Art

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home

Everything you always wanted to know about amateur art collecting from illustrator Manuel Bueno

You might think that art collectors are people with huge bank accounts who live in big mansions and buy their art at auctions just to pass the time. But art is not just for the one-percenters, nor should it be limited to museums.

You can also turn your personal space into a place where all kinds of art fit right in. That's why we spoke with the graphic designer, printmaker, and illustrator Manuel Bueno Botello (@buenobueno), who has experience in the world of collecting, both for professional and personal purposes.

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 1
Illustration by Manuel Bueno Botello.

What is the first step we must take if we want to start our own art collection?

The first thing is figuring out what you like. Check catalogs and other collections and find out what excites you, or at least what stirs some feelings inside you.

Afterward, you can check where this kind of art is sold. A first approach should be bazaars, local galleries, artist friends, etc.

Personally, for me, it was a slow process because I had never bought art, and I was never present when my parents bought a painting for the house, for example. The first time I asked about the price of something in a gallery, I was shocked (it cost about $300). In contrast, my teenage room was decorated with postcards or posters that cost me nothing. However, in that same gallery, I found other more accessible products, such as prints, pins, and objects, for around $25, and I understood that not everything should necessarily be expensive.

When you make your first purchase, even if it is somewhat cheap, you will begin to discover more options and places, and it will be an essential part of losing the fear of this process.

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 3
Self-portrait by Manuel Bueno Botello.

It's good to start small, but how can we know that we are ready for a more significant first investment?

In my opinion, there are two ways to see a piece: as an investment or as something you want. In the first case, speculative variables influence the decision: how the artist is valued, projections about the author's work, whether he or she is alive or dead, who has other pieces, in which gallery he or she is selling, etc. The other way is to think of it as something that is just for your enjoyment, and then the only variable to consider is how much you want to spend on it.

Going back to my first experience, I didn't buy that painting. Sometime later, I spoke with Pachiclón, the author, and I mentioned that I had liked his painting very much. He told me it was still available and sold it directly to me, even with a discount.

That helped me understand two things:

- Works of art have value.
- We must not assume this value. You always have to ask and figure out how to acquire it (you might be able to access a payment plan, do an exchange, etc.).

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 5
Risography of Patchylon.

If I already have some pieces, what is the best way to start curating my collection?

To start curating your own collection, the best idea is to visualize it in your space. If you can, put everything you have in view, whether framed, glued, or whatever. The important thing is that you see them frequently. That way, when you discover a new piece, you will figure out more quickly if you want it to be part of your collection or not.

One thing I like about having art on my walls is that I make the pieces rotate. If there is something I don't like so much anymore, instead of storing it, I exchange it with friends or give it away. It's about having control of your space. Have it always looking the way you want.

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 7
Illustration by Manuel Bueno Botello.

The idea of exchanging pieces with other people is fascinating. How does it work for you?

I'll give you an example. My friend and illustrator Jimena Estíbaliz (@jimena.estibaliz) recently visited me. We arranged an exchange just talking about what pieces would go from one's house to the other's, not thinking of them as gifts, but just straight trades.

This reinforces the idea that it doesn't necessarily mean you will keep something forever after you acquire it. Perhaps the idea of giving pieces to a museum, in our reality, is not an option. I worked for some time at a Risograph printing press, and that's where I began to think about this subject from an interior design perspective and not from the glamorous, artistic one.

What is your opinion about acquiring original works versus reproductions?

It depends a lot on what your goal is. Many times I don't have the money to pay for an original from artists I love, but I have bought their prints, and I'm just as satisfied to have them at home. I don't tend to think about that difference.

I have a reproduction of Matisse in my home, and it doesn't bother me that I will never have the original. Anyway, I understand that this is a very personal matter. If you are interested in big names, and your approach to art is that of an investment, it is an excellent idea to focus on original pieces.

How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 9
The dance of Henri Matisse, 1909.
How to Start Your Own Art Collection at Home 10
Matisse League, by Manuel Bueno Botello.

I have all kinds of framed pieces: magazine clippings, postcards, prints... I value the image over the technical datasheet.
- Manuel Bueno Botello.

What are the differences you see between collecting fine art and illustration pieces?

Some people in the art world consider that a piece is worth something according to the author's trajectory. In the illustration world, this is different. There is no organized system, so we have a lot more freedom. That makes the pieces I buy have more of a personal value, detached from pure speculation. I sleep peacefully knowing that I don't have a $9,000 art piece hanging in my house.

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Illustration by Manuel Bueno Botello.

What can you tell us about collecting objects?

I insist; everything you collect needs to go through your eyes. Wherever they are, these objects will contribute to building your space and its environment.

Plants, furniture, rugs, pets, utilitarian objects, sculptures, and/or paintings coexist in the same space. The pieces stop being something sacred and become something somewhat mundane, something that is yours.

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Illustration by Manuel Bueno Botello.

Do you have any comments about giving value to international pieces above those made in our town?

This definitely became diluted and polarized with the appearance of the internet. Today, I could talk to any artist on Instagram, no matter what country they are from, and have one of their works. It's as easy asking them how much their work costs. In most cases, they are not unattainable. They live a life very similar to ours.

For me, local does not mean that something is from my city, but it is similar or akin to what I like and my own experiences.

On the other hand, I see where this can become polarizing. If we do not support our local scene, it will be more difficult for it to thrive. I think that illustration, being so broad, does not allow for guilds to be formed, and sometimes there is competition. The more we are open to collaboration, the more we can work as a single scene. For example, we will be able to establish certain indicators to compare how much different pieces should cost, which would help us make the system as a whole work better.

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Illustration by Manuel Bueno Botello.

Finally, tell us about a piece that you want to have in your house and you have not purchased.

It is a silkscreen print by Papa Ferrari, a Dutch illustrator.

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Rally the horses silkscreen print by Papa Ferrari.

Manuel Bueno Botello (@buenobueno) is an illustrator, and graphic designer who graduated from Centro, a defector from the Macolen printing press, and lover of notebooks. Learn more about his work on Instagram, and look forward to his Domestika course, coming very soon!

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