When the conversation turns to “what next?”

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Joy Gregory, Handbag,2003. Owned by the Collective

When we meet as a Collective group, one thing we are never short of is conversation. Is it critical engagement? No, not always. We come with different perspectives and from different professional backgrounds so there is always plenty to bring to the table, bound as we are by our common goal of buying and sharing contemporary art for domestic spaces.

But after 14 years of existence as a Collective group and a growing reputation, there was one conversation that we hadn’t yet had, and was starting to surface amongst us: where do we go next?

Having acquired over 60 works during the course of our fourteen years of existence– there was a growing question of capacity. Walls and spaces are finite in our homes, however much we love the art,and our homes could well get smaller as children move away, not bigger. Storing some of the art would mean not seeing certain works and seem to defeat the purpose of acquiring new pieces if we were hiding some of the old. Added to this artists love the idea that their work will always be on display in one of the houses. And if we were to start selling, which ones?

So on a cold March Saturday we met in town in a small library room for the sole purpose of

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Peter Pommerer, Giraffe with blue eyes, 2000. Owned by the Collective

discussing “what next”? Perhaps there wouldn’t even be a “next”, but a “winding up”? Was that a possibility? Not all collective groups that have started have continued as long as we have, and sometimes the commitment combined with life’s demands require flexibility and a different approach.   We have certainly never proposed that our approach should be a lifetime set up.

As this was potentially a momentous step in the history of our founding Collective, I decided to record the session with audio, whilst Theresa kept notes. This blog is based on those two sources.

Going round the table of the 12 members present it became clear very quickly that we were all agreed on a single point: far from wishing to wind up we wanted to continue as a Collective group – but we were in need of new ideas and a degree of reinvigoration – possibly a redirection.

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Mel Brimfield, On board, 2010. Owned by the Collective

There were certainly pressing practical considerations: a large number of works, limited capacity in our homes and the reality of assembling twice a year with all the works, some of which required van hire because of their size.   Getting to private views, art fairs, auctions and studio visits appeared to be getting increasingly hard to achieve with the same few members always attending, and the buying panel system was starting to be less workable. But this should not be interpreted as “nothing happening”. On the contrary in the last year we watched a live art commission unfold in our homes, attended the Drawing Room’s excellent biennial auction, gave a talk about the Collective at Sluice Art Fair, visited Art Rotterdam and acquired three new works. Hardly a sign of disengagement!

Every member contributed their thoughts and suggestions and by the end common themes and ideas started to emerge:

  • we needed a professional valuation of the entire collection to assess what the possibilities were of selling works or loaning to other groups.
  • Reinvigoration – focussing more on the experiential rather than physical works e.g more live art?
  • Engage a curator for a fixed time to take us in a direction that we had not yet considered?
  • Support an artist residency or internship for an emerging artist or student?
  • An educational approach with more international visits and following up on international connections we are now creating?
  • Organise an exhibition of our entire collection – combined with a launch of an artist residency/internship/bursary/curator?

One of the more contentious issues was the idea of selling some of the works, some

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Untitled, Chris Ofili, 2000. Owned by the Collective

members recognising the importance of the history of the group and where it began, rather than any monetary consideration.   But not selling and generating some cash may limit the potential of any new initiative or direction we decided to go in. That conversation needed more time.

So where did the discussion end? We hurried to consult our calendars realising the need to meet again to continue talking.

As we got up to go we all recognised an important step: The conversation had begun and some kind of change was now inevitable for a founding Collective we all wanted to keep.

What’s next ? Watch this space!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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