Sunday, December 6, 2009

What should I collect ?

A question I am asked all the time is “what should I collect?” How can anyone answer that for someone else when the issue is so intensely personal? Nonetheless, I will make some suggestions.

First, go to your local museum. Does anything there turn you on? If so, you may be on your way. Nonetheless, move on to a general art museum in a big city. Give yourself a couple of days to take it all in. Start with an overview, walking through all the galleries. Then decide which galleries you want to return to. What intrigued you, --the familiar or the foreign, ancient or contemporary, American, African, Islamic art, Japanese, Chinese, Old Master, or Impressionist?. If there is a Kunsthalle (an exhibition space) check out the exhibition schedule. Get a listing of all the galleries in town and do a tour.

There are local art associations which may have gallery members who are involved in your specialty. Such an affiliation may add some comfort to your security. A place to start is at http// You can type in a special interest and see a listing from many associations in many countries as well as a listing of their members.

When you find an area that you relate to, seek out an expert, a curator or a dealer, who is willing to guide you. Even though this may seem like an intimidating idea, art professionals who are serious about their field love to talk about it. Someone once said to me that an art gallery is the only place you can walk in, start to ask questions, and the dealer will tell you everything about his business without your paying for the privilege. This was said a very long time ago but for the most part is still true today.

A renowned collector I know told me that, when he was surveying areas to collect, an art dealer put together a reading list for him. He followed it to libraries and specialized book dealers, devouring the latest publications, and out-of-print standards. He was hooked and that reading list gave him a solid foundation on which to build his collection.

Museum curators, like art dealers, look on their work as, in large part, educational. Curators may be less accessible, but museums often have collector groups which offer access and contact with fellow collectors. Remember curators need supporters, and collectors are potential donors. They want you to buy well so that the museum may eventually benefit through your loans or donations.

It comes down to the old Sy Syms advertisement, “An educated consumer is our best customer” be that as collector or museum patron If you show your sincerity in being interested in the art and not just its value, you will be well rewarded by with the most extraordinary personal tutorials.

Over time, collectors often become real experts in their field, having an advantage that goes beyond study,---they have the unique and intimate experience of living with the art.

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