Last night I attended a one man show — my own. For many of us these are the nights when we get to meet the people who make it all possible — our collectors and those angels who connect with them — our dealers. The doors open, wine is poured and everybody wanders around and looks at your stuff. While there can be a bit of tension and even anxiety, it generally turns out to be a fun evening.
I’ve always been curious as to who and what kind of people they are. Of course there’s the regular demographic of doctors, dentists and accountants. But you can’t generalize — there are all types — young and old, rich and poor. There are those who come only to check that your prices have gone up — and quietly leave when they are satisfied that the universe is unfolding as it should. There are also other artists, friends and camp-followers. But there are also those who have caught the bug that’s going around — just as some collect stamps, old cars, or corkscrews, these ones collect art. In some ways they are really collecting you. I often think that the anecdotes that go with some of the paintings — as passed along by a sensitive dealer — are as important as the work itself.
For what it’s worth and at the risk of being too exclusive, there is one type of collector that is prevalent — in my world anyway. It’s a couple. They act and collect in unison. They may already have six of my paintings, and twice as many again of other artists. They collect impulsively and know what they like. They do not read art magazines. They lead active lives, travel frequently and have a wide range of interests. They have more than one home. They are often the types who haunt antique stores for just the right chandelier for the cottage. They are self-starting entrepreneurs who are used to making decisions. While they may discover works independently, they frequently make those decisions in collusion with one another. The act of collecting turns them on. They may have passed the bug to their kids. They often limit themselves in their range of collecting, but they are not always “conservative.” But above all these folks have stellar relationships that you can see and feel. Together, they have an inner beauty that shines around any gallery. Their cups run over with love.
PS: “Collecting at its best is very far from mere acquisitiveness; it may become one of the most humanistic of occupations, seeking to illustrate by the assembling of significant reliques, the march of the human spirit in its quest for beauty.” (Arthur Davison Ficke)
Esoterica: Collectorship may also be a phase. I’ve noticed that some collectors fill their walls and are content with what they have. Their collectibles become the wall-icons of their lives. Satisfied, they move on to other things and their early acquisitiveness serves them and continues to speak to them well enough. “To love a painting is to feel that this presence is not an object but a voice.” (Andre Malraux)
The following are selected responses to the above letter. Thanks for writing.
Collecting couple’s duet of love
by Pamela Simpson, Woodstock, CT, USA
My husband, David Lussier, and I are both plein air landscape painters who paint on location together, using a similar color palette. Lately, our solo shows have been duo shows. My work is more realistic and David’s is more expressive — poetic paint strokes that feel like the subject. A collecting couple frequents our shows, too. Sometimes one prefers the realistic interpretation and the other prefers the poetic one. In the end, they buy one of each. I like to think that our paintings purchased together bring harmony to the home where they live. A duet of love.
Collecting art part of couple’s relationship
I too have experienced exactly the same type of collector, the couple who are entrepreneurs and also still in love. I am not an artist, but an art consultant, and it is very rewarding to assist someone in buying a painting they intuitively both want. Interestingly, one of the first statements people make to me is “I am not an art collector.”
Art collection part of personal history
by Leanne Harrison
The delicious exploration of an artist’s buffet is a rich experience. I suppose each person attends a show for different reasons, not the least of which is collecting. When I move into a new home, the arranging and hanging of the artwork is a high priority. They are my friends, each with a story, and I am incomplete until they are hanging on the walls about me.
Alternative venues to attract collectors
by Sandy Sandy, Tabernacle, NJ, USA
I deal directly with my audience, selling my paintings through festivals and events. As a result, I have cultivated a precious handful of repeat customers who are growing and blossoming personally, as well as pollinating and planting the positive seeds of visual and spiritual enrichment for others.
New art rental business fills a void
by Myriam Lipson
Last October, I emigrated from the Netherlands to the USA (I married an American citizen). I started to think about setting up a business, earn some money, be my own boss and have fun with it. Working for multi-nationals for too long made me make this decision. In doing some research, I discovered that there were no art rental companies in my area, where I could subscribe and rent art for 3 or 6 months, change it or buy the piece. In the Netherlands, where I come from, we have over 40 art rental companies. I am very familiar with the concept. I have decided to start up an art rental company and have partnered with another woman. Our website is almost ready and we have had offers from artists who are interested in placing their artwork with us. We take the art on consignment, pay the artist a consignment fee, store the art and have it framed, if necessary, transport it and insure it. If we can sell the art, the artist will earn the money and our company will get the commission for the sale. What do you think of this?
(RG note) Good idea. A lot of artists, including myself, rent art to companies and individuals. We often do it on a direct basis. It works best with companies who wish to deduct the cost as a business expense (furnishings) rather than lay out a capital expense. “Rent to own” is also a practical way to “puppy dog” art. On the downside one often wonders about the bother of renting. Art buyers and collectors are frequently highly acquisitive and owning the magical stuff is part of the thrill. Another way of looking at it, as well, is that renting is a way to “store” art. An artist can recall the rented work at pleasure — particularly if the work has gone up in value in the meantime — and release it to more active venues.
Opening jitters a common experience
by Anne O’Connor
What caught my eye in your letter on collectors was the word anxiety over your opening. It surprised me to think that you too feel anxious at those moments of revealing your work. I had the jittery and heavy feelings this week because I was starting to teach a course that I had not taught for ten years. The course is on addictions, not art. As I walked toward the room reflecting on the absurdity of my nervousness, I reminded myself that I have been practicing this work for 30 years. In the end, it all comes down to — just show what you know and be upfront about what you do not know.
Overcoming fear of cyberspace
by Gloria Wick
I had been contemplating getting a presence on the net for a while but felt a little lost as to where I could or should do this. Over the past few weeks I have been digitalizing images of my paintings and yesterday I put some of my work on the State of the Arts site, that you mentioned in a previous letter. I am very happy with the way my work is showing and I will be adding work to it regularly. I have also sent emails to everyone I know telling them where to find me. It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I guess you can teach an old broad new tricks after all! Thank you for taking me from my solitude and connecting me to the world of art!
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