Collecting art is easier than you think

Posted on October 16, 2013 

My friend Helen Johnson, who works at CB&T, sent me an email, asking me to come to a Lunch and Learn session she put together. I told her I'd be there.

So I went to the Blanchard Room, which is a gorgeous, well-lit conference room that has a catering kitchen attached to it.

Speaking Wednesday about "Collecting 101" was Kristen Miller Zohn, the director of collections and exhibitions for the Columbus Museum.

She was full of great, fun information. Some of it, I knew. But other information was brand-new.

When you start collecting, she said to find something you like. She loves silhouettes, so she has a collection of silhouettes. Most, she's purchased, but others are gifts from friends who know about her love of silhouettes.

She also collects pottery. She said she took a pottery class in college so she knows what goes into creating pottery. She admits she was a bad potter. So now she collects other people's work.

I've been to her house and as someone who works at a museum and loves art, you can imagine that her house is filled with gorgeous works of art of different types.

So here are her tips for collecting art:

Go to local galleries and museums often. And when you travel, visit galleries and museums in every city you visit.

Find out what you like.

Buy art because you like it and because it moves you in some way.

It doesn't have to match your sofa.

Learn the story behind the art and don't be afraid to ask questions.

Know what you're getting.

Give yourself permission to buy (but set a budget and follow it). Start small.

Use all of the tools at your disposal (like reading art magazines, going online, asking gallery owners and museum professionals questions).

Be a good steward of your collection.

Collect with conviction.

Other great tips include talking to living artists whose work you like. Go ahead and ask if they'll accept a payment plan if you want to buy a piece. I actually did that with a piece I loved that a family friend did. It took a year, but now I have a gorgeous dragon.

When you're handling the art, make sure your hands are clean or wear lint-free gloves. Keep your house at a constant temperature and keep the art out of direct sunlight. Make sure your house is bug-free. Do not use household cleaners to clean frames or glass (if the paintings are under glass).

Some of the tips are pretty obvious, but still, I went, "Duh!" a couple of times.

And it doesn't matter if you collect fine art or paintings of clowns or you love Thomas Kincade.

"Enjoy what you buy," is Kristen's advice.

And if you have a piece of art that you want to know a little something about, you can go to the museum with your piece the first Tuesday of every month for an object review.

Now, this is not "Antiques Roadshow." The Columbus Museum folks will not tell you how much anything is worth. They may not always know who the artist is, but they can tell you where to go to find those things out.

The thing I'm excited about is that the museum is going to do a vault tour. That's where all of the museum treasure are stores. I'm not sure when it is, but I'll let you know as soon as I find out. I'm going to be the first to sign up for that tour.

In all the years I've covered the museum and its events, I have been inside the vault once and it was to see a specific item. I can't wait!

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