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To But or Not To Buy?

By Miguel V. Tan


My first encounter with art was in high school. What has always intrigued me ever since is a painting’s back story. Why was it created? What was the artist thinking? Perhaps most important, why does it cost that much? At that time, I never understood how a piece of canvas, covered with a few liters of mixed paint and bearing the signature of some artist, can amount to hundreds or even millions of pesos.

It came as a shock to me initially, especially since a lot of the art that costs millions today are done in an abstract manner, i.e. usually just a splattering of paint on a canvas. I am sure many have confidently said that they can replicate this kind of art, except that some of these abstract or modern pieces sell for millions at auction houses or museums.

My initial notions about art changed when I started collecting pieces.

This interest in art, particularly with paintings, started growing in high school. I realized then that a painting’s value grows over time, sometimes doubling or tripling its price after a couple of years or so. Even as a student, I was already involved with business and I was constantly trying to find ways to grow my savings. I admit that my interest in art initially grew out of this curiosity with a painting’s increasing value over time. Art seemed a viable investment.


I started researching more about art and about up-and-coming artists in the local art scene. I also sought advice from JJ Atencio, who was then CEO of mass housing company 8990 Holdings, and Jaime Ponce Deleon, the founder of the prestigious auction house Leon Gallery.

Collecting art is a journey and never a destination.

I first met JJ and Jaime when I was a college freshman and they have since become some of my good friends and mentors. Both are major art collectors and I knew I had a lot to learn from them. Soon after, I started routinely visiting their offices and regularly attending auctions they organize to learn from, to be inspired by their art collection, and to be familiar with the local art scene.


My mentors taught me a great deal about art. They taught me that starting an art collection need not be rushed. Nor does it have to be expensive. “Collecting art is a journey and never a destination,” they told me, “because we are just stewards of art.”

Over the years, as a young art collector, I have learned several things through my experiences and through my mentors about this journey that is collecting art. Here are five basic tips on how to start collecting art at an early age.

1. Buy within your means. Obviously, don’t buy art you cannot afford. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have to start somewhere.

2. Buying art is not just about investment. Ask yourself: “Do I genuinely love this painting?” Always buy art that you love because, whether the art appreciates in value or not, you will never go wrong with a piece that you genuinely enjoy. At the end of the day, the painting will be hanging on your wall. Imagine how sad it will be to stare at something that doesn’t bring you joy. If the painting does appreciate in value, then that is a great blessing, of course.

3. Keep researching. Be in the know about any artist you are interested in. I regularly visit art galleries and auction houses to keep tabs on the local art scene. I also follow artists who constantly have good relations with galleries, i.e. artist who are frequently on exhibit at local and international galleries. Moreover, it is also essential to have mentors who are art collectors themselves to guide you on starting your own collection.

4. Don’t rush. A lot of times artworks might seem overpriced, especially those sold at auction houses, because many people tend to get emotional when purchasing art they love “too much” so much so that they go over the limit of its actual value. I have seen this over and over again and what I learned is that a piece will always be there. Many times, a piece of art will re-appear in the market, Stick to a budget when acquiring art. There’s no need to have FOMO (fear of missing out).

5. Have fun! Do not take art collecting too seriously that you get stressed by it. Your journey toward becoming a collector should be enjoyable. Personally, I always see art as a means of escape. Every time I look at an artwork, I always imagine myself lost in its beauty, trying to absorb as much as I can from it.

Collecting art has made a significant impact on my life, at the very least by making me appreciate how art is a means of expression. It’s where an artist immortalizes his thoughts and emotions.


Art is a time machine. Through art, we see—and feel!—messages from times past, echoes of bygone eras. The brush strokes of old masters often portray specific periods in history, particular cultural currents. There’s a certain pride, for instance, in seeing our country’s story through the works of local masters. I find joy in imagining what it was like during their times.

But art is also timeless. A great piece of art resonates through the years, some even through centuries. In a sense, acquiring an artwork is more than just buying a piece of canvas with paint splattered on it. It’s buying years of precision, practice, and even disappointments—it’s essentially a piece of the artist himself.

Happy collecting!

Miguel Tan is the CEO of Fasclad Inc. and a partner at Anytime Fitness.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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