By Andrea Cuevas
Why people collect art? Actually is pretty similar to the question of why people make art. The most basic and common answer for that is because human beings has the imperative necessity to express themselves, and we assume it as an unquestionable truth. It is hard to find someone who thinks a person makes art or becomes an artist for making money. On the other hand, when we think in art collectors, the first image to come to our mind is that of a billionaire that buys art as a form to get a tax deduction or money laundering.
Apparently collecting art is all about money and that’s all. Despite the economic and financial reasons, there are some others linked to the interest in preserve human knowledge and expressions. Yes, there are multiple advantages in matter of money, but nowadays it is possible to make history through art collecting even with a small budget. Famous poet Ezra Pound had already said collectors are as important as artists: “If a patron buys from an artist who needs money, the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world. He creates.”
Think about the Medici Family from fourteenth century, maybe the most popular art sponsors in history. Without their financial support, it wouldn’t be possible know today the thought and ways of seen from the society in the Renaissance through the view and words of artists and poets such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, or Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. In certain way, sponsorship it is very similar to collecting: collect art is one of the most important ways to support an artist. It could sounds romantic, but by buying the work of a living artist you are making a bet for artistic heritage, besides of being linked to art history –maybe for life–. This is one of the main reasons to become and art collector: a form to preserve human thinking for future generations.
Thanks to collectors such as the Guggenheim, the Getty, Catherine the Great (one of the most important Russian art collector from the 18th century) or Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (whose collection is housed by the Whitney Museum in New York), to name a few, we are able to experience and study the work of artist around the world from the twentieth century, and by doing that art professionals has the opportunity to research on political, social and cultural contexts from the past. This is an invaluable form both to preserve knowledge and to influence the way we write, understand and spread the history. So if you are wondering how you could be creative as an art collector, just don’t forget that the works of art from your collections are little pieces of a fragmented past.
A recent survey from Artnet.comgives light of the most common reasons for collecting art according to current collectors:
- Aesthetic value – 62%
- An asset expected to value over time – 49%
- Art appreciation is a family value – 31%
- Enjoy being part of the art world – 20%
- Safe haven in volatile markets – 16%
- A sign of my wealth and success – 13%
- An asset to be sold for quick profit – 13%
On this regard, the aesthetic value, the financial potential and the social recognition are the principal trends of art collecting. In accordance with Erin Thompson (Art crime professor at the City University of New York), it is very often for collectors to describe their first purchase as a social and financial strategy. Only a few ones relates their interest on a work guided by the history, the cultural or artistic value or their passion about art.
Actually to follow your passion is the most important advantage in the act of collecting art. Why? Think about when you were a child and you were passionate about collecting baseball balls (much better if it was signed by your favorite baseball player), cars, badges, coins, toys, watches or any kind of artefact that instantly becomes a gold treasure for you. Now imagine that you still keep those objects and they are still a treasure but for one reason specially: your childhood collectionit is a cabinet of memories, an archive of important moments, a trace from the past.
It is the same for professional art collections. Being an art collector also means to share not only your passion with the world, but the passion of different women and men who expressed their ways to think and see the world through art. If you are able to understand how important it’s that, then you are also able to being a creative as Ezra Pound said. By sharing your collection with the world you are contributing to build art.
There are so many collectors who have turn their passion into a social practice by sharing their pieces. We are lucky to see thousands of collected art pieces in museums, textbooks, images, films, etc. Collectors from today should know their responsibility with future generations for them to have the same opportunities to get to know the incredible creations of the human beings. A collection is also a starting point to embrace educational and social projects. In Mexico there are two important examples regarding art collecting –as a non-profit activity– and social practice: When Jumex Fundation was located at the popular neighborhood of Ecatepec in Estado de Mexico, the educational team developed several activities, projects and strategies to involve the local community with the art. On the other hand, Alumnos 47 created an exhaustive program of social projects whose highlight was a special bus turned into a library, which visited several neighborhood around Mexico City to spread the reading and offer free art workshops for childrens.
So now you know, there are more advantages in collecting art than the typical related with money and social recognition. Don’t forget the multiple possibilities you have to create something meaningful with your art collection, don’t keep it on storage forever!
Andrea Cuevas studied art at the University of the Cloister of Sor Juana. She was Editorial Coordinator in CódigoMagazine. She has collaborated for print and digital media such as GasTv, La Ciudad de Frente and Harper’s Bazaar. She is currently studying the master’s degree in Art History at UNAM.