On Monday I moderated a panel on collecting, hosted by WonderRoot and aimed toward the Atlanta business community. The panelists included a curator, artist and collector (and everyone was a bit of all three, to be honest), and it was really interesting to hear about this passion of mine – building collectors and getting people excited about art – from different perspectives. For the most part we all agreed on the basics and built on each other’s comments, but there was one topic that caused a split between the panelists. The question was this: How important is it to like an artist’s entire body of work when deciding whether or not to buy a piece of art?

I say, unapologetically, very important. This is how I see it – You are becoming that artist’s collector. You are investing in their career and taking an interest in their future. I feel there is so much amazing art out there, why settle for a piece that you like, but you don’t respect the rest of the collection? I want to look at something on my wall and feel good about the image and the talent and consistency of the artist I am supporting.

I would not dissuade anyone from buying art. If you love something, and it speaks to you, and you just have to have it – then by all means. But all things being equal, if you love horses and you see a horse image that you are really drawn to, but then look at the rest of the artist’s work and think it is crap – keep looking. Horses abound in art. You can have it all.

To me, buying a piece and then realizing that the artist is not someone you find talented or care to support is like putting the bumper sticker of a one-hit-wonder band on your car before you buy the album. One of the other panelists argued that although Pure Prairie League is a one-hit wonder, “Amie” is still a fabulous song. I can’t argue with that, and so I agree there is room here to consider other factors (if the piece is not that expensive, has a quality that just hits you a certain way, etc), but as a general rule I would rather have an R.E.M. bumper sticker than Chumbawumba.