How To Start A Meaningful Art Collection (Told To Us By A Pro)

One of the best, most undisputed facts about art is that it is highly personal. What you like, dislike, and find emotionally or spiritually stimulating is completely up to you. Even when monetary value is placed on art, it is still up to the individual to decide whether they appreciate it or not. A piece could be worth one million dollars but that doesn’t mean I or you have to like it. Perhaps this is why the art world can feel polarizing, overwhelming, and even intimidating. There are no set rules for buying art that is meaningful so it can feel debilitating to start. So how does one navigate such unfamiliar territory??

Enter Liz Lidgett, an art advisor and gallery owner who represents 50+ artists from around the world. With 10+ years under her belt, she has a refreshing attitude toward art and emphasizes an approachable, non-pretentious experience for clients. After being introduced to her work, I was pleased she was willing to answer the rudimentary questions I have about buying art. Of course, she shared sage insight with me that I could not, in good conscience, keep to myself. If you have ever wondered how to start building your own art collection that is meaningful and personal, this post is for you. Let’s get into it.

design by scott horne | styled by emily henderson, velinda hellen, & erik kenneth staalberg | photo by sara ligorria-tramp

Can you give us a brief background on how you became an art advisor/gallery owner?

For as long as I can remember, I have loved art and being around art. As years went on, I realized I could turn my passion into a career. After living in Los Angeles for a few years and receiving my Masters from USC, I moved back to Des Moines, Iowa, where I grew up. The Midwest art scene was and still is changing so much and I wanted to be a part of that shift. I worked as an in-house corporate curator for an amazing collection, but truly loved helping people start their collections. That’s when I started my own art advisory company and after seven years of that, I opened Liz Lidgett Gallery three years ago. Each step has been an important part of the journey to get me closer to my “why”. I believe art is for everyone and owning a gallery that helps clients find their perfect piece of art for their style, space, or budget is a dream come true.

What advice would you give someone who feels intimidated by art?

The art world can feel so intimidating but I urge you to keep looking for what feels right for you. Find a gallery that makes art accessible or find an artist whose work really speaks to you. The art world is for you— you just have to keep looking for the right open doors to step in and explore all there is to offer. When someone is beginning a collection, my first piece of advice is to be intentional about looking at a lot of art. I love to recommend a fun date night with your partner or friend and imagine that you have an unlimited budget. Pretend you have to pick one or two pieces in the museum to go home with that night — what would you choose and why? If you can articulate what you like about those pieces, that will get you a step closer to understanding your style and what your first purchase should be. 

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: living room update

Are there any Dos and Don’ts when it comes to collecting art?

The DO that matters most is: Buy what you love. Don’t worry about whether the artwork will “go” with your decor or if anyone other than you likes it too. You want to live around pieces that you want to spend time with and that make you feel good. With that in mind, here are some other dos and don’ts:

DO Get to know the artist and their technique for a better understanding.

DO Know your budget and where you’d like the piece to go. Have a photo and dimensions of the wall while you’re shopping.

DO Confirm and consider the shipping price as a part of your budget. Shipping for artwork can be expensive so be sure to ask for that before you purchase if you are going to ship.

DO Keep a file with information on the artist or gallery and a receipt. 

DON’T ask for a large discount or attempt to cut out the gallery. All creatives deserve to be paid for their work and pricing within smaller galleries doesn’t have much room to negotiate. 

DON’T buy a giclee or an open edition print. These types of works never hold their value and no matter if your budget is $100, $1000, or $10,000 you can find an original artwork. 

DON’T forget to add your new artwork purchase to your home insurance. You can send the invoice straight to your insurance provider to have it added.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: my house tour from good housekeeping

What are some ways people can spot worthwhile investments?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, buy art you love, not because you think you’ll be able to make money on it later on. However, I do, of course, want you to buy artwork that will at the very least hold its value. With that in mind, ask the gallery you’re working with about the artist’s career. Have their prices gone up consistently year over year? How prolific are they? If the artist is further along in their career, you can also ask about any potential collaborations with brands or upcoming shows that may raise their notoriety.  

Do you have any tips for mixing and matching different styles of art?

I think one of the best ways to mix and match different styles is by being cohesive with the framing. If, for example, you are creating a large gallery wall with multiple styles or artists represented, then keeping the framing within 3 types of similar framing helps to keep things cohesive. Additionally, I often like to put several different styles in one room, but I try to keep it within one color story for example. My rule is that they should have something in common whether that’s color story, framing, style, or subject. 

design by jess bunge for ehd | styling by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: jess’ living room reveal

What is your advice on how to build an art collection that is personal and meaningful?

Oh no, I am going to say it again — buy what you love! But also, think about buying art to mark certain occasions like a wedding, a new job, or a birth of a child. Think of bringing back artwork from an amazing trip you never want to forget or from an artist you had a special connection with. Buy art that makes you think of wonderful things and that you love being around. 

design by velinda hellen design | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s first client reveal

Do you have a #1 tip for building a lasting art collection?

I won’t say it again but here’s another tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have conversations. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and welcomed into the art world. If you are working with a gallery or an artist that doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve – move on. There are so many galleries that would love the chance to work with you and are wonderful to work with. I opened my gallery three years ago because I believed (and still believe) that both artists and clients deserve the best. The art world is a joyful, beautiful place to be a part of and I believe everyone deserves to experience that!

Big thanks to Liz for imparting her wisdom and expertise to us. Be sure to follow her and check out her shop here.

Opener Image Credit: Art Direction by Emily Henderson | Design and styling assistance by Emily Bowser and Julie Rose | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

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