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Artifacts of the Future, exhibition at Collectors Agenda at Franz-Josefs-Kai 3 with Peter Jellitsch, 2020
Photo: Leonhard Hilzensauer

13.12.2021

Art for You!

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How do I start an art collection? Should I follow trends? Do I have to specialise? Florian Langhammer is a co-founder and the Editor-in-Chief of Collectors Agenda, an international platform that publishes limited editions, and also a print magazine, which visits artists in their studios.

Florian Langhammer is a professional in the fields of collecting and communicating about art. Here, in five steps, he tells you what you should bear in mind.

Step 1: How do I choose?

It’s difficult to think about a concept before one has even bought one’s first work. Something like this has to mature over time. Simply see what appeals to you personally. This doesn’t have to be a visual aspect but can also be conceptual, the fact that one likes the idea behind something. Or that one has got to know the artist personally.

Step 2: Are trends important?

You’ll get nowhere by buying your first work of art on the basis of whether it will rise in value. If an artist is right at the beginning of their career and is producing work that is still affordable, nobody can know how this career will develop. If I buy works by established artists then I have a certain security: A small limited edition by Gerhard Richter will probably increase in value. But this means that I have to pay quite a lot more up front. I reckon that cold calculation isn’t a good starting point for aspiring collectors who would like to live surrounded by art.

Step 3: Try to make direct contact!

Those who don’t know the art scene are often afraid of making that first contact with artists. But this fear has to be overcome. Artists are only human, too, and you don’t need much prior knowledge in order to speak with them. Our objective at Collectors Agenda isn’t to place artists on high plinths like geniuses. For us, artists are simply people who have a particular way of looking at the world, from which we can all benefit. And we believe that making contact with the person behind the art is a fascinating and rewarding experience. At a vernissage, you can ask the gallerist to introduce you. And festivals such as Vienna Art Week offer studio visits.

Step 4: Where can I find art that I can afford?

It’s always good to collect art produced by someone in one’s own generation and then to follow their progress. If they later win a prize, you can be proud because you supported them from the very start. Tours of academies, where students present their work, are ideal: The works of art are generally very affordable, one sees a lot, and the artists themselves are young so it’s easy to get talking to them. But limited editions are also a good starting point. These are originals that have been signed and of which a certain number have been produced. And, as there are several copies, they’re cheaper. In the case of large originals one soon reaches one’s limits in terms of space, but also budget. Perhaps a special theme will then slowly emerge. This doesn’t have to be tailored for public consumption because your private collection isn’t a Guggenheim exhibition. But it should make sense for you, and maybe you can then explain to others what it’s about from your point of view.

Step 5: What do I do with art that I no longer like?

Collecting is a learning process. Over time, you’ll develop a keener eye. Theoretically you can return a work to the gallery that represents an artist. But this should happen as discreetly as possible. Maybe the gallery will also take the work on commission and you’ll get the money when it’s sold. But you can never be certain if you’ll be able to sell art again – and at what price. Artworks aren’t shares that I can sell at any time on the anonymous share market.