The Reason Why Art Collectors Have Killed Artistic Creativity
Art

The Reason Why Art Collectors Have Killed Artistic Creativity

Avatar of Izaskun Pangua Cedillo

By: Izaskun Pangua Cedillo

March 23, 2017

Art The Reason Why Art Collectors Have Killed Artistic Creativity
Avatar of Izaskun Pangua Cedillo

By: Izaskun Pangua Cedillo

March 23, 2017



To many, the artistic field is an elitist world only a privileged few can belong to. But perhaps this will depend on what you do, what your field is, and what your objectives are. After all, Hans Ulrich Obrist —the most influential and important man in the art world— is neither an artist nor a collector. Collectors are usually people with high purchasing-power, like famous musicians and actors. Even prominent drug lords, like Pablo Escobar, are interested in purchasing costly artistic masterpieces, Michael Jackson's art collection pales in comparison to Escobar's collection. In any case, the point is not to unravel who has which work and how much it cost, but to reflect upon this practice and the economic and sociocultural pieces that form part of it.

art collectors paintings
Art critics were born in the mid-nineteenth century exhibition rooms. Artists in that period had finally managed to gain their freedom and were no longer bound by academic rules, which meant that artistic trends couldn't be imposed. The gates of diversity had opened and artists created and defended their own style and taste with the help of art critics, experts with a thorough knowledge of the creators' work who offered advice to avid collectors.

However, during the twenty-first century, this trend saw a radical change. In the book My Name is Charles Saatchi and I Am an Artoholic, collector and art dealer Charles Saatchi states that critics are dead and no longer exist. This is largely due to collectors themselves becoming experts and connoisseurs, suddenly the words of these big-timers became gospel and the works they purchased suddenly became part of the eminence of the history of art. In many artistic circles, works are valued according to "who has bought" or "who is the owner" of a collection by a certain artist. Art collectors are a key to the development of an artist's career and this mutualistic relationship is nothing new,  there many historical examples of patronage, for instance, the house of Medici during Renaissance.

Playful Tiff, a Charles Saatchi sculpture by an unknown artist

Modernity changed the picture and art became a commodity. Patrons became art dealers, and collectors, in turn, became active influences who created trends and styles. This new reality has shifted the art world 180º, collectors are now more influential than the artists themselves. 

Saatchi, who is a professional publicist, has held remarkable influence in the art world. During the 1990s, he turned an entire generation of Goldsmiths University British artists into a trend and now you won't see a Contemporary History of Art book without their names included. He funded many artworks and paid rooms across many different cities to exhibit them. His business acumen and marketing know-how has enabled him to increase the financial value of the works, for instance, when he purchased Damien Hirts's Shark for 50,000 pounds, he afterwards sold it to Steve Cohen for 12 million dollars.

The dynamics of collecting art have become more complex and turned into an investment, purchase, and commercial field. While some may see this practice as tasteless, we cannot help but acknowledge the effort of these collectors in valuing, preserving art and its creators. 


art collectors phelps
Phelps and Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA director, standing next to an Alejandro Otero work

Venezuelan collector, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, is another interesting example. On many occasions, she has lent her art collection to world renowned museums, such as New York University's Grey Art Gallery  and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid. She has also donated over 102 Latin American artworks to the MoMA in New York, and has collaborated with this museum for almost thirty years. Preserving and promoting art has been her vocation, as well as ensuring the continuity and exposure of Latin American art to the world. 
These renowned art collectors who offer audiences their own conceptions of art by presenting and lending their private collections to museums, are also creating their own galleries and exhibitions. In a way, they have given us a chance to approach art even if it is privately owned. Perhaps now that we have come to understand the importance of a collector's role, we should start asking ourselves how much freedom audiences, artists, and creators truly have.


Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia

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