I once asked a friend of mine who buys art if she would call herself a collector. Her first reaction was that it sounded ridiculous. She maintained that she only “loves art,” and explained that her “choices are only guided by her travel experiences.” But as the conversation progressed and she began sharing the list of artworks in her possession, she eventually said, “I guess I am a collector because my walls are full”.
Collecting art is not about how many works you have in your possession and my friend isn’t the first person I’ve seen suffering of “collector denial syndrome” – I was also a victim. For most people, the idea of being a collector is so far-fetched that they don’t want to talk about It. They think it’s snobbish, pretentious and a little over the top. But with the series of global crises the world is experiencing right now, with more financial and emotional instability, starting a collection on your own could be a space for you to bring more beauty into your home while building financial and cultural legacy.
You become a collector from the very first piece of work you acquire and there are many reasons why people decide to scale up their collection and add more works overtime. When I started my journey, I just wanted to have beautiful artworks that resonate with my life experiences as a black woman navigating a demanding society. I knew I could make some interesting investing decisions in that space, but I was even more fascinated by what the artists had to say.
In recent years, more millennials have better understanding of the value in collecting artworks and many have turned into collecting as a way of diversifying their investments. However, beyond beauty and profit making, the secret big dream of every art collector is to one day, be able to show off their collection to friends, family, and the general public. If you are honest enough to recognize that about you, then I can tell you about 2 ways to make your art collection pop.
First off, you may want to be intentional about the types of works you collect or the communities you want to support. As you start, you may want to ask yourself what type of work really speaks to you and makes you feel happy? Are you attracted to a specific group of artists (maybe you want to be a patron for female arts or support a group of artists with messages of social justice). The answers to these questions will go a long way in guiding the works that you will be collecting. You can also decide to be a spontaneous collector and rather focus on the techniques and mediums that are used. I did not start off with a specific goal in mind, but as time went on, I realised that I wanted my collection to tell a story about modern and contemporary black culture.
Secondly, once you have clarity on what you are sensitive to, you may want to ask how you want the story of your collection to be told. Talking and interacting with the artists you buy from really goes a long way in consolidating the cohesiveness of your collection. When I acquire an artwork, I always look for the secret ingredient that makes the storytelling of the artist stand out, and that is because beyond the obvious brush strokes, medium or colour used, there can be many hidden treasures in artworks that await to be discovered over time. The worst thing for a collector is to have works in their collection that are really too obvious or become boring as years go by. Collectors have a role to play in encouraging or guiding the process of the artist and you should feel free to build a long-lasting relationship with the artists you collect from. That way, you get to have access to their ultimate creativity, while contributing to develop your taste for storytelling over time
In the end, collecting can feel like journaling. It can be intimidating and even tedious at times, but when you finally feel free to put your emotions and experiences to the test, you will get to build a collection that becomes a real legacy for you, your loved ones and the communities you’ve supported over time.