How to begin your art collection, with Michael Reid

Having a decade of arts industry experience already with Christie’s in London and Australia, Michael Reid OAM cemented his reputation as an arts journalist, commentator, and then gallery owner with the establishment of his first gallery in inner Sydney over twenty years ago. Since then, he has expanded with multiple gallery spaces in New South Wales including an Art Bar, as well as a gallery in Berlin. We ask him to share his advice for those just starting their collections.

Adam Cullen artwork against a wall at Bobadil House
Adam Cullen artwork against a wall at Bobadil House

What steps would you advise a new collector to take before making their first purchase?
An art collection is not a mere assemblage of objects, and by that, I mean it is not the acquisition of one thing after another to make a horde. An art collection is a body of works that visually speak to you and amongst each artwork to tell a tale. It is a grouping of artworks that says something about the world we live in and/or the person who curates the gathering. So, start by considering what you would like to visually say or have the art say to you.

What is the story that you want your collection to tell?
This does not have to be highfalutin. But if you start out as you intend to end up, be aware that major art collections all tell some facet of a bigger art story.

What, if any, changes have you noticed lately in the art market that have influenced collectors?
Instagram is from God. This visual tool allows the professional and art interested individual alike the enormous opportunity to see worldwide.

What is the most common error you feel new collectors make, and how can it be avoided?
Social media has emboldened and empowered people to make decisions for themselves. This is good. However, such empowerment has also witnessed, to some significant degree, the death of connoisseurship. Drunk on their own snap opinions, new collectors will often neglect the expertise and wisdom of those who have long been in the field that they as a newbie are only now just dabbling in. So, use social media to see and learn, but be astute enough to ask questions of specialists. It is, now more than ever, highly important to combine learnings.

How to Begin your Collection
Adam Cullen (1965-2012) Portrait of Michael Reid, 2009

As a collector yourself, what do you think is the most rewarding thing about buying a piece of art?
Touching, holding, and seeing what engages you, every day. I suggest you place your favourite artworks in kitchens and bedrooms; in those spaces that we pass through and inhabit constantly, not just the “better” rooms. Art is to be enjoyed, not worshipped.

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July 2022