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© Juan Di Nella/Unsplash
© Juan Di Nella/Unsplash

How to Start an Art Collection You Can Actually Afford

Picture of India Irving
Social Content Producer
Updated: 11 December 2017

So you want to start collecting art, but think you can’t afford it? Guess what—you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life! It is more than possible to buy art on a budget and it’s even more fun than buying something that’s already famous.

The name of the game when it comes to starting an affordable art collection is ’emerging.’

Emerging artists, aka up-and-coming artists, are normally artists who have just graduated from art school and are beginning their professional careers. Pre-emerging and emerging art is always much more affordable than work by artists further into their careers. Also, investing in the emerging is quite exciting as it can yield a fantastic return.

Whatever you do, resist the urge to buy prints and posters! Original artwork is where it’s at and it’s more accessible than you may realise.

A fantastic new digital platform giving the world access to affordable and original pre-emerging and emerging art is AucArt founded by Natasha Arselan. The website is the world’s first online auction house specialising in early career contemporary art, specifically by artists between the final year of their degree, up until three years post graduation.

Katja Angeli, 'The Conspirators (II)', 2016 | Courtesy of AucArt 

Katja Angeli, The Conspirators (II), 2016 | Courtesy of AucArt

Being online, the works on AucArt are easy to access and browse from wherever you are in the world and the sales are curated by top art world professionals, so you know what you are looking at is always going to be worth the purchase. For those who don’t have the patience for an auction, you also have the option to just ‘buy now’ à la eBay. The pricing is super transparent too, with the price achieved published on the site which is a rarity in the art world. Plus, with works starting at just a few hundred bucks, the platform really provides something for everyone.

A less curated, but equally fruitful source to find pieces to jumpstart your collection is of course Instagram. Most emerging artists are pretty active on the platform, so follow a bunch and take your time to decide which work you really connect with. Once you have a feeling for an artist you like, go ahead and slide into their DM’s and let the magic happen from there.

Another great way to find affordable emerging art is at university degree shows. Although you will have to trek to these babies in person, they take place a couple times a year at most of the world’s art schools and tend to be a really lovely way to spend an afternoon or evening. An artist’s degree show is likely when their work will be at it’s cheapest, so it’s the prime time to buy and have a chat with the artist face-to-face to really understand what their oeuvre is all about.

The Slade Undergraduate Final Year Interim Show #sladeschoolofart #sladeschooloffineart

A post shared by Slade School of Fine Art, UCL (@sladeschool) on

For more personal connections and buying opportunities, alternative exhibitions presented by the artists themselves are always a good way to find affordable work too. Before an artist is repped by a gallery, their work will be much more affordable and artists can get very creative with where they host their shows.

London-based emerging painter Oliver Malin for example, has an upcoming exhibition of paintings done on pizza boxes. Entitled Takeaway Dreams, the pop-up show will take place at an iconic northwest London kebab shop.

Not having a show in a traditional gallery space allows for a more affordable experience for everyone, and to be honest, the event will probably be a lot more fun than a typical exhibition too. So basically, it’s the art version of having your cake and eating it too.

Whatever your preference, online or in person, you can afford to start your art collection and the sooner you do so the better. Remember, an emerging artist does not stay emerging forever and as long as you buy what you love and stay within your comfort zone when it comes to price, this will be a purchase you’ll never regret.