11 Top Art Advisors Share Do’s and Don’ts for Novice Collectors

In most markets, the customer willing to pay the highest price wins. But the art market is not like most markets. Galleries weigh a wide range of factors—from a collector’s relationship to museums to the quality of their collection—in order to determine whether a prospective buyer can have the privilege of acquiring a coveted artwork. 

In a market this opaque and confusing, where people compete for objects that are by definition unique—not to mention useless—how and where does one begin? To answer the question, CULTURED surveyed the experts included in our first-ever Power Art Advisors list. Below, we have culled highlights from their answers to the question: What is the biggest mistake rookie collectors make? See their do’s and don’ts below. 


Image courtesy of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn.

Get some skin in the game. 

“I encourage a new collector to talk to dealers and to buy at least one work. We tend to pay more attention once our own money is involved. Buying primarily is also to be a patron—which the arts need. The art on our walls describes who we aspire to be—please do not let it be neutral.”

–Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn

Take your time.

“Start slowly—being too impulsive can be costly. It’s important to ask questions that might affect the decision-making.”

Ed Tang

Image courtesy of Wendy Cromwell.

Do your research. 

“New collectors sometimes make decisions based solely on emotion without doing research. I recommend consulting with a more experienced collector, museum curator, or art advisor to help to avoid expensive mistakes.”

–Wendy Cromwell

Develop a point of view. 

“Have a thesis behind your collection. There are so many conversations in art—politics, entertainment. Having a thesis will keep you focused in the right direction.”

–Anwarii Musa

Image courtesy of Allan Schwartzman.

Be bold. 

“There are a lot [of rookie mistakes] that are equally big, and some contradictory of one another: Buying impulsively. Fear of making a mistake. Not being courageous. Buying with one’s ears. Seeking too much consensus. Thinking they are making good financial investments. Not yet experiencing the difference between taste and staying power.”

–Allan Schwartzman 

Phone a friend… or an expert.

“Many novice collectors have a common misconception they can start building an art collection in a vacuum without an external dialogue with other collectors, an art advisor, and their local museums and institutions. It’s not a data-driven endeavor that can grow out of crunching numbers or based on a hot tip, but rather a highly nuanced engagement with a variety of factors and emotions that don’t exist in the professional world they come from. Having a small community of people to discuss and debate artists and exhibitions will answer a number of questions that otherwise might not be raised. If a collector is starting out and they have zero questions about the work they are seeing, I can guarantee they won’t be a good collector or won’t last long.”

–Rob Teeters


Image courtesy of Abigail Asher.

Buy something just for the name. 

“[The biggest rookie mistake is] buying because the name is famous but it’s the wrong work by the right artist.”

Abigail Asher

Overlook the condition of a potential acquisition. 

“Underestimating the importance of a work’s condition. This would be the equivalent of buying a vintage car without popping the hood to check the engine! The reality is, an artwork's condition speaks volumes about its history, as well as its future. Crucial condition flaws not only diminish an artwork’s aesthetic value, but also its investment value and ability to be resold. So, for each and every artwork we place, we engage trusted independent conservationists—sometimes more than one—to carry out in-depth inspections.”

–Kim Heirston 

Image courtesy of Ana Sokoloff.

Buy for the wrong reasons. 

“Buying for the sole purpose of the thrill of the flip.”

–Ana Sokoloff

Let vacation brain take over. 

“Don’t buy art while on vacation.”

–Erica Samuels

Meredith Darrow. Photography by Peter Baker.

Be too eager… or too reticent. 

“I think it's critically important for there to be an education period before jumping into buying. I find new collectors are often too eager or too reticent. I think time should be spent narrowing down artists of interest and which body of work by those artists is the focus. Once that happens, and the best work at the best possible price that you love is found, buying should happen swiftly.”

Meredith Darrow