10 Tips For Collecting Art On A Shoestring Budget from Black Art In America's 25 most active collectors June 11 2019

10 Tips For Collecting Art On A Shoestring Budget

from Black Art In America's 25 most active collectors

Najee Dorsey

  The Art World has witnessed works by African American artists reach unprecedented national and international market demand. Everyday, Black Art In America (BAIA) receives new emails from individuals wanting to learn how and who to start collecting. So, if you’re ready to build your collection but not quite ready to spend the 21 million P. Diddy spent on his Kerry James Marshall, here are 10 tips from Black Art In America's 25 most active collectors. Collectors at Evita Tezeno's Love, Life and Fairytales opening reception at Black Art In America Gallery.


Tip #1: Buy what you like

The first and most common answer from collectors is buy what YOU Like. Your collection is your legacy, a record of your personal journey.  Keep in mind that art market tastes and demands often change. Playing the game of what is hot right now may leave you hanging later, so commit to works that move you. That way, whether it trends or not, it's your winning collection.
  • Be quick. If you see an artist work that you like and you've done your homework, be confident and buy it because you might not get another opportunity. (Collectors always talk about the pieces they wanted that got away.)
  • Enjoy the quest for new and exciting work.

Collecting African American Art: Works on Paper and Canvas by Halima Taha

Tip #2: Prepare by Learning

Become an educated buyer by consuming literature on black fine arts.  In today’s world, there is a plethora of free and paid resources. Whether you want to read, watch videos or listen to podcasts, you'll find resources to help you up your art game.
  • Read. Read. Read! Building your art books and catalog library is as important as the art you collect. Remember this note: an informed collector is a good collector and artbooks go up in value also.
  • Cultivate your taste by learning about art. Visit galleries, artist studios, museums, and even art shows at colleges and universities. Start with your local art scene.
  • Learn as much as you can about collecting black art by reading books, articles, talking to other collectors, and consulting art industry websites. Also, if you haven't signed up for the online collecting class offered here on BAIA click here to do so.

Collection of Patric McCoy

Tip #3: Start Small then Grow

You can start collecting right away by realizing fine art comes in many forms. You don’t have to go straight for the huge canvases or sculptures. Small works on paper and canvas is a focus for many collectors. They take up less wall space and are easier on the wallet.
  • If you’re starting small, consider original prints until your budget can support the purchase of one-of-a-kind artwork. Many collectors started out buying limited editions. Then they moved to originals by obscure artists, as they typically have more affordable prices, until they were able to add works by more acclaimed artists. (It's a progressive process for many collectors so be patient but get some art work on those walls!)
  • Buying original prints? We define an original print as an artwork that has been manually printed by the artist (or with some processes, printed under the artist's direct supervision). It is not a reproduction. The artist will have created an image on block, stone, plate or screen from which the final print is produced. Shopbaia.com has many prints by artists like David Driskell, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis and contemporary artists like Jamaal Barber, Willie Cole, etc.

Patrons at the Black Art In America fine art show Houston

Tip #4: Know Where to Look

Art collectors can grow their collections from many sources.  The best rule of thumb is to experience art live and go where the art is. The most seasoned collectors will tell you that the art is everywhere. Start local:
  • Art organizations, museums, benefit auctions
  • Fine art grad school exhibitions allow early access to artists who are typically affordable
  • Art fairs and festivals
  • Many conventions and trade shows offer vendor markets where artists can be found
  • Estate sales, thrift and antique stores
  • Artists studios, auction houses
  • Many collectors use Instagram and Facebook to find new artists.
  • More people are buying art online and it has never been easier than at shopbaia.com

Black Art In America's co-owner, Seteria Dorsey pictured with School of Beauty, School of Culture by Kerry James Marshall at Birmingham Museum of Art


Tip #5: Gallery Relationships

Seeking out art experts with distinguished reputations allows you to buy with confidence.
    • Establishing a relationship with a gallery and fine art dealer is important. The galleries have a natural screening process and generally work with artists that are established within the market, and emerging artists that show tremendous potential. Remember the gallerists have seen a lot of work and can easily spot artists with something fresh to offer.

