Tag Archives: sharing

The Collector’s collection

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No substitute for your love by Tracey Emin. Owned by The Collective

When we first set up The Collective we did not set out thinking “let’s become Collectors” or “let’s invest in art” but instead we went with what we really wanted to do: to appreciate art in our homes, share experiences and engage in discussion with artists whose works started to appear in our homes.  Some sixteen years and 65 works later are we simply ‘Collectors’ with a sizeable ‘collection’?

What defines an ‘art collector’ and what constitutes a ‘collection’ is both complex and multifold.  We have been described as ‘Collectors’ by galleries and curators – and certainly we create opportunities to buy and add to our collection with or without their help. One of our most memorable works has no tangible object associated with it and yet remains one of our most valuable ‘Collective’ memories: a performance piece by artist, Kathryn Fry.  So what constitutes a ‘collection’?

We’ve also been described as ‘benefactors’ because through our deliberate engagement with artists (when possible) and consequent purchases, we support emerging artists.  Artists support us too.  They appreciate our mission and the visibility of their work to new domestic audiences – perhaps friends who don’t often visit galleries and exhibitions but are inspired by seeing our latest acquisitions displayed in our homes.  Everyone has an opinion and critical engagement and dialogue around the art works is not only welcomed, but encouraged.

Evan Beard’s, The Four Tribes of Art Collectors, places us, seemingly, in to the ‘aesthete’ group of “serious art collectors” – those who are ‘motivated by visual pleasure‘, less

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Handbag by Joy Gregory 2003. Owned by The Collective

financially or academically driven and have ‘taste’.  Simplistic as that seems we are certainly driven by visual pleasure. What the category lacks is any experiential suggestion around “sharing”: whether that’s the experience of engaging with artists, our  method of purchasing, or ‘exchanges’ when we come together with all the works and re-distribute them between the households.  It is a cooperative affair and visual experience alone is not the sole motivator or outcome.  The model of the Collective naturally transgresses in to the ‘Connoisseur’ (intellectual discovery) as well as the ‘Enterprising Collector’ (redefining the cannon) groups, though neither precisely define us. As a ‘Collective’ it is not about the act of possession or investment but the ability to engage and debate the art and artists as individuals, families or with friends.

Do we want to define ‘collectors’ by such tight categories, and with such obvious connections to wealth and status in the art world?  Don’t we enjoy the new and the experimental (the Enterprising Collector) and the intellectual discovery (the Connoisseur)? Of course we do.

Collecting can’t be confined to institutions, or the rich and famous, though all have a large part to play in influencing trends in the art market and the price of works being bought and sold. Christie’s may be able to sell Van Gogh’s Farmer for $81.3 million dollars to a private collector but they remain only one end of the art landscape.

In truth, anyone and everyone can be a “collector”.  It’s the methodology you use to create your collection and the motivation behind it that will both define you and create the experiences you wish to have with your art works.  It takes time and effort and guidance is definitely a prerequisite, though being wealthy is not – unless you only want to purchase the works of well-known artists past and present.  The Collective is based on the principle of shared investment and making the acquisition of art works affordable in our pursuit of visual pleasure, engagement and education.  Does that make it a ‘collection’?

Anurag Khanna, whose focus as an art collector is on mid-career contemporary artists both in India and further afield, shares some of the same motivation for ‘collecting’ as we do  – and takes a similar approach in his desire for close engagement with artists.  The main difference is that the collection is based on his taste and circumstance alone and ownership remains with him and his family. As we circulate purchasing capability between members, art works are purchased for the Collective that are not always to an individual’s or household’s own taste. Instead we get the opportunity to learn about an artist and live with a work building a relationship that can change and develop over time. What may be ‘disliked’ may become ‘liked’. It encourages the dialogue we want to have between ourselves, our friends and the shared experience between the households.

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On Board by Mel Brimfield 2010. owned by The Collective

Museum and Gallery collections have come under scrutiny over the years about their lack of female representation.  According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts 51% of visual artists are women and yet this is not reflected in gallery representation or exhibitions with ,for example, only 5% of galleries in London representing an equal number of male and female artists.   Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, is clear that women artists have not only been ignored or marginalised over the centuries but even as their voices have multiplied in recent times, institutions have still failed to recognise those voices and seen the interesting, innovative and challenging ways they have been working.  Tate Exchange offer an opportunity to promote women artists by throwing the spotlight on some of their careers.

