Collecting Art the Right Way.
When I first started on my ‘collecting’ journey, the questions that popped into my head-I asked myself the question-‘who?’. But then I reached the point where the most important question was ‘why?’ That then becomes a way of unpacking Indian art history and reveal a lot of the debates that were happening at that time. Art for me has always been a way of decoding a particular culture and access a culture. One of the most important aspects about collecting art is responding to the work and never about the name of the artist or the fame of the artist, neither did buying art to match my sofas came naturally to me.
Collecting art and arranging it in your home is like selecting the guests you want for your dinner party. Which works to hang together is a crucial aspect to art collecting-like a dinner party you want there to be a lively conversation between the participants and guests. When you choose works to put together, there has to be some conversation between them, there has to be a connection between the works and the people in the room.
Arranging your artwork together can act as a focal point in any drawing room.
This concept of being friends and treating paintings as friends is a point we often overlook. Like in our own lives-we often meet people whom we think are interesting, but they’re not going to be around for a long time. And there’s a select group of people who are deep friends. And it doesn’t matter where you live or where they live-you know you will keep in contact. And as you look back at the end of your life, they will be essential figures in your life.
Similarly art is the same thing. There are people who are fleeting flights of fancy, people that you like only for dinner because they are good fun and highly entertaining. But then there are people with whom you have a real dialogue and connection. And there’s a connection of energy. And that is true in the case of any painting. Any painting, which you acquire, should matter and shape your life, and you miss them when you’re away on holiday.
Any work of art should arrest you and your attention.
India is a vast cornucopia of culture with continuous cultural contribution where our art has a complex visual imagery to understand on its own terms. When you start collecting, you see as much as you can. You have to distinguish between the popularity and market value of an artist from what its underlying merits are to you as a person. There is an enormous amount of Indian art that is barely understood. And for any newcomer who wishes to collect art, this can be a daunting prospect!
My advice to art collectors, especially the first timers are: buy art that appeals to your senses and aesthetics. Visit museums, art galleries, art fairs and art biennales, read up on art, art movements and the lives of artists and keep yourself informed. With the internet, there is a huge amount of information available today to anyone thinking of collecting right in the palm of your hands. If you visit galleries, auction houses or museums, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Those who are truly passionate about their subject will always enjoy sharing information and insights with you.
I am a firm believer of having art as friends which is a rewarding and enriching experience.
Collecting is a very personal endeavour, driven by individual taste and passion. If you are not sure about an acquisition, but you’re drawn towards it, trust your eye, not just your head. In many ways, the worst purchases are the ones you wish you made but did not. In this respect, I would say that collecting should be a source of pleasure, both the process and the joy of owning something that you love. For those with an eye on the value of their artworks, great works of art will always tend to hold their value in the long-term and can often increase the value. But above all, you should acquire works of art which appeal to you and bring you great pleasure. I believe that while people can make money from art, personally I believe that the main motivation for collecting should be the sheer pleasure of owning works that you enjoy seeing in your waking and sleeping hours. Historically, the collections which have made the greatest returns have actually been those which have been collected by the heart, rather than with an eye on a financial return.
However if you wish to collect art with the motivation of financial returns, here are a few small tips for the first time collector:
- Start small, don’t hurry. Often I have seen that people want to buy a particular work of art or an artist’s work because they saw the same artist’s work in their friend’s house. Collecting art is not a competition. Your friend’s taste in art may not match yours, for art is highly subjective. Choose what you like and what you resonate with.
- If you’re on a limited budget, start with collecting limited edition signed serigraphs, graphic prints, lithographs and monoprints by artists. They come with a certificate of authenticity signed by the artist and are a good alternate investment without actually burning a hole in your pocket.
- Research on the artist you wish to acquire. Read up on his/her life, the different styles and periods of transformation their work has undergone.
- Visit galleries and exhibitions often, compare prices and then arrive at a conclusion.
- Be sure of what you wish to buy-if the painting will be figurative, abstract, landscape or still-life.
Limited edition signed serigraphs are a great option for the first timer.
These small steps can help even those people who know nothing about art and collecting it. Collecting is a long journey; have an open mind and never be afraid to ask questions. Collecting art requires connoisseurship, which develops with experience and with study. The more you see, the more you will understand. If your interest lies with Modern Indian Masters like M.F.Husain, F.N.Souza, Anjolie Ela Menon, Jogen Chowdhury and S.H.Raza, you should know which particular artist you like, there are many websites which can help you find works for sale. You can also sign up through auction houses and online sites to be informed if works by specific artists are coming up for auction.
Any good painting transforms a house into a home, you can’t hang something which doesn’t bring you joy. How you decorate a home, starts from the art, everything else grows around it. But in the end, just listen to your gut. Only buy what you respond to and love.
- Vinayak Pasricha