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A more important question than the age-old “Is it art” puzzle, may be “Why do you want it?”

Purchasing art as décor, as an investment, to build a collection or simply for the love of it are different motives. And, like so many things, purpose drives process. Do you want it to look good over the sofa or leave a legacy?

Sandra May, owner of Skwirl Fine Art Gallery in London, says, “You have to make a decision when you first start collecting and buying art. A fine art collection has a value, both historically important and monetary value.”

This type of collection is created to pass on to heirs or to a museum as a legacy. The second type of collection is one of enjoyment for the moment. It could be contemporary, consisting of emerging artists, or commercial, which suits your décor.

If you decide to collect, where do you start? The key is education: go to galleries, museums, read books. “Do your homework,” said May. “When people come to us, everybody wants to learn. Ask questions. Is it (a work) in any museums, published by a curator who is respected? Would a museum ever be interested?

You can never promise anyone the value of art. What you can promise is it is part of Canadian history.” May gives an example of a 29-yearold collector who started by reading art books. “He did his homework. The books are the key to having a relationship with the artist and the work,” she said. “Understand artists and art and build a story. That is the foundation that makes them enjoy what they bought.”

Art can also reveal the personalities of collectors. “Art is representative of who you are. It helps you see what you are attracted to.” For couples collecting, it can provide insights. “Art is really healthy for relationships,” said May. “You pick it together. You enjoy it together.”

She says it’s also a great way to start a relationship. “It’s so much fun. There is nothing greater than sitting with a cup of coffee and talking about art or about a museum show you just saw.”

She feels that having this kind of exchange really helps two people to better understand each other.

May suggests blending art into many life experiences. “Visit museums when travelling and make it part of your life.” As an investment, a fine art collection requires research, an understanding of its purpose, and an expert advisor. But as temporary keeper of a work of art, you should enjoy it. Find an artist that interests you. “We are trying to empower new collectors and seasoned collectors to buy fine art that complements them, their sensibility and their home,” said May. “Fine art is great art. It can go anywhere.”