Fine Artist Cheryl R. Riley: The Art of Art Collecting (Part 2)
Arts and Culture

Fine Artist Cheryl R. Riley: The Art of Art Collecting (Part 2)

Cheryl R. Riley on Fulani Cone Coffee Table

In part two of The Art of Art Collecting, art expert Cheryl R. Riley shares five tips to help you build your collection and portfolio. (Read part one here.)


1. Purchase Art That You Love


Cheryl explains that art’s purpose is to give joy, or resonate personally on profound levels, every time you look at it. If you think of it as an enlightening hobby, you will maximize your enjoyment. She cautions that, unless you are attending auctions and buying at the six- or seven-figure level, it is not a good strategy to purchase art with the intent to flip it or sell it quickly. That behavior can get you blacklisted by artists and galleries. The good news is that, unlike many other investments, she notes that art rarely loses value and is more likely to appreciate. As with any field, getting expert assistance via an art advisor is the smart move.

(Image: “Nasty Girls 1” from the Appropriation Bag Sculpture Series)


2. Do the Research


It’s important to read your newspaper’s art section, and subscribe to publications like Art News. Join at least five of your local museums, then go often, read the wall text, and take full advantage of their educational programming. If you have children, it is especially important to get them involved with art early on. Almost all museums have children-focused programs that adults can learn from as well. Make this part of your weekend routine. Galleries are also a bountiful resource; they change exhibits frequently, have knowledgeable staff who are at your disposal, and can be free to visit. The front desk staff, printed artist statements, catalogs they offer for sale, and other research will add immeasurable depth, richness, and layers of connectedness to the artwork you are viewing. You will be astounded by how much more you enjoy even the wildest, most confusing art, once you take these steps.

(Image: New York Horizon Mirror)


3. Know What You Love


Give yourself at least a year to educate your eye before you buy, and you will begin to discern your preferences. There will be types of art and specific galleries to which you will return, just to see who they are showing, or because of the feeling they engender. Certain artists’ work will stay with you long after you have left. Are you attracted to bright and bold colors, or cool, pastels? Are you drawn to figurative or abstract art? There are millions of artists in the world. It’s helpful to focus, because it can be exhausting if you don’t. Cheryl advises that you enjoy the feast and not buy quite yet. Everything you view and learn informs your ability to distinguish quality and your taste level in the long-term.

You can choose a particular region or medium–i.e. southern U.S. outsider artists, Brazilian sculptors, or West African photographers–with a style focus such as portraits, still lifes, landscapes, works by female artists, or pieces featuring a particular tool or object motif, such as books. The world of art will satisfy any interest you have in extraordinary ways.

(Image: Coin Encrusted Tudor Tables III and IV, collection of Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Museum, NY)



4. Know Who You Want to Collect


Outsider artists, videographers, painters, photographers, or installation artists are just some of the categories of artistic practice. Your budget will dictate where you enter the market. Riley recommends setting an annual or quarterly budget. If you have a small budget, don’t worry. Start with emerging artists, under appreciated late-career artists, works on paper, or open and limited-edition prints. If you have disposable income, mid-career artists are best to consider. For those with unlimited resources, a mix of established, mid-career, and emerging artists is the most appealing combination.

Hedge your bets with newly minted artists, by choosing emerging artists who have attended a prestigious school’s MFA programs. Schools that are well-known for producing groundbreaking artists include Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), University of California-Los Angeles, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, among others.

Another source for emerging artists would be museum residencies and graduate shows. The nice thing about buying an emerging artist–in addition to lower prices–is that you establish a personal relationship, and support of them as their careers advances. This way, they will keep you on the list of first viewings, before their shows open. This is especially important, because as artists become sought after, many of their works are sold by the time you get to attend their main gallery show.

(Image: [James] Baldwin Totem Series “Giovanni’s Room”)


5. Protect Your Legacy


Cheryl states that your collection is part of your investment portfolio, and it must be authenticated, maintained, and updated periodically. This includes original invoices with a thumbnail image of the artwork. Your information as the owner, verifying that the work is paid in-full, and its ownership is transferred to you, once you assume responsibility as the owner of a piece. Depending on how much and how often you purchase work, have a certified appraiser provide up-to-date valuations for your insurance replacement value. As your artists participate in group and solo shows, exhibits, win awards, have critical reviews, or other milestones, include this information in your folder, as this will assist the appraiser and limit the time you pay for their research.

Finally, Cheryl says, as a collector and patron of the arts, you are a steward of cultural heritage. Protect works on paper from sunlight and moisture, and have works framed and professionally mounted. State in your Will where and who your art will go, and be sure that legacy is will be appreciated, bringing as much joy to the recipients as it has to you.



Gwendolyn Quinn is an award-winning media consultant with a career spanning over 25 years. She is a contributor to and BE Pulse (via, Huffington Post and Quinn is also a contributor to Souls Revealed and Handle Your Entertainment Business.