How to: build an art collection © Art Basel

How to: build an art collection

Carina Andres Thalmann from the Zurich gallery Andres Thalmann provides her expert advice on building your private collection



24 October 2015

Let’s face it, gilts and shares are not exactly conversation-stoppers, and there is even a limit to the fascination of gold. Contemporary art, on the other hand, offers lots of advantages. You and your guests can admire it on the wall while it gradually accumulates value, which it will, particularly if you have succeeded in putting your money on a superstar artist before he or she became so. The problem is, how do you find the right artist?

Art has been a popular commodity for centuries. It connects, informs, inspires, provokes and is a mirror of our times and tendencies. Today, the contemporary art scene is in a boom stage, with works reaching record prices in auction rooms, and new collectors appearing everywhere. But, we asked Carina Andres Thalmann from the Zurich gallery Andres Thalmann, what should you bear in mind if you want to start your own collection?

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"It is very important to read a lot about art, to visit exhibitions, go to fairs and galleries, and to understand what you like and why. Art is always very personal. It is always about an emotion! Buy what you love, what appeals to you, what provokes an emotion and always take your time. Look at an art piece several times, try to get as much information as possible about the artist, in order to understand whether you like the artist or just that specific piece.

"A good collection always has a theme, a certain logic that can be recognised instantly. In general we can start to consider a group of works as a collection when there are 25 pieces or more,” says Carina. “But real collectors are not really interested in counting the number of art pieces they possess: they are more concerned about the love they have for each individual piece than the quantity."

The fundamental motivation for all collectors, whether they are looking for modern paintings, sculpture or photographs, is a limitless interest in art, and this is true regardless of their age and nationality. Carina, who studied Art History and worked at Christies in London before beginning to collect art herself, says, "Emotion – that is all that counts! Whenever I look at an art piece that we bought I want to feel the emotion and think to myself that I can always look at it again and again and see it from a different angle; it will always fill me with happiness.” Each art piece tells a story or is associated to a very personal or important moment in life.

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"Before buying art pieces it is also important to find out as much as possible about the artists: where they have exhibited, how many books or articles have been written about them, have they won any major prizes... as all these factors affect the price of their works and set established artists apart from younger ones."

Carina also told us that before starting to invest, you should also ask yourself questions such as: why do I want to buy art? What is the objective of my collection? Which kind of art should it be? What is the amount I want to invest? Where will I buy the piece? Is the gallery a serious, international and established business? Has it taken part in important art fairs around the world? Which other artists does the gallery represent? Can the gallery give me certification for the piece?

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When it comes to prices, the bottom line is that supply and demand, as for every commodity, has a powerful effect. Demand today is increasing, with more and more buyers who travel a lot and visit the different art fairs around the world. Wherever you are in Switzerland, the country offers a great deal in this area. Take your time to visit some of the world’s top galleries, or art fairs such as Art Basel. You will discover a world brimming with creativity and intellectual reflections on our times.

1 Gallery Andres Thalmann
2 Art | Basel