A subscriber asked some tough questions: “You often use the term ‘serious collectors.’ What kind of person is this? How do they choose who to collect and who not to collect? Do they collect only artists that the marketers have made into a hot item? How large is the demographic? Where do they congregate? What do they like? What do they not like? How does one capture this market? As an artist is there more to this than just putting out good work?”
In my experience, collectors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are turned on by mystery and challenge, others by art that makes them feel comfortable. Investment, decoration, fashion, escape and pure impulse are factors in collectorship, but you have to know that collectors may respond to a variety of motivations that are often beyond an artist’s calculation.
Collectors may take the advice of someone, but the best ones make up their own minds. They are often compulsive, acquisitive and upwardly mobile. In a free society, there’s nothing wrong with that. Collectors may admire craft and technique precisely because it is beyond their own reach. The best ones honour this instinct. Collectors seldom congregate. Throughout history there have never been quite enough of them to go around.
Serious collectors have art in their closets. Serious collectors think they see value better than others. Thankfully, the value they see is arbitrary and relative. They think art has magic. They appreciate the freedom to choose. They may have some sort of trigger mechanism between their cerebrum and their cerebellum that causes them at times to spend with abandon. We artists are blessed with their passion.
On this sunny Cuban shore, at the turn of the year, I’m looking out over an ocean. Where the waves meet the sand, small children are collecting small shells. “Dulce,” cries one of them — the Spanish word for “pleasing.” Treasure. Delight. Joy. From this place people lose their lives trying to get to something they think is better. It’s over there. But it’s also right in here.
PS: “Ruthless, greedy, tyrannical, disreputable — yet they have one principle worth all the rest, the principle of delight.” (Kenneth Clark on collectors)
Esoterica: Dream your dreams. Hone your work. Aim for quality. Take your chances. When all else fails learn to be happy in your work. You are taking part in a great, timeless crap-shoot. “If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?” (Thomas Lovell Beddoes)
This letter was originally published as “Serious collectors” on January 3, 2003.
Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
The audio letters are now ready to give as a gift!
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.
“The Arts Council of England, in a 1998 report on 11 countries, found that Germany spent $85 per capita on the arts. The United States spent a shocking $6. And Canada, in its stubborn balance, spent $46… It’s the Canadian way to be halfway between the Old and New worlds.” (Michael Audain)
Relax, enjoy, create!
Photography/watercolors/acrylics/mixed media. Group activity room (floor to ceiling vista). Ghost Ranch Lodging/meals provided. See why Georgia O’Keeffe loved Ghost Ranch. Each workshop/retreat is different. The June workshop leans heavier on all kinds of materials –textiles and dye, printing, painting, pouring and more! The October workshop combines the media of photography, watercolor, ink, acrylic and more — using watercolor paper, clayboard, etc!
Daily demos, slide presentations, door prizes and optional happy hour. The website shows how I work from Ghost Ranch scenes to finished paintings. www.darlabostick.com