You’ve always dreamt of your first ~Real Adult Apartment~. You know the one: Where the decorative coffee table isn’t from Craigslist and the bar cart offers more than a half-empty bottle of Three Wishes. And don’t forget the eclectic collection of art that spans the walls and shelves. It’s the last checked box—starting an art collection—that can seem the most daunting, though, right? Not to mention expensive.
The good news is, it’s not as challenging as you think it is to trade in those band posters and Ikea art for meaningful, original pieces. Thanks to art collecting experts Cristina Salmastrelli and Chelsea Nassib, we’ve got all the advice you need to start your own collections right here.
While Salmastrelli has spent 10 years directing art fairs (currently New York City’s Affordable Art Fair, which kicks off March 30), Nassib is the brains behind Tappan, an online gallery for emerging artists that aims to make art more accessible to young buyers. Both began purchasing art in their early 20s, and have since spent their careers connecting artists with new collectors. We got their advice on first-time art buying, from how to hone in on your personal style to why you should always keep the receipts.
But these women aren’t just eager to share how to start collecting art—they’re also quick to emphasize why it’s worthwhile.
“There’s a level of identity that comes with collecting, similar to the clothes that you wear, the way you design your house,” explains 28-year-old Nassib, who, in addition to running Tappan, is an artist herself. “Anything you buy really is a reflection of who you are and your individuality, so that is ever more expressed through the art that you buy.”
Salmastrelli says she sees art collections as a timeline of the collector’s life. Often, the meaning of a piece changes over time. In fact, the first piece of art Salmastrelli purchased—a blue and green line drawing from an adult art therapy center when she was 24—now hangs in the room of her soon-to-be-born baby son.
“Your collection becomes a chronological map of who you are and how you are evolving as a person,” Salmastrelli says over the phone. “This is your diary, and it’s all visual, and it’s in your home, and I just can’t think of anything more magical than that.”
Sounds convincing—now what? Scroll through the gallery (no pun intended) below for eight art collecting tips on where to look, how to prepare, what questions to ask before buying, and when to trust your gut.