At Sotheby’s first Modern and Contemporary African Art sale yet in London in May, the mixed media work Untitled by young South African artist Nicholas Hlobo sold for £60,000, nearly tripling its top estimate of £12,000 (the buyer’s commission still has to come on top). But, contrary to popular belief, while art prices continue their steady rise, one doesn’t have to be super wealthy to start collecting. Novice and seasoned collectors alike often ask what they should consider first when starting a collection. There is a distinction between buying art and starting a collection.Buying art is a casual activity where artworks are randomly acquired over time, whereas collecting entails a more thoughtful and determined approach. In a sense, collecting is akin to telling a story. Any art collection says something about the person who assembled it and about a particular place or moment in time. Personal taste is what makes the difference between a truly unique and a look-alike collection, wit...

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