The art collector’s mind: What are they looking for?

Art collector’s are much more than art buyers. They are actually the ones who with museums dictate the art world trends. Fuelled by passion, consumerism, aesthetic passion and investment, art collectors’ power can be easily recognized and ‘categorised’ in different categories. So, what do art collectors look for?

Different collectors look for different things. As example a contemporary art collector won’t look after old masters artworks. A pop art art collector won’t research about conceptual art. Therefore, there are some mutual aspects that allow them to be art collectors. A desire to live with art, a passion for artists and their stories, art-world validation, art investment, among others.

What do art collectors look for?


Unlike simple art assemblages, art collections are meticulously well-planned projects. The art collectors submerge themselves deep into the subject of their interest and spend years and years looking for very particular art pieces that can bring the entire narrative together.So, what are the Collectors’ top motivations for purchasing art?


All art collectors were once people who lived without art. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, no art collection can. The interesting fact is that majority of art collectors when they first started as outsiders they bought they first art piece in order to decorate their homes. The love to collect started after.

Another interesting fact is that more than 50% of art collectors who buy even to investment, cares deeply about aesthetics in order to purchase.

Art as an investment

Sometimes I get sad when artists complain that art is sold to investment purposes. I’m not saying that all art should be sold for the sake of profit, therefore the art market is a market, and should be taken care as such.

Not all art collectors buy art as an investment, therefore I don’t know any who said that an artwork appreciating in value overtime is not welcome. For whom is interested in art purely for investment purposes there are Art Investment Funds which are dedicated to the generation of a profitable return by acquiring and disposing of various works of art. Those funds are managed by a professional art investment management or art advisory firm who has expertise in the field. Having art as an investment asset in a portfolio doesn’t make it’s investor an art collector.

Passion for artists personalities and their stories

Artists are really interesting human beings, if they would not be “different” they would not be artists. They all have different personalities therefore there are mutual traces that make them artists. Art collectors are usually people more involved somehow in business, and even if not, knowing one or various artists is like getting into a different world. The way how artists see and perceive things are usually different, and art collectors like to understand why.

It’s interesting that some of the art collectors that I know wanted to be artists themselves. Once that achievement wasn’t possible, usually due to parents not approval, it’s like if they try to somehow get into the art world differently.

Art-world validation

A collector’s net worth is obviously correlated with their propensity to conspicuous consumption. Newbies to the market want and need a certain validation not just by other collectors but by museums, auction houses, collectors, artists and galleries. Some art collectors care about the art-world validation, while others prefer don’t even been seen in.

Higher status collectors reinforce status hierarchies through their privileged access to resources for displaying aesthetic confidence and their policing of lower status collectors’ claims. Performances of aesthetic confidence are both influenced by status and necessary for displaying status

The Different types of art Collectors

According with Artsy, there are ” Four Tribes of Art Collectors “. Let’s have a look.

In order to understand what each collector is looking for, once collectors for same category look for similar things. Let’s start by The Trophy Hunter:

The Trophy Hunter

danielguidoc guidoc – Christies Auction

You know, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), sold for $450 million at Christies in 2017 to Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah …

For this “tribe” money is not a problem, for them is on what they spend their money that counts. They are rich enough to have more power over art trends than museums. This allows them to ignore the social structure of the art world.

Those collectors are the ones that can buy a Willem de Kooning for 62 millions or a Jeff Koons Rabbit for 91 millions without the need of thinking twice. Trophy Hunter Collectors are another level inside the art world. If this is the jungle those are the lions of the kingdom of art collecting.

For them Art delivers two types of pleasures: the joy of looking and the adrenaline of procuring. For Thorstein Veblen, those people are the ones who represent his theory of the ” conspicuous consumption “. Referring to consumers who buy expensive items to display wealth and income rather than to cover the real needs of the consumer.

When describing the art in their collection, they often don’t talk about the art itself but more about how they managed to buy the painting and how much they bought it for.

If you are not a famous artist already, whose paintings are worth millions, it is unlikely that you’re ever going to sell one of your artworks to a trophy hunter. Even if you are a successful artist, you may never come across this group as they predominantly purchase at auctions. The thrill of the chase is what drives them most.

What do they look for:

  • Trophy Art
  • Famous Names

The Aesthete

Kristine – Yves Saint Laurent

Introverted and not much self-conscious about the fact that they are art collectors, the Aesthete character is interesting. With some genius in this group, who left amazing art collections ( as example Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé ) the Aesthete collectors are driven by a visceral response to the object. They’re often aware of what is fashionable, but almost never buy on the cutting edge of fashion.

Driven more by gut instinct, aesthetes collect vividly in the moment, but with a grand vision that unites disparate objects.

