Building an Art Collection Like a Pro by Barbara Able

Houston artist Barbara Able creates an original work. | Photo courtesy of Archway Gallery

In a special bi-weekly 8-part series, created in partnership with member artists of Archway Gallery at Montrose, we are pleased to present a selection of advice, recommendations and artists’ perspectives on connecting with art, How? ‘Or’ What to start your own collection, where to find affordable art, and more. In the fifth entry in the series, Houston artist Barbara Able offers a step-by-step guide to collectible art like a professional.

Passion… This is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking of collecting art. Most serious collectors interviewed said they did so for the love of the genre and not for financial reasons. Most started collecting early in life.

“They say that collecting is a disease; I think I’ve had it since childhood,” Ima Hogg said in 1973. “In Austin, the streets were unpaved and covered with beautiful pebbles. Wet, they shimmered like jewels… pebbles and flowers formed my first collection.

Dive in and start

Obviously, the best way to learn a business is to get into it. You might not want to jump in and open a gallery, but you have myriad choices in Houston, the third largest art market in the United States.

Do your homework. Talk to everyone and find out everything you can. Go to the galleries and join their mailing lists. Attend artist talks at galleries and museums. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston has a vibrant faculty group, so sign up for a tour.

The Greek Goddess by Barbara Able | Photo courtesy of Archway Gallery

Find a focus that speaks to you

Second, set a goal for your art. Focus on a few artists or one genre like landscape or photography. Use your personal preferences as a guide. Think like an artist. It will be your unique collection, and it should reflect you. Build and read a library of books on the type of work that interests you. Only buy what you like, what moves you.

At first, it helps sharpen your focus. For example, my collection contains approximately 75% paintings and 25% photographs. In my collection of paintings, I have mostly figurative works, and in my collection of photographs, I have landscapes.

Create a budget

Set an annual budget or decide how much you will pay for an individual room. But be aware that even the most diligent collectors admit to exceeding their budget. According to one, who has a large collection of Texas art, “Everything I bought required a sacrifice.”

But fear not, some very wealthy collectors are also bargain hunters. Joseph H. Hirschhorn, a uranium magnate whose collection formed the basis of the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., liked to purchase subject groups at deep discounts.

Many galleries offer at least a 10% discount on request: this is called a “collector’s discount”.

Pioneer Pass by Photographer Larry Garmezy from Barbara Able’s Personal Collection | Photo courtesy of Barbara Able

Make a purchase

Your next step is actually to buy a piece of art. Know what to look for. The visual and emotional impact the work has on you, as well as the composition, quality and condition of the work, and the reputation of the artist should all be considered when evaluating the price.

Buy from a reputable gallery. Houston has dozens of excellent galleries: Moody’s, Inman, Hooks-Epstein, Anya Tish, Barbara Davis, McClain, David Shelton, Archway Gallery and many more have been around for decades!

Join the Houston Art Gallery Association mailing list. Check out Glasstire’s list of exhibits and find the ones that interest you. When you visit a gallery, sign the guestbook and ask to be on their mailing list – most will email you details of their upcoming shows. Like their social media pages and accounts.

And if you find something you like, keep in mind that most galleries will allow you to make payments over time. Some will even let you take the work home to see how it looks on your wall.

Document your collection

Keep track of your art collection. Include all relevant data about the piece, including title, date, medium, size, place of purchase, and price. It’s for insurance purposes, but it’s useful over time. Look for an endorsement on your home insurance to cover your art collection.

It is also important to maintain your collection. Seek out art restorers in case a piece is damaged. Sarah Balinskas Fine Framing and Art Preservation is an excellent source.

Keep in mind that it is very difficult to resell a work of art unless the artist is known nationally or internationally. There are very few galleries that resell art (known as the secondary market); Heidi Vaughan Fine Art is renowned.

Flood by John Slaby from the personal collection of Barbara Able | Photo courtesy of Barbara Able

Take your time and have fun

Finally, take your time building the collection. A good goal would be to have a certain number of pieces in five years. Then, after five years, you might want to change direction or increase the amount you’re willing to spend.

Enjoy the process! Regular contact with artists, art dealers and other collectors often leads to friendships with people of different personalities and backgrounds.

Most collectors still own the first work of art they bought and can remember the circumstances of that purchase, such is the emotion associated with collecting. So congratulations are in order.

You are taking the first step on a journey of a lifetime that will enrich your home and your life. Follow a few basic guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to building your collection.

Elevating local art and supporting Houston’s art scene for 46 years, Archway Gallery is the oldest artist-owned gallery in Texas. Stop by the Montrose Gallery, meet an artist, and learn how to own original local artwork. Schedule a visit to the gallery or learn more.

Barbara Able holds a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. She owned a gallery in Santa Fe and is currently a member of the Archway Gallery. His show Rising Venus is on display until Thursday, December 1, 2022. You can also view her work at Barbara Able Fine Art.

Learn more about Archway Gallery and explore its current and upcoming exhibitions.

Houston artist Barbara Able creates an original work. | Photo courtesy of Archway Gallery

This series was created in partnership and sponsored by Archway Gallery. In accordance with our Advertising and Sponsorship Policy, we only accept sponsored content from organizations that meet our editorial standards and genuinely present an activity, event, resource or destination of value to residents and visitors of the greater Houston area. Ad revenue helps support 365 Things to Do in Houston and our contributors, allowing us to expand our coverage of activities and events in the Houston area. Learn more about promoting your event or business.


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