Joel Kimmel

Buying art should be exhilarating, not intimidating. You just have to keep a few things in mind.

You don’t have to be rich, famous or an art-school grad to collect fabulous art. So, rather than limit yourself to reproductions (or to curating virtual collections on Pinterest), grace the walls of your home or office with original artwork that showcases all the details, textures and colors the artist envisioned when creating it.

Worried you might not know the first thing about art? Don’t be, because the first step to starting your collection is learning it’s OK to admit that you aren’t well versed in the language, history and subtleties of art. Most gallery owners, art-fair organizers and artists are eager to help new collectors — they want buying art to be fun and fulfilling, not intimidating. Keeping that in mind, here are a few important tenets about collecting art:

Buy art that you love.
“This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people buy something just because they think other people will like it or because they think it’s what they are ‘supposed’ to buy,” says Lauren Pazzaneze, a collector from Boston who blogs about art for the masses on After all, you are the one who will look at the work day in and day out.

In a Nutshell

Consider art a luxury, not an investment.
Buy what you love and enjoy it for years.

Don’t limit your search to big-city
galleries. Talented artists are everywhere,
and many are not in galleries.

Learn the story behind the art.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Keep records about the artist, the process
used and your purchase of the art.

Display the work proudly, but care for it properly.

Have fun! Enjoy learning, visiting shows, traveling around and meeting interesting people.

Dennis Ammann, whose online gallery sells original works by established young artists from around the world, agrees. “Collecting is a very personal experience,” he advises. “What’s most important is that you find artists whose work speaks to you in a unique way.” When you buy art for enjoyment, any investment potential simply becomes a bonus.

“Start with one artwork for one space in your home,” suggests Fleur Allen, owner of the online Interactive Arts Gallery, based in Fremantle, Australia. In addition to the dimensions of the space, think about the mood, feeling or impression you want to express. And don’t worry about whether the art matches your sofa. The originality gets lost if you choose a piece simply because it repeats the theme, patterns or coloring in a room, says interior designer Patty ­Schimberg of The Schimberg Group architecture firm in Sarasota, Fla. Instead of enhancing your space, the matching art looks like part of a furniture store’s window display. When you own art you love, it becomes the focal point of the room.

Find what you like.
Browse online or visit brick-and-mortar galleries, art fairs and exhibitions hosted by colleges and arts organizations. One group that makes buying art a more welcoming experience is The Affordable Art Fair, which hosts art fairs in 17 cities worldwide including New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. At each Affordable Art Fair, you’ll find 50 to 80 galleries ­selling contemporary art priced from $100 to $10,000 (with at least half of the works selling for less than $5,000). Each fair features family-­friendly activities, engaging educational talks and art-making demonstrations.

As you browse, figure out why you like certain works of art more than others. After purchasing several pieces, you may find yourself gravitating toward certain themes, subjects, styles or processes. Once you understand what your selections have in common, you can seek additional works that will help build meaningful groupings. Great collections can help advance our understanding of the evolution of art.

“A fine line exists between good and great — decorative and collectible art,” notes Peter Johnson from Portland, Ore., who collects a variety of art including paintings, sculptures and photographs. “As you become more informed, you will develop an eye for defining that line.”

Johnson recently combined his art-­collecting insights with his passion for photography and opened, an online gallery that offers affordable works by renowned international photographers. Collecting contemporary photography is hot right now because so many serious hobbyists appreciate the art.