Thursday, 3 May 2012

Collecting Art

This is a sore topic specially if you are an artist in most parts of the world. Usually you have to invent increasingly devious methods to tempt people to buy and collect art. A gallery owner in Santander told me that in its home city there were hardly any buyers. He had at most six or eight regular buyers, and that to survive he had to travel far and wide mostly to other countries to engage artists and organisations in projects which kept his gallery afloat.
Increasingly its becoming fashionable to hold discussions with art critics and curators and the odd collector to change views and to try and create an atmosphere where art collection might hold some attraction. In Spain specially where people rarely entertain at home, its more usual for people to buy a nice car than to buy art works to decorate one´s home.
It is no wonder that for virtually 99 percent of artists its impossible to live off their art output.
So it came as a welcome change to hear that the Christie´s auction yesterday sold Munch's famous painting (one of a set of four in existence) called The Scream for a world record sum of 120 Million Dollars.
Nice acquisition for someone although I have to say the painting does not excite me in any way and I would have found more useful ways of spending the large sum of money, but I guess that the buyer would probably not display it and have it under lock and key to sell it someday for a much bigger sum.
You might recall that a few years ago another version of The Scream owned by a museum in Norway or Holland was stolen for a time. Rumour has it that while the painting was missing its place on the museum's wall was left empty with a notice that the space belonged to the missing painting. Even so the number of visitors who queued to see the notice and the space of the missing painting were considerably more than when the painting had been in the museum. Interesting how us humans react to different happenings. Does a famous painting ever have to be seen to be enjoyed? We have in our brains a mental image of the painting and we just have to close our eyes and see it whenever we want. 
With this idea I once created a small space at an art event in London, and named it 'Imagenary Museum'. The word Imagenary was intentional distortion of 'Imaginary' since the concept involved the above mentioned Image. The small room had two small cards on the wall. One said 'Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci on loan to the Louvre in Paris' and the other 'Guernica by Pablo Picasso on loan to the Reina Sofia in Madrid'. I asked many of the visitors to the exhibit what they thought, and usually they volunteered that they thought it was a joke.
I then asked if they actually had visualised the painting when confronted with the contents of the cards, and each and every one said 'yes'. There and then the penny dropped and they left with smiles on their faces, much to my satisfaction. Of course I could not sell my work and would have had an equally difficult time trying to live off those kind of ideas!
For me, the real fun is to see what we cannot imagine, through the eyes of an artist that no one has heard of, who thinks of a fresh way to show us something that moves us.
I would much rather buy an art work that comes with a story attached that I can enjoy by buying it and having it at home with me. In this world where the art market is controlled by a few Galleries and 'Collectors' the real gems are to be found in the art fairs at smaller venues, which need to be nurtured for reasons other than investment and financial gain.

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