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Collecting art may sound like an overwhelming idea. Where to start, what to acquire, how to go about it? Are you making the right decision? There are so many factors to consider.

When you want to acquire your first artwork, you might find it a bit confusing, thinking everyone around you is more knowledgeable and you might be nervous about making a mistake. Be prepared for differing opinions that might confuse you! Make sure you do your homework before you start building up an art collection. You must remember that at one point, everyone started from the same place where you are right now. A good way to know about art is to experiment by opening your mind to different types of methods, periods or styles.

For a new collector, it is always important to figure out where her interests lie. Connecting to the art is the most necessary criteria before acquiring anything. You don’t want to go wrong with the first artwork of your collection. Art available on the market spans centuries; some people would be interested in oil master paintings, others in experimental conceptual art works, and everything in between.

Do you want to collect the art from your own country or region, or are you open to the world? I never restrict my acquisitions to one country or region because I believe art is a global language. However, you have to be aware that to collect international artists well, it requires significant commitment to see enough of their works to be sure that you are making the right choice.

Visiting museums is a great way to begin the research process for your first art acquisition because the holdings on the walls are carefully vetted and, in most cases, you are sure to see art of the highest quality.

Another great way to learn is by visiting art galleries; galleries work very closely with the artists and can share key insights that might not be available in the museum wall texts but might affect your collecting decisions.

Another option is to visit art fairs where you can discover all sorts of art under one roof, and all for sale. With so much art on the market and so many ways to buy it (from an artist, from a gallery, at an auction house, at an art fair, the choice is yours), you must educate yourself to be sure you are paying the right price for the work. Auction houses publish the estimates and results of works that have been sold at auctions.

However, I would never advise a first-time collector to acquire art from an auction house because it is easy to get carried away and pay more than one should as a result. Websites such as artnet (which you must become a member of by paying a subscription fee) allow you to see price data for particular artists, and also let you know which galleries are showing and/or selling that artist’s work. The Internet is your friend when it comes to market research on art.

Once you have made up your mind and are ready to buy your first piece of art, it is very important to look at the provenance (or the ownership and exhibition history of the work) before you acquire the artwork, especially if the artwork was not made by a living artist. Be sure to get a certificate of authenticity and keep the invoices and receipts of payment to prove that you are the new rightful owner of the work. If you are buying directly from the artist, you must get a signed certificate of authenticity from the artist, and keep enough evidence of correspondence about the work and its sale between you and the artist for future references. If you or your heirs are ever to sell the artwork, it is important to have all your paperwork together. I make sure I log each and every purchase I make.

Another important factor is the budget. If you have a higher budget and are willing to buy an art piece as an investment then you must seek help from art advisers. There are a lot of professional art advisers who can help you to acquire the right piece of art for the right price. If your budget is moderate then it might be best to focus on living and emerging artists and to collect them in depth.

Once you have successfully acquired your first artwork, collecting becomes an adventure that you will always love. Collecting art gives great pleasure to many and, sometimes, it can even become an obsession.

For me, art is somewhat of an obsession. When I see something I really like, I have an uncontrollable jittery butterfly feeling in my stomach that won’t subside until I’ve added that work to my collection.

Nadia Samdani is a Dhaka-based art collector and, with her husband, runs a not-for-profit foundation called Samdani Art Foundation that organizes the Dhaka Art Summit.

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