navigating the art world

Lately, I’m spending a lot of time with and on art. With art : visiting musea, which is a great break from Corona. This weekend, I have the Tinguely and Kunstmuseum Basel on my calendar. With, as in considering buying art. Unlike what people think, it doesn’t have to be expensive. But also more time on art, reading books about artists & their work, art history, … Even podcasts such as Talk Art are also excellent ways to better understand art.

But art is also a business and being an artist is a job. “Navigating the Art World. Professional Practice for the Early Career Artist” by Delphian gallerists Benjamin Murphy and Nick JS Thompson gives you pretty good insights and tips for the aspiring artist but also for debuting and even seasoned art lovers or buyers. The business, dare I even say industry, has fundamentally shifted and access to artists and buyers is no longer necessarily exclusively owned by the gallerist. Social media give you an opportunity to build direct relationships. This doesn’t mean that galleries no longer have a role to play, as Muryph and Thompson show in the way they run their recently started gallery, which is focusing on emerging and young artists.

In the bookchapter “Patrons” the authors distinct between investment collectors (who access to vasts sums of money and who want to store money in a safe asset that can be sold if necessary), mid-level collectors (who mostly buy from galleries, have a deep understanding of the art world and who want to engage with the artists personally) and new collectors. Most mid-level collectors started as new collectors. This last category buys on a whim or an emotion. Their entire collection may consist of just one piece.

Art is essentially a luxury product, and as such, whilst people may feel the need to buy, this isn’t from an immediate and actual need, but a want. When dealing with collectors, you must strive to understand their needs, and in turn, aim to accommodate them as much as possible. Selling an artwork should not be seen as merely a transaction; a means to end in attaining money but as a mutually-beneficial agreement.

I guess that every art lover sooner or later turns into a collector, even if it is possessing only that one piece. Enjoying art is core for Filip and myself, but now that occasionally extends to buying something. Out of love for the artwork, but also out of love for the artist. Building a personal bond with the artist and the piece before you buy it make ‘the transaction’ much more rewarding.

“A Way Out”, 2017, Marc Van Cauwenbergh. Marc and Filip celebrating the deal.

Filip often spoke of one of his art teachers at the Sint Lucas art school in Ghent, “who had now moved to New York”. When we came across an exhibition at gallery Van Caelenberg in Aalst we visited and bought one of his works. The gallerist was so nice to bring two pieces to our house to present them on the spot in our bubble so that we could deliberate which piece to buy. We were happy that Marc Van Cauwenbergh accepted an invitation for diner to be reconciled with his work.

Personal relationships als bring us to Geert Verbruggen. A friend for over twenty years. When we met first he was an architect. He changed his mission in life to become a cook/artist and now an artist/cook. When reading the book I had him in my mind all the way. His work changed over the years and we now have two of his works, of two different periods in our collection. As he is constantly growing and evolving this will definitely be not the last painting we buy.

I really welcome this book as it gave me fresh insights as an art lover and potential buyer. I think it can also support artists at whatever stage they are in their career. Marc & Geert, a copy of the book is on its way.

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