When beginning to collect art it's important to consider both contemporary and historical artworks and to distinguish which era is best tailored to your tastes. While contemporary and historic artworks appear to be so different, one is impossible to understand without the other. The same guidelines, historical value and market factors must be taken into consideration for both art genres prior to buying. All things considered, it comes down to a question of your personal taste and motivation for buying art.

1. The difference between historical and contemporary art

Contemporary art is art that is "new". While there is no concrete definition of contemporary art, contemporary art most often refers to artworks created by artists who are currently living and working. Historical art refers to artworks that are older and have an exhibition history; generally they have already been bought, and sold on the primary market at least once, and have been part of a previous artistic movement. The history can add value to an artwork, particularly if the previous owner was a prestigious collector or institution. More often than not, historic art has helped to shape contemporary art into what it currently is.

2. Advantages of Historical Art

Historic art is a safe choice. Its value has been decided and the artwork has played a role in the historical context of art. These artworks often offer a glimpse back in time and will continue to look ‘classic’ for years to come. The price stability of buying historical artwork is very appealing, as it is unlikely to drop significantly in value. That being said, old master painting sales have decreased over recent years, as contemporary art has become increasingly the preferred choice of art collectors.

3. Advantages of Contemporary Art

Today, Contemporary art is more popular than ever and has become a focal point in discussions around current culture. It now regularly graces magazines like Vogue mirroring contemporary culture and society. Contemporary art is relevant to the "now". It represents current artistic practices and innovative styles and techniques. Contemporary artworks are exciting, are in prime condition using modern techniques and have the potential to eventually become important historical artworks. To build a fresh collection that is in alignment with current issues in our society, contemporary art is a good choice. 

4. Collecting Contemporary Art

Collecting Contemporary art requires extensive research, tracking down reputable galleries, and a bit of investigating into the overall quality of the artwork. Thanks to Contemporary art’s rise in popularity, collecting it has become increasingly profitable and the ability to buy from the primary market (direct artist-to-gallery) often means getting amazing art at lower costs.            

Purchasing contemporary art from the primary market also helps the artistic community thrive. Buying new art from galleries directly supports the artist, allowing them to grow in their field and produce more work. It also establishes a relationship with the gallery, who will most likely introduce buyers to other new artists and art events in the community. This cycle allows for local art scenes to continue to grow and prosper.

Honouring the Past and Looking to the Future

There is no right or wrong way to buy art, and overall the process of collecting art should be a fun and exciting investment! There are strategic ways to build a collection that will be the most beneficial to you, the buyer. Whether you are attempting to establish a cutting-edge collection, a gallery repertoire and connections within the artistic community, or simply honouring the skills of old master painters, building a collection should be thought out. Take time, research, and build your collection to suit your individual taste.

We at Artlink Canada honour the past. Without historic art, contemporary would not be what it is today. It is so important to understand and value the history of art, especially when looking at innovative contemporary pieces. We bring you the latest in contemporary art; artworks that will increase in value and become historic artwork in the future.