From the Fine Art Connoisseur March/April 2021 Editor’s Note:
Collecting for the Right Reasons
My favorite issue of the year is the one that highlights real-world collectors of contemporary realist art. This is that issue, and we hope you will enjoy “meeting” the individuals and couples who have so generously opened their doors. These folks now join 72 others we have profiled since 2015, and we are honored and grateful to welcome them to this community.
Why do we do this? First, people need role models, in any walk of life. We play football better after watching Tom Brady, and we cook more effectively after Rachael Ray demonstrates the recipe. It’s harder with art collecting because there is no single way to do it, and unfortunately the best-known collectors are financiers and movie stars paying millions at auction for a Koons or a KAWS.
Good for them, but that’s collecting warehoused-investment assets with your ears, not art-to-live-with with your eyes. I’m far more intrigued by celebrities who collect items of comparatively low value: just for example, Tom Hanks buys antique typewriters, Angelina Jolie goes for medieval and Renaissance knives, and Claudia Schiffer seeks out mounted beetles, butterflies, and spiders.
Great, but this is a fine art magazine, and besides, buying anything when you’re a hundred-millionaire is not particularly difficult. The real trick is to buy wonderful “unbranded” art on a regular budget, away from the lime-light and the art advisers who think about this stuff all day. The folks highlighted in this issue buy art with their eyes and hearts, living with and enjoying it, sometimes enhancing their lives further by getting to know the artists who made it.
The hardest step in this issue’s preparation is asking the collectors to choose just two artworks to illustrate in their profiles. That’s like choosing among your kids, but the collectors do it bravely, and they understand why we ask them to. It’s simple: we can dedicate only two pages to each collector, and if we were to fill them with seven or eight “favorite” images, there wouldn’t be room for the words. Besides, each artwork would look more like a postage stamp than a painting. And so we go smaller (in number) and bigger (in photo size), reminding everyone that these two images don’t represent the whole collection, only evoke it.
Finally, two practical points. First, to the artists: never let your artwork leave the studio without photographing it to a high (publishable) standard. Artworks are your legacy, and if you don’t record them properly for future reference, you are trusting your legacy to a world that will never care like you do. While preparing our collector issues, I have been shocked by the difficulty of rounding up good photos of artworks. One cannot expect every collector to have great shots (though their insurers would appreciate that), but surprisingly few artists have them either.
Second, please note the lively profile of Toni Moran in this issue. She underscores how important it is for collectors to document the artworks they own, including photographing them. And once you’ve done that, I ask you to consider sharing the images with museum curators and living artists. This can now be done via at least two firms: Vastari and Artwork Archive.
Both offer safe, discreet ways to let “the right people” know what you have so they can research, publish, and perhaps borrow your art. It costs very little, and joining the network is an ideal way to connect with others who love art, too.
Thank you again to our wonderful collectors and artists for all they contribute to the vitality of our field.