The Curator’s Perspective – “How I See Art?”

Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

To delve into the way an art curator approaches art, artists, and art collectors, I sat down with Regina De Con Cossio, curator of Sybaris Collection. She shared with me some of her thoughts on art, building relationships with artists and helping them to determine the value of their work, and how she approaches finding artwork for her clients. Although the work of an art curator is a business matter, one cannot separate the captivation art provides to curators like Regina, who find beauty in all matters of everyday life and expression.

What do you consider Art?

I understand art as an aesthetical cause that “provokes” a reaction, a strange force that makes you turn your eyes to an object, wanting to observe it, understand it, and learn more about it. Art is that channel which turns something ordinary into something extraordinary. It is the provocation to feel, to think, to question, and in the deepest meaning of “to live.” Art uncovers an intrigue which makes you think.

How does your relationship with an artist evolve from your initial awareness of their work, first encounter, a studio visit and finally, gallery exhibition?

It depends very much on the artist and the relation established. If I discover their work before meeting them personally, it becomes even more interesting because I feel I know them before actually meeting them. Most of the times that makes me like the work much more. I also get the chance to understand more intimately their work and to see how their visions are in their productions.

Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

How much does your connection with the artist as an individual affect your feelings about their work?

Completely. In my job, empathy is essential. In most instances, knowing the artist positively shapes our relationship.

Do you ever encounter artists, who—under no real understanding of their works’ value—push for a hard sell, over-estimating their artistic talent or marketability of their work?

Oh yes! This question is challenging to answer in the volatile art market, as we would have to separate value and prices. Of course, in most instances, a high value leads to high prices. However, there is no fixed rule which establishes how much beauty should cost. Most of the time, artists provide their pricelist, and I naturally assume they have an understanding of the market. In some cases, I already know the prices are too high for some pieces, and I don´t take them. In other situations, artists come with a vague idea of what the prices could be and then I assist them with that.

How do you weed through (prioritize) the calls and emails from artists, who swear they have a five-figure work of art in their house, car, or garage studio? Have they ever been proven right?

As a principle, I always look at everything I receive. I have a glimpse of the work and go through their CV´s. Honestly, taking a more in-depth look depends on the impact of the work and the interest-driven.

How much guidance do you give an artist, or do you spend more time guiding art collectors?

Most of my time is split between those two activities. Guiding art collectors is my primary role, and to do that I have to be in a deep relationship with artists.

Photo Courtesy of Sybaris Collection

When you find a piece of art you are drawn to, do you instinctively think of who or where it would fit, or simply choose it because you are attracted to it?

It depends on my purposes, although I would say that I am always open. However, if my specific task is to find a piece for a wall/space, then that´s what I have on mind. Some other times I’m looking for new art pieces to propose and I select them based on my own taste. For example, that happened recently to me in Hong Kong when I discovered Na Wei´s work. I saw the big blue canvas, and I knew I wanted it!

When a client comes to you with a request for art, how do you determine what to find for them based on their needs? What kind of information do you need from them to choose works?

 The first thing is getting to know them a little bit to see what their needs are, to know more what they are attracted to. Based on that, I can determine if I am the right channel for them to get what they are looking for. If I am, their budget is the next step, as well as learning what interests them? Colors? Techniques? Style?

How do you translate your experience & training in art to a teachable language which you can share with “illiterate” art enthusiasts without overwhelming them?

I always have in mind Wittgenstein´s rule “what can be said, can be said clearly,” and I try to explain in straightforward ways. Let´s say I dominate the pieces I interact with, so I can highlight the most important things. I also try to gauge how detailed the collectors are interested in knowing about art before I bombard them with the information they aren’t ready for.