Art-Aficionado Tim Newton on How to Collect Art

Art-Aficionado Tim Newton on How to Collect Art

Source: Art&Object.

Tim Newton is chairman emeritus of the famed Salmagundi Club, founded in 1871, and headquartered in their historic brownstone mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Take a Peek at his Collection & Read on for Beginner’s Tips.

Newton’s active role in the realm of fine art—his proximity to artists, gallerists, art appraisers and dealers, and his attunement to gallery openings and art auctions—has him sitting in the catbird seat as a collector.

“I’m on that circuit. I’m living in the art world, so that provides me with access and the opportunity to be around skilled artists and artworks that have enduring beauty,” says Newton. “My collecting has slowed down. In the early days, I was a voracious consumer, on the chase.”


Mian Situ, By The Door.

Newton emphasizes that art collecting is not for well-heeled members of café society only. “One of the key points I like to make is that I’m not a wealthy person,” he explains. “Everything is relative, but I offer encouragement to collectors that it’s not just for rich people.”

More than thirty years ago, Newton began his private collection with affordable prints. Subsequently, he and his wife Cathi have acquired hundreds of prized artworks. The Newton Collection includes sculptures, pastels, watercolors, and drawings—but mostly, they have oil paintings by prominent American artists. Typically, he buys the art and she decides where the pieces go.

The Newtons acquire art through many venues, making their own discoveries and decisions: “We have an aesthetic. We have good intuition,” he says.

The Newtons do not hire an interior designer to install their art. “I can’t even conceive of a professional coming in to handle that for us. There are people who need that because they have no ability to do that themselves. But we’ve been in homes of close friends—not casual friends—and said, ‘What if you move this piece down? Or hang these together?’”

Newton credits his mom for shaping his artistic sensibilities.

“I was influenced by my mother, who had a great eye for design and beauty,” he reflects. “We had no money growing up, so it was very modest, but she kept a beautiful home with nice objects, though not of great value.”

Having also worked for decades as a kitchen designer, Newton’s keen sense of proportion, balance, and quality inform his connoisseur’s eye.

“That’s been a real factor in collecting,” he says. “I always recognize good design whether in sculpture or painting or drawing.”

The Newton Collection inadvertently grew to include themes: maritime paintings, nocturnes, and snow scenes.

“That wasn’t intentional,” says Newton. “Beauty and quality are my themes.”

Study for Yellowstone Falls, Thomas Kegler.

Courtesy of Tim Newton.Thomas Kegler, Study for Yellowstone Falls.


John Coleman, The Healer.

The Newton Collection includes sculptures, pastels, watercolors, and drawings—but mostly, they have oil paintings by prominent American artists. Typically, he buys the art and she decides where the pieces go.

Below are some tips from Newton for Art & Object readers:

Cultivate appreciation for quality. “Quality is a mindset. Choose good artists.” He adds, “I didn’t start out looking at lesser art. I collect painters who have achieved artistic prowess and success.”

Study catalogs and art books. “The internet is great for quick searches, but it’s no substitute for catalogs or books or subscribing to all the art magazines,” says Newton. “I’m always buying great art books. They’re invaluable for collectors. I have a vital reference library.”

Attend well curated shows. “Show up. Be the first one in the door at the sale. Have relentless passion to be aware.” Newton has purchased works consistently from favorite exhibitions and sales. “Exposure and familiarity increase confidence when buying online. Seeing many, many pieces in person gives you knowledge so when you see one online, you’re able to pull the trigger with relative confidence.”

Buy small paintings. “This was an important part of my art education,” he explains. “Limited size keeps prices at a moderate level. Miniatures have variety: landscape, wildlife, maritime. There’s a lot of diversity, great quality and affordability. Even the most successful painters have lower prices for smaller paintings.”

Buy preparatory studies. “You may not be able to afford an oil painting, but you can buy a wonderful etching as a way to participate in collecting major historic artists.”

Inquire about payment over time. Newton advises, “Don’t be afraid to ask artists or galleries for a payment plan.”

Light up your collection. “Lighting is everything,” says the collector. “I have this discussion frequently with collectors: If you’re spending significant money on a painting—and a modest painting can cost $5,000 to $10,000—buying a $250 light is not a big deal. You need to do that. It makes a world of difference.” Newton recommends cordless rechargeable Situ Art Lighting that slips over the back of a frame.

Consider a collecting strategy. “I often say don’t expect art to be an investment, but if that’s your desire, then buy works of deceased artists with proven track records,” Newton says. “I have no goal. Some people operate with a checklist. They want to have a Thomas Moran or an Andrew Wyeth and are compelled to have those acquisitions. I’ve never had a checklist. I don’t have an agenda. I’m compelled by beauty.”

Invest for love, not money. Collecting art can prove lucrative. One of the most important small paintings in the Newton Collection, purchased for $3,000, has at least quadrupled in value. But, above all, Newton values relationships. “I think of this art as my babies. And no one loves art more, but in the end it’s just stuff,” he says. “The lasting value of this adventure in art is the many, many dear and priceless relationships and friendships we have with wonderful people who create beautiful things.”

Be patient. An art collection doesn’t come together overnight. “I’ve had the opportunity to do this over decades,” Newton confides. “You can’t go out and buy a collection like this with a big check. You have to earn it over time.”