What do they look for:

  • Aesthetic beauty
  • Eccentric art

The Enterprising Collector

roberta fallon – Damien Hirst | Away from the Flock | 1994

Gossip, lawsuits information, misinformation, fads, and rumors of the contemporary art market. Dynamic and real people make the Enterprising Collector tribe who is rather Extroverted and loves to have fun.

Enterprise collectors are wide open to the new and experimental. “Typically first-generation entrepreneurs, often from market-driven professions like finance and real estate, they view art as an asset class, but rarely as a pure investment (although most maintain lines of credit against their collections).” Artsy

These collectors are engaged in a kind of ethical combat to identify and elevate the art that will matter. Priced out of trophy hunting and too financially driven for the connoisseurs, their goal is to destabilize the market, in order to define and redefine art history through collecting.

While their ambition often exceeds their ability, a few—names such as Robert Scull, Charles Saatchi, and Guy Ullens—cut through the hype and help canonize the art of their time.

But despite an openness to new ideas, this is not an open society. Beneath the charm and flattery exists an intense competition for access: to top pictures, the right dinners, the most exclusive parties, the most prestigious museum boards. For this tribe, owning the right painting delivers a jolt of status more effectively than the efforts of the best PR firm.

What do they look for:

  • New Talent
  • Experimental artworks are welcome
  • Extroverted gatherings

The Connoisseur

René – Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum – Braunschweig

Connoisseurs are the academics of the art market. They buy methodically and rarely as an investment. They force us to stop and appreciate.

Independent, and unaffected by accepted taste , they are almost like the new avant-garde. They are, however, deeply invested in the opinions of a select few once expert opinion often matters more than fact. They socialize selectively, often excluding the art newbies who will eventually miss the subtle essentials.

I usually find those collectors in the old masters sector. They are introverted art collectors, some really wealthy therefore, they prefer to keep themselves behind the scenes.

What do they look for:

  • Art with academic meaning
  • Introverted art


  • Different collectors look for different things
  • A desire to live with art, a passion for artists and their stories, art-world validation and art investment are the top key factors drivin art collectors.
  • There are different types of art collectors
  • The Trophy Hunter looks for trophy art
  • The Aesthete looks for something eccentric
  • The Enterprising Collector cares more about new talent
  • The Connoisseur prefers the intellectual side of the art

How to collect art (when you know nothing about it)

Collect art is another art form. Here the balance between aesthetic appreciation and market investment should meet. Therefore, this equilibrium point is not that easy to find.

In order to collect art properly, factors as budget, expenses, market change, hidden costs, and education should always be taken in attention.

Collect Art doesn’t need to be a nightmare, but if you aren’t well informed about it, you will probably have more headaches than pleasure. We prepared for you a essencial guide with all that you need to know about how to collect art, even if you know nothing about it.

Fundamentals of how to collect art

Choose your style

Fashion and Art have actually many things in common. I’m sure that you have your own fashion style, something that characterises you, right? Well, the same applies to art. If you are getting interested in this field do your research and decide which style and art movement you prefer. From abstract expressionism to minimalism or from old masters to contemporary art , there are endless styles, periods and movements out there. Consistency is the key. Take my advice and pick one style and movement for start. It will help you to focus, save time in your research and achieve a better and more consistent portfolio.

Research, research, research

Do you go to galleries openings or artist’s studio visits? Do you know the new emerging artists in the market or even the “old” reputed ones? Well, the art industry is a business like any other, do your research and get out there. In any case, get an art advisor if you are serious about art investment. It will save you time and money in the long term. Without a deep understanding of how to value art, it is very difficult to make a profit.

Calculate your budget

What is your budget? That’s actually one of the main points that you might have in consideration before purchase an art piece. If you have a big budget, the best advice would be to purchase an artist who is already established and represented by a known gallery. If your budget is low to medium, connect with local galleries and artists and pick a few to invest in the long term. Trust me, with your help one of them can increase her/his reputation in ways never expected, and give you a better return in the long run.

Educate yourself

According to the Swiss bank UBS, passion is the main driver behind art investment rather than profit. don’t underestimate the knowledge and experience needed to successfully buy and sell art for profit. Educate yourself consistently in order to develop your taste and knowledge. Try online courses in the field from Coursera, Udemy, Sotheby’s or Christie’s. They are as good as more conventional ones with a bonus that you can manage your time in order to study.

The hidden costs

Framing, Storage, shipping, insurance and auction premiums can quickly turn an investment into a billing nightmare. You can avoid some by purchasing pieces from local artists. Also invest in developing relationships with galleries in your area that have a better network and business relationships.


