Stoic speculator or compulsive accumulator, discoverer of unmatched talent or fortunate patron: the contemporary art collector can come in many forms. But who is this person really? KAZoART paints a portrait of 6 collector profiles, each one as fascinating as the next. And you, which kind art collector are you?
1. The “Gold Seeker”
The Gold Seeker has endless funds. This type of collector would be responsible for the sudden inflation of a contemporary art form that causes a frenzy (sometimes to the point of absurdity) in international auction houses.
For Cyril Mercier*, author of a thesis on Contemporary Art Collectors, some of these Gold Seekers work on a basis of speculation:
I can resell works, either through speculation or lack of interest in the work. […] There may, indeed, be speculation. I may buy in New York and resell in Paris. Contemporary art responds to a social context. So speculative art should not be seen as pejorative. It reflects our current society. So it’s very important.
Cyril Mercier concludes, however, that the speculative aspect stems from an inescapable market law to which collectors are subject. However, financial gain does not seem to play an exclusive role in their commitment to contemporary art.
2. The Hunter
This type of art collector spends his time “hunting down” the beautiful and the unusual. He “seeks perfection through harmony and beauty.” (Maurice Rheims, The Strange Life of Objects, 1959).
But above all, their reasons for collecting are intertwined with pleasure: the pleasure of buying a first work of art, the pleasure of owning, or the simple pleasure of contemplating a work of art.
3. The Adventurer
For others still, collecting is an adventure:
“To be in contemporary art, you need a spirit of adventure”, “art is the last sector of human and intellectual adventure,” say collectors interviewed who consider themselves true adventurers with a pronounced taste for risk! Art is not just a long, quiet river…
4. The Lover
Another archetype of art collector is the true lover for whom art and human values are interdependent.
For some collectors, “the purpose of contemporary art is to have an awakening – to open their eyes and be tolerant.” They are “forced to look in all directions in order to be philosophically moved.”
Others see art as “a process” where “at the end of the road, you become a free man.”
5. The Spiritualist
For some people, the acquisition of works of art is much like a spiritual quest that questions the future of our civilization.
Contemporary art allows one to develop the ability to look at the world objectively. It leads one to search for the deeper meaning in every context. They are right to do so given that art has always been a precursor of culture and civilization.
Some have acquired individuality and independence through their collection:
“Art is the quest for the holy grail. I had to choose a profession to please my father. Art allowed me to feed my interests while having a safety valve. Finally, I had something that belonged only to me,” said a collector to Cyril Mercier.
6. The discreet art collector
Whatever the profile or specificity, it seems that globally, the circle of contemporary art collectors remains air tight.
“Indeed, the world of French modern art world is a small milieu whose actors know each other very well, whether they are collectors, dealers, experts or curators. They all build their relationships on similar bases: the cult of secrecy, the courteous and symbiotic relationship, the networked operation,” declares Cyril Mercier.
The collector remains discreet and faithful to the French tradition and does not wish to display their assets: “In France, we do not say our name, we hide our treasures. Out of a hundred or so owners of works remarkable enough to be regularly requested by museums, three, perhaps four, accept that their identity be revealed” (Mona Thomas, Un art du secret : collectors of contemporary art in France).
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*Cyril Mercier : Author of a doctoral thesis defended in 2012: “Contemporary art collectors: sociological analysis of a social group and its influence on the art world”.
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