Contemporary Art, Collected Collectively

January 20, 2010 · Print This Article

We all know about artists banding together to work as a collective, but who knew that art collectors could operate under similar principles? File this one in your ‘how to collect art even when you don’t have much money’ drawer: An article in last week’s Financial Times looks at group-owned art collections in London, New Zealand and Australia. Although clearly not for everyone, collective group purchases of artworks enable households that normally don’t make enough to buy substantial artworks to pool their money, purchase works voted on by the entire group, and then share custody of the piece as it rotates from home to home.

It’s fascinating to see how collective acquisition practices — not unlike collective art-making — encourage individual members to question their own assumptions about and habitual ways of looking at art. From the article:

“Anne Dekker, who has participated in two groups in Australia – one focused on contemporary artists and the other interested in indigenous art – says the fact that the work is owned collectively allows members to be more honest. “Friends who see the work at your house will engage in a more open discussion. It’s less subjective because it’s not a comment on your own taste.”

Robert Lee, of the London collective, believes appreciation of the work is enhanced by the fact that the various pieces look so different in each member’s home – one lives on a houseboat, another in a flat in the city centre, while others have houses in the suburbs ranging from small Edwardian terraces to large Victorian villas.

Rotating artwork around members’ houses is not without its problems, however. “Sometimes people get attached to a picture and don’t want to see it go. Sometimes we find people are reluctant to hang a work – we’ll find it sitting in a garage or a spare room,” says Betts. Tim Eastop says for that reason one of the London collective’s rules is that “even if there’s a piece that we don’t like, we have to hang it”.

Fox believes “it works best when someone has to hang something they hated. Nine times out of 10 at the end of the six-month hanging period they love it. They are confronted by something challenging every day.”

One London art-buying group, which calls themselves The Collective and even has their own website,  purchased a work of performance art by Kathryn Fry titled “Home Suite,” and hosted rotating performances of it in each member’s home (see details of the piece on the artist’s website here).

Kathryn Fry, "Home Suite," performed for The Collective in London.

I especially like how The Collective channels the discursive rhetoric of social and collective art-making into the practice of art buying. On their website, The Collective states that they aim to:

  • nurture the collection of contemporary art in a domestic setting as a more affordable and socially inclusive activity
  • encourage adults, young people and children to build their knowledge of contemporary art by living with it, meeting artists, visiting exhibitions etc.
  • build bridges between new audiences, the art market and artists
  • help to grow a larger, more culturally diverse population of collectors
  • encourage direct support for emerging contemporary artists and curators.

I wonder if there are any similar groups like this in the U.S.? Wouldn’t it be great if someone started something like this in Chicago (hint, hint)?

Via @AiANews.

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