The ABC of Building an Art Collection


While art takes many forms and is done in a variety of media there are many things labeled as “art” that may not be considered “fine art” – let’s take a look at the differences between Fine Art and Decorative Art.

Fine Art consists of original works in two or three dimensions presented by an artist who has dedicated their education and time to creating a unique piece. From Paintings to Pastels, Watercolor to Collage, Raku sculpture to Ceramics – Fine Art is designed to be one-of-a-kind and may benefit from an increase in value. To generalize, Fine Art is about the aesthetics of the art.

Decorative Art consists of works which may be done by a craft artist or fine artist, but whose purpose is more functional vs. aesthetic. Some examples may include a stained glass lamp, a painted serving dish, a holiday-inspired patchwork quilt, and other artistic designs which serve a specific purpose in the home or business. Decorative Art is a great way to decorate a space, but should not be chosen for investment purposes.

One of the most common questions is about art reproductions – sometimes called giclee (fine art printing with archival inks and papers). These prints are usually made in large editions (100 or more) or in small limited editions (generally 30 or less). Many contemporary artists have used reproductions as a way to make their work inexpensive and readily available to a large audience. When considering fine art, rarely do large edition prints increase in value compared to their originals. (Visit the Glossary of Art Terms to learn more about giclee, lithographs, artists proofs, and other limited edition topics.)


When considering an art purchase, consider the Art Buying Needs.

Decorative needI can’t have blank walls, and I need something that matches my couch.

Emotional needIt speaks to me, I can’t bear to never see this painting again.

Investment needThis artist is going to be/is famous and this painting will be worth a lot of money.

If your primary need is decorative, you may be better served with a nicely framed poster or print – after all most of us will not own that same couch in 20 years.

A good piece of art lasts a lifetime and becomes an heirloom when you combine your emotional and investment needs. Do your research on an artist online, in galleries and museums, and by reading an artist’s resume and bio. This will help you ask the right questions when purchasing art.


Buying your first piece of art is often an exhilarating experience, sometimes a purely emotional reaction. Being nervous is OK and you might not know what to ask the first time. The gallery representative is there to help.

Buying your second piece of art will be less awkward. Now that you know what that red dot means on a tag and you can’t take it home until after the show – two things I learned when I paid for a painting and went to tuck it under my arm and walk out of the gallery in 1982.

After your third purchase you are on your way to becoming a collector!

Now it may be time to closely examine your personal tastes in art and learn about the artists who interest you so you can begin to build the investment element in your collection. Building a great collection can take a lifetime – after 30 years I still continue to add to mine. I was lucky when I started collecting it was through the Michael Himovitz Gallery, and Michael took the time to educate me on my purchases. Because of this, many of my early acquisitions have increased substantially in value. Though these were bought because of the emotional need they became a filler for the investment need. Buying through galleries you trust, and doing your research, will pay off in later years.

If you take the time to learn about what ART is and is not,
and you become educated at BUYING quality art,
COLLECTING will become a lifetime pleasure and an investment as well.