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Building an Art Collection: From Hobby to Passion

By Alexandra Macqueen • Published October 22, 2020 • 3 Min Read

If your art collection is growing, it might be time to take stock of your collection and learn how to protect its value over time.

For some, owning art is a way to enhance their lives and make their homes distinctive, but for others, the desire to own art grows into long-term endeavour, needing a team of professionals to help identify, acquire and preserve new works. As you continue to buy art, at some point you might ask yourself, am I an art collector?

At Art Toronto 2018, an international contemporary and modern art fair, attendees gathered to view and admire the work of Canadian artists. Corrie Jackson, RBC Senior Art Curator, hosted a special Q&A session to discuss building an art collection.

man looking at painting

Building a Collection

For Jackson, there is a clear distinction between people who “live with art” (consumers) and those who collect art (collectors). Both types of buyers are drawn to artworks they like and want to own; however, an art collector frequently is motivated by additional factors such as wanting to build an exhibit or collect around a theme.

“The true collector has no ‘off button.’ Collecting means you’re always in a state of development and reflection — looking for opportunities to bring new perspectives into your life,” she says.

The drive to continue to acquire new pieces you’re interested in can define the collector. When a collector is passionate about expanding their holdings, at that point, collecting has likely become more than a hobby, and they may even be willing to “stretch financially” to acquire a coveted piece.

Past, Present and Future: What Motivates an Art Collector?

Jackson suggests that the desire to buy artwork that appeals to them is rarely the sole motivating factor for the collector. Instead, people who collect art are often spurred by an interest in the past, present, or the future.

  • A collector who is interested in the past may collect out of nostalgia for pieces related to their personal past.
  • A collection that’s focused on the present might be intended to stimulate conversations about current interests and preoccupations.
  • Finally, the collection that points towards the future is activating conversations about where things, people and places are going from now forward.

An art collection may also have an unconscious theme that can only emerge gradually, Jackson says. When the pieces of a growing collection are brought together in one place, the collector may be surprised by an “ah-ha moment” as a unifying idea is suddenly brought into focus.

woman looking painting

Maintaining and Preserving Your Collection

As an art collection grows it may require ongoing management; this provides an opportunity for a fresh look at all of the pieces acquired. Reviewing and adjusting your collection allows you to reassess the interests you are pursuing.

Managing your collection can also mean ensuring its prudent maintenance. Whether displayed or in storage, professional advice can help ensure the long-term health of a collection. Galleries can help with advice to ensure your collection is appraised so that it can be insured to the appropriate value. As your collection may not be covered under standard insurance policies, you may also want to explore options for additional coverage.

Don’t miss Art Toronto 2020 which will feature a strong online presence that will take place October 28 to November 8 that will include virtual exhibitions.

At RBC Private Insurance, our specialists will work with you to customize coverage to meet your unique needs. For more information, please call our exclusive VIP team at 1-800-769-2517.


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*Home and auto insurance products are distributed by RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. and underwritten by Aviva General Insurance Company. In Quebec, RBC Insurance Agency Ltd. Is registered as a damage insurance agency. As a result of government-run auto insurance plans, auto insurance is not available through RBC Insurance in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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