The Art of Collecting

Dwarf collection

Dwarf collection

Artists have a natural affinity for collectors. This isn’t just for obvious reasons, that the collector plays an essential role in getting the work of art out of the studio where it can take on a life of its own. There is something even more basic that the two have in common. The artist is a spontaneous collector; in his everyday life he constantly accumulates and arranges things that for some particular reason resonate for him.

By “collector”, I don’t mean someone who merely amasses a great number of objects within a specific category.  I know there are so-called collectors who, through various agents are able to fill entire warehouses with valuable pieces.  There are men and women (but mostly men) who seek to increase their worth, either financially or socially, by purchasing works of art whose futures look bright in the art market.  In a few years they will be able to make a profit.

The true collector has a different sense of time. He is interested in a continued present tense. His collection is defined by what he has been able to put together of a diffuse past. He is a protagonist; his motivations have more to do with the process of discovering a piece and the eventual steps in acquisition or accumulation than investment concerns.

Red Bird and book

Spontaneous collection

The story of discovering  and finally possessing something becomes an important part of the piece’s identity. The collector’s insight can be exciting, his ability to see curious similarities between ideas and objects adds new meaning, new directions to explore. This kind of collector is a poet. His relationship to everyday life is intense and direct. From earliest childhood he (or she) has developed the habit of picking up things and putting them in his pocket.

Gathering certain items is away to materialize memory The basic value of an object derives from how it fits into the collector’s personal system of reference, his memory and his associations. In the end, the true collection is, in itself, a work of art.   Its character is closely entwined with the personality of its creator -  his consciousness, his decisions, his ordering of limited sets, repetitions and an (often imagined) system of representation in space.

Bathroom collection

Bathroom collection

Linus Pauling said that you aren’t going to have good ideas unless you start with a lot of ideas and some sort of principal of selection. What results from this reordering may be a fresh narrative for the past, an insight into the story of art as a fertile territory. What the collector knows better than the art specialist, historian, critic, is that a written version is only part of the account. A rich and vibrant story can be told by the retrieved objects themselves.

In memory of Giovanni