Why Collect?

September 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

slide54 Photo credit: U.Genta

Kenneth Clark, a British grandee in the art world of the 20th century, thought it was like asking why people fall in love: the reasons were various. For some, it is simply because they like a particular piece and buy it to hang in their home. Quite often, they haven’t intentionally begun collecting artwork, it just happens and their collection grows as and when they see another painting or print that they fall in love with and buy.

“The truth of the matter is that for many it is a party, and everyone loves a party… for others it is a new business venture… and for some it is a lifelong, serious endeavour. But whatever the reason, art collecting is fun, invigorating, exhilarating and mind expanding.” Thea Westreich, Art Advisor, New York.

Before the Second World War, collectors mostly gloated over their treasures in private. These days they have more of a sense of public mission and most of them exhibit, lend or catalogue their possessions. Fashions in collecting since the war have swung from old masters, English 18th century art and artefacts and 19th century impressionists to contemporary art. The contemporary art phenomenon is in part being fuelled by the technology revolution, such as the Internet and by global political shifts. The net result is that contemporary art, long a western franchise, is being infused with a variety and depth of culture never before experienced. Collectively we are all benefiting from this explosion of art talent, a talent sure to go down in art history books as a primary advancement of 21stcentury art.

For the collector, art and its appreciation is a way of life. It is part concept, part process and part belief, being both emotional and intellectual. Art is a visual language that we use to understand the world around us, to explore new ideas, and ultimately to define our very humanity. We see our artworks as part of who we are. Many people feel this way when struck by a work of art which really speaks to them.

Everyone has a different idea about collecting art and people are usually very secretive about it. Here are a few interviews from a range of collectors…

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Duncan Roy, Film Director, Whitstable

I am not a collector that speculates. I buy for one reason only. If I love something. I trust myself. I sell if something becomes iconic. I make no mistakes. the moment one buys art one has a relationship with the artist. I don’t have to know him/her, just his/her art.

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Anonymous, Entrepeneur, 34, London

Q: When and why did you start collecting art?
Since I was about 16. My grandparents were collectors and dealers, and I studied history of art at school and university

Q: What period interests you?
Modern and contemporary – 1880 onwards

Q: Five reasons why you purchase a particular piece
Cant live without it! Cant live without it! Cant live without it! Cant live without it! Cant live without it!

Q: Who do you trust?
No one

Q: When do you sell if at all?
I Collect for interest not for money – so I won’t sell unless I have to

Q: What’s the artwork that you identify as the starting point of your collection?
Bernard Cathelin lithographs given to me by the artist as a teenager

Q: What has been your greatest mistake and your greatest success?
Buying on Ebay!!! (Both mistake and success)

Q: What is your favorite piece?
A Bonnard inherited from my grandmother

Q: Do you have a strategy when it comes to collecting?
Yes – One great piece is worth a hundred average ones

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Octavia Wonderland, Journalist, 26, London

Q: What inspired you to start collecting? And why photographs?

I started collecting found photos last year, inspired by working on Robert Flynn Johnsson’s book Being Human at Thames & Hudson. It’s never occurred to show them until now, but there’s endless hours of fun to be had here… stories to be written, films to be written, all the aesthetic/historic/socialogical dimensions to explore…

I picked these up in Berlin in June…

berlin 1

berlin 1_0005

berlin 1_0002

berlin 1_0001

berlin 1_0004

berlin 1_0003

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Melanie de Blank, Writer and Patron of the Museum of London, 45, London

Q: When and why did you start collecting art?
I married a man who collected 20th century British art and just carried on

Q: Five reasons why you purchase a particular piece
The only reason is that it touches my soul

Q: Who do you trust?
My eye

Q: Would you sell any of the pieces you have acquired?
Yes, if a piece is ready to move on I sell to buy something else

Q: What’s the artwork that you identify as the starting point of your collection?
‘On my own’, a gift from Michael Rothenstein

Q: What has been your greatest mistake and your greatest success?
Success – starting to collect contemporary photography

Q: What is your favourite piece?
It changes according to my mood

Q: Do you have a strategy when it comes to collecting?
None at all

Q: What advice would you give a new collector?
Follow your heart

Q: What do you look for when buying art?
Beauty

Q: Is there a particular medium you tend to be drawn to?
Now it’s photography, but if I had the £’s and the chance I’d buy a Frank Auerbach like a shot

Q: Do you have relationships with the artists you buy from?
What kind of relationship are you asking about….

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