understand that while some art does appreciate in value, this is not true of all art. Collect what you love.

How can I be sure to stay within a budget?

CR: Realize that you do not have to buy an entire collection at once. Part of the fun can be slowly building a collection from a variety of sources over a period of time. Can’t buy an original painting from an established artist? Try starting with a signed print instead or explore local emerging artists.

As a new collector, what are some of the benefits to buying art online at auction as opposed to in person?

CR: Convenience. Buying online offers a way to bid comfortably at home. There are even apps that help you bid via mobile device, like Invaluable's. If possible, we do recommend visiting the auction house during the auction preview to see items in person prior to bidding. If that’s not an option, then contact an auction specialist to answer any questions you may have about a particular item, such as issues with condition.

"In the end, finding your own personal style and preference is what matters the most. Understand that while some art does appreciate in value, this is not true of all art. Collect what you love." - Celine Rabago

How do I plan for enough space to house a growing collection, and make sure I place artwork in the best spots in the home? Are there any particular tricks?

CR: There are several, but many of them can be broken or altered. One rule that I do adhere to is placing delicate art away from direct sunlight, humid conditions, or especially dusty or dirty areas. But keep in mind that you can buy glass that protects art from the sun’s rays, and make sure that the matting is non-acidic.

Another good guideline is the 57” rule. For art placement on a wall, hang the art so that the mid-point (center) hangs at 57" – that's where typical eye level would be.

If I choose to continue collecting forever, how might I choose works that resonate with one other?

CR: I like to slowly build a collection that is multifaceted and from a variety of resources. I personally have everything from a Japanese woodblock from the 1960s, to a 19th-century watercolor by the French artist Ernest Griset, to a sketch that a local artist did of me and many other pieces. Every once in a while, take a hard look at your collection to see if the pieces in it are still relevant to you and that you are still passionate about them.

If you are looking for a more unified collection, write down your goals for collecting to help you focus and provide some direction for yourself. Realize, however, that these goals may change over time.

What’s one piece of advice that every art collector, from budding to seasoned, should know?

CR: Just remember to collect what you love. Doing so will help ensure that you enjoy it for a long time. Ignore trends, unless they speak to you personally. Art collecting is not a competition, and it’s no use to compare your collection to someone else’s. Each collection should be reflective of you as a person and your experiences.


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About Celine Rabago

Celine has worked for over a decade within the fine art and auction fields, most recently as Fine Art Specialist at Pacific Galleries Auction House in Seattle, WA. She also has experience in art research, museum education, and museum collections.

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