The world of collecting is fraught with as many great wonders as challenges. To succeed in its ever-changing landscape (think NFTs and social media for starters), there are many unknowns for novice and seasoned collectors alike to grapple with, alongside the well-known pitfalls of authenticity and provenance when buying and selling fine arts and memorabilia.
Here, Gianfranco Rosini, private collector, fine art dealer and owner of one of the largest Andy Warhol collections in Europe, shares some fundamental tips to get you started on the right foot.
Make sure you check the item’s provenance and certification
Checking an item’s provenance means doing your research on the person or gallery that is selling you the piece you’re interested in. You can’t buy an item from just anybody online! The most reliable sellers are those who can certify and guarantee they either met the artists or got the artwork from someone close to them. The closer the seller is (or was) to the artists’ inner circle, the better.
Check who authenticated the signature
Even when the artwork is signed and the signature is authenticated, take some extra time to check who certified it. The fact that the signature is authenticated, sometimes is not enough: you must have a clear understanding of who took care of the authentication process. Make sure you know where the piece comes from, who sold it and owned it before you, and if it there is a track record of publications to back this up.
Check your data
Cross-reference the data you collect with as much information as possible from diverse sources. Try to base your assumptions on reliable people, galleries and publications in the field. Doing your research is key when you’re after a valuable work of art or collectors’ piece.
Authority is often a guarantee
Making sure that the galleries and/or the sellers you’re dealing with have been on the market for a while is important. Building credibility takes time and it might be challenging for younger galleries and trades, but it pays off in the long run. Make sure you are dealing with people and institutions who have a trusted network.
You won’t make it without a great passion
You have to be extremely passionate about what you collect. In a sense, you have to already know something about it when you start collecting! If you don’t, don’t get discouraged and take some time to research the field and become knowledgeable about the artist you’re interested in. If this is your passion, it will be an amazing journey of discovery and it will help you in the future with your collecting process.
Warning: it may become a job!
You have to have a certain mindset to be a collector. It requires strong will, passion and great accuracy in cataloguing and preserving all your items. At some point, you have to be specific and decide exactly what you want to collect, because looking after a collection properly is a lot of work. For me, it became a job!