The Collective throws an interesting light on collections outside the gallery circuit.  As a diverse group of people, all with an opportunity to research, engage with artists and buy art, 40% of the The Collective is represented by female artists. Our first commissioned performance piece was by a woman and many of our closest engagements have been with women artists – Jemima Brown, Joy Gregory, Erica Eyres, Lisa Wilkens and Frances Richardson to name a few. This was not a deliberate policy, simply a consequence of our own diversity and approach.

Georgia O’Keeffe  notoriously refused to let her work be shown in a key exhibition in LA highlighting women artists from 1550-1950 because she saw herself in a category of “one of the best painters” and would not be defined by gender. While many women artists would agree, recent efforts to throw a new spotlight on women artists have been welcomed as well as appointments of women to key positions in the institutions that house these collections.

A collection by definition requires management and direction for it to grow and develop – or even be sold off.  The question of whether parts of our own collection should be sold in oder to reinvest in new works and support artists has come up frequently in recent years as the available space across our households is becoming more limited.

At our last exchange the decision was made to begin a new project where experience and engagement would come ahead of material acquisition, even if the end result is a purchase.  The journey would be more critical than the final outcome.  Can experience be part of collecting and can a collection include experiences?

Let’s see what happens.

 

 

 

 

What does ‘art in the home’ mean?

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wall paintings inside a house in the Roman city of Herculaneum, Italy

Humans have surrounded themselves with aesthetic images and objects since time immemorial . Whether frescos, sculptures, trinkets or the works of great artists, art in domestic spaces has helped to define the lives of the occupants and create a portrait of who they are.  Reflective of distinct tastes, lifestyles or travels it helps build a picture of an individual, a family, a lifetime. A personal reflection embedded in defined cultural and historical moments.

Contemporary art has found its way in to homes all over the globe, but often for very different reasons and with very different outcomes.  Anyone following this blog will know that the model of The Collective is based on the principle of cooperative buying and sharing of contemporary art between six households which enables individual

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Tom Dale’s “witness” . Owned by The Collective

appreciation in our homes and invites shared experiences in the process of acquiring and growing The Collective.  More than just a collection of art works it has been an integral part of our homes, our memories and our family lives for the best part of two decades.

The individual or group collectors who acquire the works of established artists is a more usual way that contemporary art finds its ways in to homes.  The experience here is one of personal enjoyment and status with possible loans to public galleries. It’s a largely private experience for a particular household or office space.

Beyond the collectors, curators and art directors have been setting the scene for alternative ways to introduce contemporary art in to domestic spaces.  Manchester International Festival’s (MIF) “Festival in My Housewas first started in 2016.  Inspired by other festival movements to introduce art in to homes across a host city, John McGrath, MIF’s CEO and artistic director explains that Festival in My House is not about putting artists in to people’s homes or using the home as an alternative gallery venue, but instead it is about supporting householders to be curators and artistic programmers.  With support from MIF’s producers it helps to develop pockets of underground activists for when the big festival comes. It helps people to make connections, provides training, realises their own creative ambitions as they curate a mini festival in their home.  Artists and participants clearly value the experiential side of this movement as much as the works themselves with a vast array of art forms being curated from visual art, music, dancing to story -telling and poetry-reading interacting with local residents to create vibrant environments in selected homes.

Artists, participants and visitors alike find the intimacy of the home more personal and relaxing, a more informal way of engaging with different types of art.  As John McGrath explains

In concert halls and theatre venues the spaces allow the artist to do what they want to do  – they are neutral spaces – but in homes their work is more of a conversation with the place itself

Visitors view the experience on a dual level: the personal visualisation of the occupants

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Home Suite by Kathryn Fry 2008 . A site specific performance commissioned by The Collective

life from within their own home, and the art being produced within it. As domestic living spaces the experience for both artist and visitor is more dynamic and more intimate. For the artist there may be new challenges with sound or a feeling of greater vulnerability due to the close proximity of the audience or the effect of the personal surroundings on their work. For visitors they feel much more part of the experience.

“Art in the Home|Sheffield” a continuation of the 2014 and 2015 editions held in Manchester and York is a quite different concept from MIF adding a new perspective to how contemporary art is being introduced in to domestic spaces.  In this project four commercial galleries from across the UK had temporary exhibitions hosted in four selected homes in the city.  In the 2017 Sheffield edition one of the participating galleries was Workplace Gallery which hosted The Collective’s own exhibition in Gateshead last May.  Art in the Home|Sheffield was part of Making Ways – a new programme supported by Sheffield Culture Consortium through Arts Council England “to showcase, celebrate and develop the exceptional contemporary visual art produced in the city.”   By invitation only visitors were guided round the four houses (all in close proximity) where they could see the art works and talk to the gallerists involved.  Seemingly more exclusive Art in the Home was not a public event but its popularity continues to support more editions with the draw of the domestic space still key to its success.

