RECAP: Collecting 101

 The panel at Collecting 101

A group of esteemed fine art professionals converged at Arclight Cinemas in La Jolla on Thursday April 17 to discuss whate to look for when collecting fine art. This event, called Collecting 101, was arranged in preparation for the Museum’s Biennial Art Auction on April 30; to help patrons, Members and friends on their art collecting journeys.

The panel included MCASD Chief Curator Kathryn Kanjo, gallerist Mark Quint of Quint Contemporary Art, Charlie Adamski, Contemporary Art Specialist at Christie's, San Francisco, and MCASD Board of Trustee and collector, Sonia Mandelbaum. Seated at the front of a packed theatre, the group answered any and all of the attendees’ questions. Here’s a brief rundown of the evening’s words from the art world wise: 

Learn what you like
“You have to look and see what’s appealing to you,” says Charlie Adamski of Christie’s, San Francisco. “Don’t look at the prices, just look though and see what you like and see what you don't like… once you’ve done that, decide how much you want to spend and go from there.”

Galleries vs. auction houses
The main difference between galleries and auction houses is that galleries represent artists long-term, and help them throughout their career and creative processes. Though more and more auction houses are beginning to show original works, most artworks that hit the block are previously-owned. The perk of dealing with an auction house is getting to see/purchase a wider variety of art.

Meet the artist
One of the benefits to collecting contemporary art is the possibility to meet the artist and learn their story. Collectors can fall in and out of love with artworks after they meet the creator and learn their process and inspirations.
“Our culture is being made in our time,” says MCASD Chief Curator Kathryn Kanjo. “We can really get to know the artist nowadays, which is sort of impossible with those 18th century guys.”

Find a guide
Forming relationships with curators, gallery owners or other collectors can help you decipher the collecting world and make your first decisions.
“We live in a smallish city,” says MCASD Board of Trustee and collector, Sonia Mandelbaum. “You have the opportunity to really develop relationships with people to serve as a guide in your collecting voyage—people to help cultivate your collecting, push your comfort zones, people you can trust that aren’t just going to up-sell you and really want you to love the pieces that you own.”

It’s not just an investment
Many galleries will try to get you to pay more than a piece is worth, or that you don’t really love by telling you that it’s a good “investment.”
“If people keep bringing up ‘investment,’ you’re in the wrong place,” says gallerist Mark Quint of Quint Contemporary Art. “It is [an investment], but it’s also a quality of life.”
Collecting art is not like buying real estate or stocks. You should only buy art you love and feel compelled to own. The wisest decisions in collecting art will be made by your heart and not by your wallet.
“Buy what you love and what you want to stand in front of everyday,” says Mandelbaum.  

Go for variety
It’s good to have a lot of works from the same artist, but having a whole collection comprised of art from a single artist isn’t wise, or fun!
“I love the play between different artists or artworks wherever you put them,” says Mandelbaum. “It’s always an interesting conversation that happens when you put them together.”

Decorating v. collecting
Art collecting is an expensive hobby if what you’re really looking for is something to hang nicely above your mantle. And do not be hindered by worries of whether or not each piece you purchase looks good next to one another.
“Affinities between artworks reveal themselves, and it reveals something about you,” says Kanjo. “Museums do try to make sense of things. I see generations of artists, but when I go to collectors’ homes, I like to see the things that attracted you to the work. Its okay, your house doesn't have to look like a museum. As you collect, you start to see the things that interest you.”

Start with one medium
Sticking with one medium as you make your first purchases helps make decisions easier, as well as to build a cohesive base for your overall collection.
“We started with prints because they were accessible to us,” says Mandelbaum. “One place to start is with what you can afford.”

Fair prices
Some galleries will try to get more money than an artwork is monetarily worth. Research is required to help know whether or not a quoted price is fair. Websites like,, or will list prices for artworks. For emerging artists, resources like their CV (curriculum vitae) will be helpful: Where did they go to school? Where have they shown their artwork before? With who were they exhibited? Any solo shows? All of these things will affect the price of an artist’s work.
Other good resources include,,,, and art fairs. 

See it in person
“Always try to see something in person,” says Charlie Adamski of Christie’s, San Francisco. “If you buy something and it’s not in the right condition, and it doesn't feel the same in person, you won’t be happy with your purchase.”

More information on MCASD’s 2014 Biennial Art Auction

Mark Quint speaks at Collecting 101