When discussing the different types of art that you can collect, you will inevitably risk bringing up the debate about what constitutes art in the first place. This is one of those debates that will probably never be solved, and it tends to be the sort of debate that people will raise pretty readily. However, there are certain types of collectibles that will always get categorized as art, and certain types of collectibles that will frequently get categorized as art.
Everyone agrees that paintings are pieces of artwork. People might argue about specific paintings, but when people will talk about collecting art, they’re often referring to two-dimensional pieces of art like paintings. Most people will also agree that photographs and prints are pieces of art. Printmaking itself is a very broad sub-field within the big category of visual arts.
Photography is a much more recent art form. People will find photographs that are worth a lot of money in the fine arts trade, of course. However, most old photographs aren’t going to be anywhere near as valuable as the old paintings can be, for better or for worse. Many old photographs are more interesting to the people who collect historical artifacts and primary historical sources. The intersection between art and art history can be interesting, since art pieces are historical artifacts in their own right. This intersection becomes stronger when it comes to photographs, since photographs provide more direct evidence of historical events, given their relative accuracy.
The line between cultural artifacts and pieces of fine art can sometimes blur. Very old pieces of art and sculptures are generally regarded as cultural artifacts, and they aren’t usually categorized alongside things like Renaissance paintings. However, the exact point of historical divergence is debatable.
If you’re an art collector and you really like the products of printmaking, you’ll probably have etchings, lithographs, engravings, screen-prints, and woodcuts in your collection. You might also have added digital prints in recent years. To the untrained eye, some prints aren’t going to look much different from many paintings or sketches. While lots of people think that printmaking is modern, many of the most famous artists in history have dabbled in it, and woodcuts are very old art forms indeed.
Plenty of fine arts collectors will also collect sculptures. Three-dimensional art isn’t usually going to be as popular as two-dimensional art, however. People can hang paintings on any wall. Finding a place for one’s sculptures can be tricky, especially for the people who are actually intending to collect them. Making space for dozens and dozens of sculptures can be hard, especially if you’re planning to buy the large ones instead of the small ones that could be mistaken for figurines.
These larger sculptures will practically need their own display tables, which is going to be a tall order for most people. However, lots of fine arts collectors will dabble in collecting sculptures, even if they’re going to primarily focus on paintings and prints. The line between pottery and sculptures can become fuzzy at times, because some pots are constructed in a very elaborate manner that more or less makes their more functional aspects harder to use.
The line begins to get a little blurry when people consider the cases of figurines and crafts. Some people think that collecting little porcelain figurines is completely different from collecting fine arts. Other people think that these figurines are pieces of art in their own right, and it isn’t much different from collecting sculpture if people want to own these. People who exclusively collect figurines may feel out of the loop when it comes to fine arts collecting, but they’ll certainly be in the club if they have a more eclectic approach to fine arts collecting.
The situation also gets blurry when it comes to certain types of folk art. A lot of folk art involves crafts, and some people place those in a different category. A lot of crafts are more akin to recipes than individual pieces of art: a person can make several different copies of the same thing by employing a specific formula, which is very different from a painting that was not constructed according to any sort of pattern. However, these differences are also going to be considered academic at best to some arts collectors. The historicity of folk art draws a lot of people to it, as does its sheer authenticity.
Ultimately, fine arts collectors will have a lot of choices. They can fill their homes and their art collections with paintings and photographs, and they can supplement that collection with sculptures, crafts, figurines, prints, and pottery. The people who have a collection like this are going to be the folks who are appreciating the art world in all of its complexity, in stark contrast to many of the other people who enjoy arts collecting.