To me, there is a big difference between buying art and collecting art. A person who purchases art buys based on what they like (or better yet, love). The artist may or may not be someone they know. The art they buy is likely to be very eclectic with many different themes, styles, and subjects.
A collector is someone who really wants more out of the art experience. Collectors will collect more than art, they collect artists. When I look to buy a piece, I want to know that I would want to buy more than one piece from that artist. I am looking to buy today, next year, and for years after that. I want the artist to develop, change, and hopefully get better. One piece (or three) isn’t enough for me. I want to eventually be able to have enough art from that artist that I can show people early works, late works, and how they transitioned. This is one way I feel comfortable with the “staying power” of the art I buy. I follow the artists that I buy or plan to buy from. I want to know where they are showing, what they are doing for works, if they have a gallery opening, and how they see their work evolving.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. When I went to ARTFest Midwest in June, there was a stand that had signs that said: “All work 15% off. Last show.” I liked the work, but had never met the artist before. I asked why this was his last show, hoping that he had been picked up by a gallery, was moving, or something. He told me that he was starting a new business and was giving up on art. I told him that was really unfortunate, and started to leave. He was confused. Clearly I had been interested in his art, but now wasn’t going to buy anything. He asked if we could make a deal, and I was pretty firm when I said no. I explained that I only buy art from artists that are still active. If he wasn’t going to be an artist anymore, there really wasn’t any point to my buying his pieces.
Now, someone looking to purchase art may have jumped on that. The art was really pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The prices were reasonable before, but with the discount they were stellar. The quality for the price made it a great deal, honestly. But that does not matter. In my mind, I am making an investment. It isn’t that I think that the art will appreciate in value money-wise (though we all hope it does!). My investment is in the artist and their current and future contributions to our culture. If you are not making art, you are not making that contribution. So, I would be out my investment, unless I use that money more wisely with an artist that is looking to make the contribution.
That’s why I feel like a collector with my small, nascent, admittedly unimpressive, beautiful, amazing, stupendous collection.