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Sotheby's Institute of Art

The Intelligent Eye: the art of Collecting

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The ever-changing global landscape of today’s art market, with its international art fairs and dizzying calendar of live and online auctions, presents more opportunities than ever to buy art. This course offers professional insights on how to navigate this fast-paced international marketplace as a collector. Discussions include how to determine a collection focus, differentiating price from value, due diligence checklists, issues surrounding authenticity, as well as simple tips for inventory management.

Using a variety of resources, you embark on a virtual “shopping trip,” applying basic collecting guidelines and comparative strategies to make a hypothetical acquisition for your collection. This course introduces valuable strategies for focus and discernment as you build your collection.

What you will learn:

  • A critical and informed approach to collecting so you can confidently make future acquisitions within the parameters of a budget and a vision.
  • Essential research skills using art historical sources and basic knowledge of how to conduct comparable price research.
  • The ability to navigate the global art market and to conduct research through a variety of online resources for potential art acquisitions.
  • An awareness of the legal complexities and consequences of fakes in the art market, as well as the ability to carry out basic due diligence.

Sample Topics

Week 1: Why Collect?

  • Overview of Collecting
  • Deciding on a Collection Focus

Week 2: Looking and Learning

  • How to be an Educated Collector
  • Key Considerations in What to Look for

Week 3: The Marketplace: Dollars and Sense

  • Auction Market
  • Retail Market
  • Understanding Price Databases

Week 4: The Hunt

  • What Venues to Visit – Auctions, Galleries, Fairs, and Online Sites

Week 5: Caveat Emptor

  • What a Collector is Responsible for
  • Fakes and Forgeries
  • Due Diligence

Week 6: The Acquisition

  • Art Advisors
  • Buying at Auction
  • Making the Offer at a Gallery
  • What Next


M.A., Courtauld Institute of Art; B.A., Pomona College Betsy Thomas is the founder of her own boutique art advisory firm providing professional representation for collectors. She advises on buying and selling in all areas of fine art from Old Master, American & 19th C. paintings to Impressio...
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