Across our broad digital landscape the concept of “sharing” has become closely associated with a world where little is left to the imagination, for better or for worse. We share the way we work, the fruits of our efforts, our ideas, our views, our culture and even our private lives. Why? According to a New York Times study on online sharing apart from a desire to reach people with entertaining and informative content, it is also motivated by altruism: our need to define ourselves to others, build and share reputation, seek validation or a sense of fulfilment and to build “identity”. Do we look good? Do we care enough? Do we offer something? Are we entertaining? Can we go viral? Is the concept of “sharing ” largely about “self” however beneficial to the people it reaches?
Online sharing is by no means the total sum of the concept with more physical modes of “sharing “and “cooperation” still as important as ever across all cultures.
The idea of The Collective was born from a desire by a group of households to have more contemporary art in our homes. But to do that effectively we needed to find a way to afford it which meant coming together to pool resources and find a solution (or model) that suited all of us. In this scenario co-operation and sharing become multi-directional and the ultimate purpose was
“not so much the welfare of the other(s) but the joint group product” (M.Argyle, Cooperation: the basis of sociability)
Since 2002 ,when The Collective was founded, this has been one of our key goals and the concept of “sharing” art between the six households has worked to all our benefit whilst also allowing the advantage of individual enjoyment of the art works. But more than that we have “shared” experiences during the process as we come together at different intervals to exchange works, visit artists and see exhibitions.
When discussing The Collective with interested outsiders the burning question that gets
asked over again is around the financial input and “how do you get out, if you want to end it?” And this is where discussion takes a different turn. The question of sharing your “money” to the benefit of the group as a whole, and how and when it should be spent, is the place where deeply ingrained associations with money and self-interest bubble to the surface. One of the most heated discussions I have had since The Collective was founded was with another collector (at a private view) on the subject of shared ownership and the merits of collecting in this way versus individual ownership of art works. And we, as a group, have not been immune from minor wrangles over how and where money should be spent.
In the Psychological Science of Money (ed. Erik Bijleveld & Henk Aarts) the assertion
“money is a resource, that when used correctly, can bring people together and facilitate memorable experiences” but can equally have “powerful and detrimental consequences to social harmony” (Mead & Stuppy)
provides an interesting reference point from which to compare a model such as The Collective. The memorable experiences (of which there are many) are in large part down to the collective’s power of pooling resources to buy contemporary art and the individual appreciation of enjoying art in our homes. The inherent value of the art works themselves and how that can be “shared” to everyone’s benefit (should that be a desire) should also be considered. “Social harmony” may be discordant on the odd occasion, but it has never yet proved “detrimental” as decisions are made collectively and ideas and issues shared openly.
One way The Collective differs from other collectors or collecting groups is that we don’t buy for investment but on the basis that we wish to enjoy contemporary art in our homes and support emerging artists. Where collective groups with purchasing power may have difficulty is when the concept of “not buying for investment” is not fully appreciated and where money becomes part of a “money-market” mind-set and too central to the workings of that particular collective group. Clear principles have to be laid down in advance and collective decisions need to be made which is why we have a Constitution. Agreed with lawyers it includes provision for when a member wishes to leave and for the rotating purchasing panels to acquire new works.
“Money”, ultimately, is a resource for the Collective that enables collective buying and sharing of contemporary art. The interactions between members in the management of this pooled resource is based both on principle (the constitution) and more importantly on trust, reciprocity and social connection between members of the group. For the Collective this is made easier by the fact four of the six households are related and the remaining two households life-long friends. We act as “households” not as individuals so there is community within community and an accepted level of sharing across both, whether between households or within families.
Sharing a common purpose where money is necessary but not a driving force, where investment is not a motivation but simply a consequence has proved the best way forward for the longevity of The Collective .