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How to Build an Art Collection

Amanda Vesey Imagine for a second that you're in the happy situation of suddenly being able to amass an art collection. Where would you start? What would you buy? An art collection is an intensely personal thing but would you feel confident that your taste measured up, that you were buying 'good' art? Step one, and this is the fun bit, is to immerse yourself in art, everything from old masters to the most avant-garde conceptualism. Kelly Ross, founder of the Art Stable in Child Okeford says 'looking' is the most important thing, spending as much time in galleries and art shows as possible to get a feel for what you like. She says:  "When you buy it's mostly from gut feeling but if you've been looking for a while then you'll have knowledge and background to help you make a decision. Take your time, don't rush in, the pleasure is in the looking.' Camilla Drinkall of Moorwood Art in Somerset agrees. "Spend time training your eye by going to as many exhibitions as possible at places like the V&A and the National Gallery as well as smaller galleries specialising in contemporary art. You'll soon learn what you're really attracted to." Kelly also recommends visiting private collections such as the wonderful Pallant House in Chichester, to see how different mediums, styles and periods can work together. Research is key. Once you've found an artist you like, read up about them on the internet, find out where they sell and how much their paintings are worth to get a sense of their true value. As a ground rule Camilla advises also working out an exact budget before you begin (and sticking to it) and deciding whether you are buying as investment or simply for your own enjoyment. It's worth nothing that many galleries now offer payment in instalments, so if you fall in love with something that carries a hefty price tag, you may be able to buy it over a year or so. At Moorwood Art's last exhibition one customer arranged to make 2 payments to the artist, one before Christmas and one in the New Year. Artists, like everyone else, are open to offers. So, how to buy a piece of art that will go up in value?  Building up a modern collection is a bit like gambling in the sense that you can never be sure if the artist's work is going to become sought after. That's why the number one factor is that you love and connect with the work you are buying. However Kelly Ross says it can pay to really do your homework on an artist before committing to buy. Is he or she a serious, full-time, round the clock artist or someone who dabbles on the side? How has their style evolved over the years? Kelly says she prefers to show artists who have spent years honing  have their style and are more sure of themselves. "I show mainly  'mid career artists' so they are established to certain extent, have found their own language and are working full time and professionally." George Young, 29, shown here below, who comes from a well known family of artists, is an exception. georgeyoung George Young: The Newsreader It's important that artists should have a recognisable style, says Camilla Drinkall who will stop buying if someone suddenly veers off in a completely different direction. "Choose an artist who has a consistent style. I think one of the things that makes a collection special is its recognizability. If someone can walk into your house and say: "Oh that's a Luke Piper,' then that's a great feeling." Buying sketches, prints or photographs from a known artist can be a good way of investing in art without breaking the bank. Take this Julian Trevelyan, one of a series printed in the 1940s to be shown in schools and on sale at the Art Stable for £420, where one of his paintings would fetch many thousands. Lithographs offer the chance to buy great images which are not expensive as they come in unlimited numbers. trevelyanIMG_5749 Pictured: Thames Regatta by Julian Trevelyan Above all, it's important to have fun with your art collection. "Be daring,' says Camilla. "And be aware that your paintings will tell a story about your past." Recently Camilla went to help an elderly couple hang their entire collection amassed from all the different places where they had lived - New York, Ireland, Cornwall. She says: "I knew so much more about them by the time I had finished just by looking at their art. Your art collection should really be a reflection of your own life." Amanda Vesey, main image above, has a new show Yellow Sky opening at the Art Stable from April 26 to May 24.

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