But what of domestic everyday objects already in homes? In 1999 an unusual collaborative project began between the Tate Gallery and the DIY store Homebase. Created and organised by artist and curator Colin Pointer the project’s focus was more on our relationship with the domestic objects and how they could be used to form the basis of sellable art works.  In the project nine British sculptors were invited to create “an object, designed for mass production, for display or use in the home”. To achieve this artists began by visiting households to see how daily objects were used and displayed from garden tools to shower curtains.  The completed objects were then available to buy in both Homebase and the Tate Gallery shop.  The Tate Gallery hosted an exhibition At Home with Art which showcased the objects themselves, drawings, prototypes and other materials which toured the UK for two years.   The idea that you could buy the objects at an affordable price and not just display, but use the them, on a day-to-day basis added a new dimension to the concept art in the home.

For the Collective we bring art in to our homes that is not always of our own personal choosing, and regularly exchange the works between the participating households. We can see works go, but they can equally appear again.  Our interaction is based on living

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Beigelbird

with art all the year through and seeing a changing homescape as we exchange and acquire new works.  The experience is dynamic and engaging within an environment that is comfortable and familiar but often challenges our own preconceptions of what art we can live with in our domestic spaces.   Do we like a particular work? What reaction has it produced and how much does it impact our family members or visitors?  In centuries to come what would it say about our lives?

We can agree that “art in the home” is not a new concept. But the way it is introduced in to our domestic spaces and our consequent interactions with it, is constantly evolving giving it a new meaning on each occasion.

 

When “sharing” involves money

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Giraffe with blue eyes by Peter Pommerer 2000. Owned by The Collective

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

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Untitled, Chris Ofili 1999. Owned by The Collective

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 .

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Untitled, Jochen Klein 1996.  Owned by The Collective

“Do-its”. it rules.

A continuous scroll of two-word “do-its” on a small electronic LED sign encourages us to act – without knowing what “it” is referring to. It’s up to us, the viewer, to decide.

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At random intervals comic-strip exclamations stop the scrolling action for a second..

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seemingly to make you think about the doing of “it”.  Rose Finn-Kelcey’s evocative piece despite being only 19.7cm x 2.2cm has a presence beyond its actual size. It Rules can be left running while you get on with your life.”  Discrete yet powerful in its message – how often do we not do it through our lives and regret it later? What holds us back? Or what inspires us to go and do it?

Rose Finn-Kelcey very sadly died three years ago this month, aged 68,  from motor neurone disease. Her ability to combine irony and seriousness so effectively (like this work), her sense of purpose, her firm belief that a piece of art could be made of anything, the fact that no two works of hers are actually physically alike and her continuous desire to experiment (Steam inhalation) all combine to make one wonder what she would have been producing today? “omigod!” .  Her presence in the Collective is a special one.

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“it rules” Rose Finn-Kelcey 2002. Owned by the Collective

Two things happened last week that made me reflect on this work – both completely different and unconnected.  For as long as we have it in our household, I now return to it often and read the scrolling text. Previously unseen do-its always pop up.

The first was a video I saw of the first ever no-parachute jump successfully pulled off by veteran skydiver Luke Aikins from twenty-five thousand feet! Mad man? “thrill it” reads the digital screen, “breathe it” continues the LED messaging in green.  Whilst most of us would regard such an action as insane “omigod!’ or even “enough!” that was Luke Aikin’s “it” and he certainly did it.  Does it matter “why”?

The second was an excellent session I attended last week organised by the Digital and Social Media Leadership Forum [DSLMF ] on “women in digital”which was a chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges in leadership for women in the digital space. How can you “do it” ?- what are the obstacles that may be holding women back?  You didn’t have to speak coding languages to benefit from the session and there were a wide variety of careers represented whose common denominator was “digital”. But what really took it to the next level was the sense of support in the room for having the conviction to pursue the best route for you in your career irrespective of age, family priorities and responsibilities and the obstacles and pressures that may exist to put you off pursuing “it”.  To “do it” without compromise, “believe it” and “ok it”.

Rose Finn-Kelcey, despite her early death,  left her legacy  for us in all her art.  She once said of herself

I work in the belief – or dare – that I can continue to reinvent myself and remain a perennial beginner.”

You may not want to be a “perennial beginner”  – you might even become an expert! But working in the belief that you can reinvent yourself, continue to learn , start on new paths throughout your life is surely worth “it”.  “own it”, don’t “miss it”.  It rules