To be free by Jamaal Barber available at www.shopbaia.com

Tip #6: Stay Disciplined

Creating a savings plan is one way to intentionally build your collection.  Check out these practical tips from collectors:
  • “Buy the BEST ARTWORK you can afford.”
  • “Save for it. Use your bonus or tax refund to buy art.”
  • “I have an art account. I put a little money in it each month and I use it for art purchases only.  This creates discipline.”
  • Many collectors allow themselves only a certain number of yearly purchases. Quality over quantity is a rule of thumb for many.

P. Diddy the buyer of the $21 million Kerry James Marshall painting "Past Times," acrylic and collage on canvas,(1997)

Tip #7: Have A Budget

It may seem hard but you will never regret walking into a gallery or art show with your budget prepared. It will give you the strength to pass on works beyond what you’re willing to spend and the freedom to say yes to the next great piece for your collection.
  • Having a set budget may allow you to negotiate a work slightly above what you’ve set aside. If it is 80 to 90% of the retail price, the artist or gallery may consider your budget as a good offer price for the work. Be prepared to close on the deal if the gallery accepts.

Tip #8: The Payment Plan

Of course, payment plans may not be the most comfortable subject to broach. Not every artist offers them, but most do, so it is better to ask.
  • Many collectors surveyed mentioned how helpful placing the art on layaway was in building their collections. Don’t be afraid to ask. Many artists and galleries welcome flexible payment plans. At the end of the day, our primary goal is to keep the arts alive.
  • Establish relationships. This cannot be overstated! The key to getting payment arrangements and favorable pricing is building relationships and paying according to the agreement.  Some sellers will negotiate prices based on your long-term support.
  • BAIA’s typical payment plan is 30 to 50% as a down payment and the balance paid over 2 to 6 months, depending on the price of the work.

Art collector Fearn Galloway’s with nephew Major Galloway and son.

Tip #9: Host A Home Art Show

  • Many collectors have hosted home art shows for their favorite artists and galleries in exchange for art. We are always in need of meeting new art buyers and connecting with collectors. The home setting is a comfortable environment to do so. Whether artists or gallerist, we have negotiated artwork in exchange for collectors opening up their homes and networks for decades. The more successful the art sales are, the more art credit the host collectors get. It's a win-win for everyone involved.


Patrons with Faron Manuel at the Black Art In America fine art show Houston

Tip #10: Know Your Why: Passion, Profit or Prestige

Knowing the why you’re collecting will help determine your best course of action, as well as the budget you’ll need moving forward. Are you the passion, “I buy what I like” collector? Picking out works based on the aesthetic value, how it looks and makes you feel? Perhaps you are in it to realize future monetary gains. We call you the speculative buyer. “Buy low and sell high,” is your motto. Many experts agree that this model can be highly volatile and pricey. Last but not least is the prestige collector that collects for the social value. This collector wants that Wow factor when they name drop the who’s who of artists and watch you gush over the roster of prominent names in their collection. Whatever your reason, it’s personal and your prerogative. We want you engaged and living with the art you’ll love. Browse and shop for fine art from our growing network of artists, collectors, estates, galleries -- specializing in works by Black American artists with great values on premier art.


Sign up for our free email course on how to begin your collection.

Najee Dorsey, artist, gallerist, producer, CEO and Founder of Black Art In America™ (BAIA). BAIA is a multifaceted media company. Since 2010 our mission has been to document, preserve and promote the contributions of the African American visual arts community. The last nine years BAIA has generated thousands of hours of free original content and educational tools. Conducted member workshops, profiles on artists, collectors and industry professionals as well as produced and curated fine art shows in New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Kansas City, and Miami to name a few.

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