You don’t need to spend your life savings on a curated art collection.

By Tamara Kraus
Updated June 20, 2017
Woman looking at art
Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

When you hear the phrase “art collecting” a couple things might come to mind: it’s expensive, it’s complicated, and it’s totally unattainable until you retire (or win the lottery). But these days, thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to start your own collection—without breaking the bank.

Online retailers like Twyla and Saatchi Art have transformed the art-buying process by making it quicker, less expensive, and intimidation-free. To eliminate any first-time jitters, we’ve asked art experts to share their insider secrets and tips so that you can master the art of art collecting.

Woman looking at art
Credit: Hero Images/Getty Images

Listen to Your Gut

You’ll know when it’s love at first sight, says Ariel Saldivar, VP of Artist Relations at Twyla. “When I was 22 living in Dallas, I visited an artist community called The Continental Gin Studios. There, I met Douglas Cartmel, an artist, whom I befriended and bought my first piece of art from—a seascape on titanium for $400. I had such a strong connection to it that I had to have it despite the price (Which led me to eating cereal and ramen for every meal for a long while!).”

While a $400 price tag may be hard to swallow, Saldivar suggests mixing in less expensive pieces so you won’t go completely broke (and live off boxed food forever). And if you’d prefer to test the waters before you commit, Twyla offers a 30-day trial for $30. So if your heart doesn’t skip a beat every time you walk by the picture, painting, or poster, you can return it up to 30 days after receiving it—no questions asked.

Do Your Research

Rebecca Wilson, the chief curator of Saatchi Art, advises shoppers to get a head start on art collecting. “Buy works from emerging artists before they get snapped up by galleries and their prices start to go up.” If you’re unsure where to start, Saatchi Art hosts an “Invest in Art” series twice a year, which showcases the most exciting emerging artists to keep an eye out for. Wilson also suggests experiencing art before investing in a piece of your own—whether by going to shows, reading art-focused magazines, or simply browsing museums or online. “This will help you to get a clearer sense of what you like and the art market in general,” she says. Luckily, the Internet has made the art world more transparent and available to the masses.

Be Bold

Art is meant to strike up a conversation. There is no wrong way to collect art as long as you’re happy with the pieces you’re choosing and aren’t afraid to experiment. At Twyla, for example, the art is exclusive to the website, so it’s a sure way to get your hands on a one-of-a-kind piece. The bottom line? Your motive should be discovering a style that you love—not prestige or a high price tag. “If the work goes up in value in the future, that’s an added bonus, but shouldn’t be what drives your purchase,” Wilson says.

Mix It Up

Saldivar suggests collecting pieces from all over: a vacation spot, a local boutique, or even your daily commute. Instead of buying the same old keychain or mug when you travel, take home a piece of art that you’ll never tire looking at.

Overall, art collecting is about finding pieces that speak to you. So go with your gut, do your research, take risks, and incorporate fun finds from your life. That way, the experts say, you can’t lose.