Transporting a work to a destination for exhibition or sale requires professional crating, shipping and additional insurance costs that can add up to over $1000 easily.

In addition, collectors should be sure to review the insurance coverage for transport, as some shipping companies will only provide a small amount of coverage relative to the valuation of the artwork.


Framing is one of the most important steps during the whole process. The frame you choose for an artwork can have an insane impact. They complement the art piece style and period, so be careful about what you choose. You must have in mind that an art piece must be well protected and cared for. There is no point in buying art as an investment if you then risk it getting damaged while on display.

Auctions – Buyer Premiums

If you are new in the art world, you probably aren’t aware of the buyer premiums charged by auction houses. The buyer’s premium is usually a percentage of the hammer price that can go from 10 to 30 %. So, if you are buying from an auction house, after buyer premium, tax and perhaps shipping, you already have an extra 50% of the final value of the artwork to spend on extras. My advice, be careful with auction houses for start.


An art collection should be insured. Theft, fire, flood can happen and the physical well-being of an art collection. A homeowner’s policy that covers fine art may be a good start, but as a collection grows and important pieces are added, an insurance policy that specializes in fine art may be worth an inquiry to a broker. Just like specialized fine art insurance policies, there are brokers that work only with fine art and other important collectibles. In addition to property insurance, collectors may also want to consider purchasing title insurance to ensure they have clear legal titles to their collection, much like a real estate title policy.


Taking care of the art will ensure that it is in the best condition that a collector can provide when one day preparing to sell, gift or donate it.

Collectors can work with a private conservation center to have objects cleaned or repaired. This may require an initial consultation fee and an hourly fee of $85-$250 which may include travel time, inspection, photography, research and preparing written reports. Some companies have a minimum charge as well. A scientific analysis may also be included in conservation efforts, which include various forms of imaging techniques including ultra-violet fluorescence, infrared reflectography and transmitted infrared.


VAT, selling tax, use tax, resale tax, income tax, capital gain tax, you name it. there are endless taxes out there to everything. if you are starting right now be aware that art is no exception to tax. You will have to prepare yourself to it. My advice, if you want to take art collect seriously get a good art advisor that can help you with this.

Art Advisor

Many people think that they know what they like. Therefore, no one truly know what they like until they learn what is out there. Art collectors actually need curators once they only enrich the experience of collecting art but also enhances the experience of understanding the object, its context, and the story of the artist. In the end, the best art advisors are also teachers to their clients that can help to avoid COSTLY mistakes.

The costs can be considerable. According to the Association of Professional Art Advisors, advisors typically charge a commission of 20% for art works under $100,000 that you purchase under their guidance; that commission might go as low as 5% for works over $1 million. Of course, the more often you return to an advisor, the more bargaining power you’ll have. Those who want advice only should expect to pay 100 to 250 euros per hour.

Be aware of the changing attitudes

More than ever online shopping is booming, and the art business is no different. There are countless apps and websites out there where you can do a great online purchase. Auction houses as Sotheby’s, Christies and Philips strongly invested in online sales. Sometimes the best deals are where we less expect. Also have a look at Aucart app, they have an amazing portfolio of new emerging artists in the UK and US.

Don’t get overexcited about auction results

Art investment isn’t all numbers and projections. It’s important to track an artist’s market beyond a few high prices. Just because a certain artwork was sold for an “insane” number doesn’t mean that will happen soon or even again. Remember the Untitled art piece of Basquiat sold at Sotheby’s auction in 2017 for 85M$? Well, that was a one-off price, it didn’t happen again after.


I’m sure that you want to get the best deals out there but for that, you will need to spend a lot of the time connecting with people in the industry. Visit museums, art fairs, galleries and auctions, not to buy but to educate yourself, look and understand which pieces you like in order to define a strategy. Strategy and network are the key.

Not all art is an investment

Have this in mind, not all your purchases will give you the same return. Don’t misunderstand the market. You really should diversify your portfolio by period, artist, medium region etc., in the long run, will help you to mitigate risk.

Whether you’re looking to enter the contemporary art investment market, or you already have a growing collection, send us a message. We are here to help and guide you to achieve the best returns in the market.


  • Art Collecting is time consuming and requires a full commitment.
  • Not all art is for investment
  • Network in this business is one of the most important factors
  • There are endless hidden costs
  • If you have a medium to high amount of money to collect get professionals to help you
  • If you are starting, be careful with auction houses

Why is (some) Abstract Art So Expensive

As an art outsider, is normal to think that abstract art gets sold for crazy prices. Auction houses as Christies and Sotheby’s also fuelled that trend.  If an abstract piece of de Kooning sold in 2015 for 300 Million on a private sale can be a surprise for many, for who works is this field it actually isn’t. Abstract art is expensive.

