An Art Lover’s Guide to Building an Art Collection

Director of Modern and Contemporary Art, Kathleen Hamill, shares her tips for new collectors.


1). Don’t Rush, Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

A meaningful and personal art collection does not happen all at once.  Begin to notice art in magazines and on your favorite shows that appeal to you. Think about colors that you love and colors that you really do not like.  For example, many people don’t love the color orange.  Maybe that is you.

Carl Howard Green, Jr_Carl Howard Greene, Jr., Untitled, mixed media sold at Alex Cooper

2). Expose Yourself (to Art)

Visit Museums, read about art and peruse Auctions.  The more you know the more you will be able to narrow down your aesthetic. 

3). Buy What You Like More Than for Investment

The past several years have taught us many lessons including that markets are volatile.  So, buy what you like.  There is no guarantee that your purchase will increase in value over time but if you love it, really love it,  you will reap the emotional benefits of living with the work for many years.

1205  SISTER GERTRUDE MORGAN. SELF PORTRAIT TEMPERASister Gertrude Morgan “Self Portrait” sold at Alex Cooper

4). Know Where to Shop

I love Alex Cooper’s Quarterly Art Collector’s Discovery Auctions where all pieces begin at $20.  Our next one is live on July 28th and this is a must shop stop for me as it is an amazing way to add to your collection at a reasonable price.  Here is my latest acquisition.

5). Anything Goes

The beauty of an art collection is that you can explore many genres and periods.  Don’t find yourself in a landscape rut.  Branch out and buy anything that speaks to you.  This is a photograph of my living room featured on the Backdrop Paint Company’s website — art work is “Bi-Polar Betty” by John Waters’ Actress, Susan Lowe.  As I said, anything goes.

6). Put It All Together

I love a salon style gallery wall.  In my home, it is built out of necessity—too many pieces, not enough walls.  But, I love the idea of living with your artwork and seeing it every day.  I even  have art hanging in the bathrooms.  The Barnes Collection in Philadelphia is a Museum epitomizing the salon style wall.

7). Have Fun

Collecting art should be fun.  I feel a bit of a rush when I see and buy something I love.  Sometimes you know you just have to have it!  Odd pieces may make their way into your home and that’s ok, they are conversations starters.  My quirkiest piece so far is a Frida Kahlo inspired altar by Baltimore artist, Judith Heimann, titled “Altar De La Dia De Los Muertos.”  It’s a bit of a challenge to dust it, but I love it.

Happy collecting!

Kathleen Hamill


Director, Modern and Contemporary Art
Fine Arts Appraiser, USPAP