The art world can be intimidating, with hidden prices, private auctions, and appointment-only viewings as barriers to buying your first piece. But artist Kayleigh Heydon’s approach to collecting art is an assurance that anyone can get started with the resources they have available.
“Buying artwork should be exciting and thrilling,” says painter and art collector Kayleigh Heydon, when asked for her advice on how to start an art collection.
Her home is filled with varied and vibrant artworks that keep her inspired, remind her of different phases of her life, and represent “an amalgamation of friends, heroes and strangers I admire greatly.” Here she shares the creative approaches she’s taken to acquiring these works, like swapping art with other creatives, finding limited edition prints and purchasing unfinished pieces in studio sales.
1. Dig deep into research
“Use platforms like design blogs and curated online stores to find artists, but also do your own research,” Kayleigh says. “I think it’s important we are actively seeking out artists that aren’t just cherry picked and presented to us on websites and ‘top tens’.”
When doing your research, Kayleigh advises to keep diversity of artists front of mind. “My advice would be to find blogs and websites that have good ethics in terms of representation and diversity.” From there, you can fall down the rabbit hole of following one artist to the next until you find one whose work you really love. “Interesting artists might pop up as suggested when looking at their work, they may take you to different articles, to gallery stockrooms, to Instagram posts, to group shows or people on artist residencies.”
If you’re struggling to find art that resonates with you within your price range, start with the artists you already love and ask them whose work they admire, Kayleigh recommends. “It’s such a wide network, you’re bound to hear a new name with each person you ask.”
2. Establish your budget
Once you’ve got a few artists in mind from the research phase, the next step is to set a budget. “Knowing how much you can afford to spend and having that money aside for when the right piece pops up is a great start,” Kayleigh advises.
It’s important to remember you can start small. Perhaps you set yourself an art budget of $500 per year. That would require setting aside just $40 per month. And in 10 years time, you might have 10 beautiful smaller pieces or 6 larger pieces in your home. In another 10 years, you’d have twice that amount. Once you break down what you’d be willing to spend each month or year, it becomes easier to see how even a small amount of money accumulated over time can help you build an art collection slowly.
If your budget is too small to buy art from artists you love, Kayleigh suggests getting in touch with them and being transparent about your budget. “This invites the artist to decide if they have anything to sell you in that price range.”
3. Enquire about studio sales
Another way to enter the art market is to purchase a piece from an artist’s studio sale, where artists clear older works out of their studio to make way for new pieces or to fund a new body of work.
“This means the work you purchase might be damaged in some way or may have been a test or experiment and is not entirely representative of the artists’ normal practice. However, if you love it, I say buy it.”
Kayleigh notes that not all artists have studio sales, and those who do will probably have them rarely, but it’s worth asking your favourite artists about them as it’s a great way to find artworks at a lower price point.
“Knowing how much you can afford to spend and having that money aside for when the right piece pops up is a great start.”
4. Invest in emerging artists
“This can be a fantastic investment if you choose well,” Kayleigh says of investing in emerging artists, whose work will be much more affordable. And when it comes to choosing well, she advises that there are a few things to look out for. Perhaps an emerging artist is starting to get some coverage from art accounts, or they’ve been selected for a group show at a gallery. These are all promising signs of an emerging artist’s future success.
It can also be much easier to buy an original artwork directly from an early career artist rather than going through a gallery, and a more personal experience as well. “This can be a unique experience for the artist and the buyer to connect with each other giving you the chance to ask about how the artwork was made, the themes explored in the work and more.” Kayleigh recommends that if you’re interested to learn more about a work you’re investing in from an emerging artist, “don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
5. Diversify into prints
Original artwork isn’t the only way to build an art collection. Many artists, both painters and photographers, have stunning prints available either through their website, selected retailers or galleries.
A common misconception is that prints won’t grow in value, but this isn’t always the case, Kayleigh assures. “Prints can be very special and can grow in value if you choose well. Things to look out for are closed edition/limited edition prints, or special edition prints. They should be ‘archival’ (also known as ‘gallery-grade’ or ‘giclee’).”
Another emerging space to keep an eye on, is how NFTs are being used in the art world, to provide credibility that a particular print is a one-off or limited edition, and owned by whoever has purchased it. These are essentially safeguarding your investment and giving you proof of ownership for whenever you want to sell the piece. NFTs can also be great for artists when the contract states that an artist receives a percentage of the sale each time the artwork changes hands.
“The magic of buying something that sings to you when you first connect with it, is that it will keep singing.”
6. Facilitate an art swap
If you’re a creative yourself, an art swap offers a fantastic opportunity to grow your collection and allow other creatives to do the same.
Kayleigh has engaged in a handful of art swaps in the past. The first was with fellow artist Liam Haley. It came about because he was interested in a small work on paper by Kayleigh, and reached out to see if she’d accept a similar size work of his as payment – an offer she accepted. The second was with the owner of furniture business Heimur. Kayleigh made him a painting in exchange for the use of his tools, workshop and expertise to help Kayleigh work on a sculpture.
Kayleigh’s advice for facilitating an art swap is to make sure both parties are benefiting equally so that it’s a “mutual admiration of work”. Discuss expectations beforehand, use your intuition to decide who to approach, and have fun throughout the process. “It’s an experience and gesture rooted in community and respect rather than money, which I think is really special.
7. Invest in framing
“Always frame your artworks.” It’s an important step in the process, making sure your art is properly protected and showcased, Kayleigh advises. So consider whether the piece you’re buying comes framed and if not, factor in the cost of framing into your budget.
If you’re worried about what frames will look best, don’t be afraid to ask the framer or artist for their advice. “I think some people also get stuck into the idea that frames in your home need to match – they don’t! An artwork should be framed to best display the artwork itself.”
8. Enjoy the process
It can be easy to get wrapped up in the stress of selecting the “right” art for your home, but on this, Kayleigh says, “don’t forget to have fun and follow your gut.”
“The magic of buying something that sings to you when you first connect with it, is that it will keep singing. Even if you yourself change, I think the artwork then also represents a point in time for you and that creates even deeper connections and stories.”
Once you’ve got a few pieces, she recommends moving them around from time to time. “It helps artworks feel new again and lets you view them in new environments with fresh eyes.”
Kayleigh wants us to remember that supporting artists and getting involved in the art community doesn’t always have to mean buying artworks. “You can attend shows, share their work with other people, post their work on your social media and tag them for other people to discover. It all helps,” she assures.