So, why is abstract art so expensive? Abstract art is expensive for a simple reason. There is demand for it! Nowadays people buy art not just because they like it but because it can be a good financial investment. Adding this with the conspicuous consumption trend and the number of billionaires increasing out there, it’s easy to understand why some abstract art is so expensive. 

Willem de Kooning
Untitled XIV, 1976. Oil on canvas (1904-1997) Fisher Collection SFMOMA Picture by: rocor

What makes abstract art so expensive?

When we speak about art pieces that are sold for huge numbers we are speaking about trophy art. Abstract art is sold by high prices due to different factors as conspicuous consumption, art as an investment and market speculation. 

Conspicuous Consumption in the art market 

Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money in acquiring luxury goods and services in order to display economic power. Thorstein Veblen created this term as a reaction to the over-the-top wastefulness of a gilt society. 

Veblen had plenty to say about the arts and the reasoning behind their support. For him, our ideas of beauty were inextricably tied to rarity and expense. He compared art to diamonds. While similar in many ways to common glass, diamonds are rare in the earth’s crust and difficult to dig out. Seen under these contexts, they become beautiful. Further, while a Willem de Kooning oil might be worth big bucks, it’s also big bucks that make De Kooning worthy. Veblen noted that frivolities and false values came about due to the human need to demonstrate wealth and to establish status.

Art assets are appealing both for their ability to transfer consumption over time and for their use as signals of wealth. Adding art value to utility, returns also reflect this “conspicuous consumption” dividend.

If we look for the profile of the usual art buyer that is willing to give huge amounts of money in order to obtain art we can see a pattern. 

a) They have at least over 5 million in their bank accounts 

b) They have already a considerable amount of properties

c) They have at least one luxury car 

So how can they now show to the world that they have money? Simple, buying art. 

Abstract Art is a Good Investment 

Buying art only to make properties looking aesthetically more pleasant is in the past. Nowadays art is bought also as an investment. And as an investment modern and contemporary art where we have the abstract one are the more profitable ones. Not only abstract paintings showed to mantain their price overtime, they also increase value between 4 to 8% year. 

Art is a significant investment class, which is highly uncorrelated to other asset classes. Such uncorrelated categories in an investment portfolio can offset potential losses and generate good returns. As indicated by the performance of the art market in 2018. During the same period, other conventional markets floundered. To safeguard their portfolio in the long run, savvy investors are turning towards art to amplify their returns. 

Art investment is becoming more critical than ever before since it is a viable choice for diversification. To maintain the financial strength of an investment during times of economic uncertainty. It is crucial to have asset classes at hand, which move independently of one another.

The Wall Street Journal declared art to be the best investment class in 2018. The art market performed far better than other markets during 2018, as evidenced by the numbers. Blue-chip artwork posted an average gain of 10.6%, whereas the S&P 500 securities fell by 5.1% during the same period. What makes this feat remarkable is that 2018 was an exceedingly difficult year during which several markets declined, including gold.

Market speculation 

For starters, let’s take a crash course in the fundamentals of speculating. A speculator is someone who buys (invests) based not on current value and demand, but rather on predictions. The objective here is to resell at a higher price at that future, basically a vehicle to grow wealth. 

That buyer, in turn, continues the speculation. Hoping to resell at a later date for a higher price to a subsequent speculator, who will in turn continue the speculation.

An aggravating factor, specific to speculating on art, is that art has no tangible value. Artists sit in their studios and manipulate various mediums into various forms. Then their galleries, dealers, or agents declare to be art, declare to be worth certain dollar amounts.

Most art buyers, that go to auctions at Sothebys and Christies , are art collectors or resellers that have something in common. Experience, knowlege and money. Imagine a collector who has some 10 works by Pollock. He certainly knows that if he buys a piece of the same artist for a higher value all his other 10 pieces of Pollock will increase value. The same applies to art dealers, who have some pieces by certain artists in their portfolio at a lower price than auction houses but by increasing the value of the artists on auction houses can resale his portfolio for a bigger price. 


Art market never been so in fashion as nowadays. If before auctions at Sotheby’s and Christies were only for art professionals , nowadays contemporary auctions are more like a fashion week event. Therefore, opposite to the clothes value that decreases overtime, artworks tend to always increase, making it a safer investment that majority of the financial products out there. In the end as I said in the beginning there is only one major reason why abstract art sells for high prices. There is demand for it. 

If you want to know more about how to invest in art have a look a our previous articles. 

5 Reasons to invest in art:

Is art a good investment? 11 tips for new art collectors:

Top collectors reveal the secrets of how to invest in art:

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