Tips to follow when you are taking baby steps into the world of art
Regularly visiting exhibitions, reading up on art, befriending an expert and investing judiciously on a work of art are the initial steps towards becoming an art collector.gurgaon Updated: Jan 04, 2019 15:23 IST
A brand new year is upon us, and as is customary for many, within the opening days of January, it is time for resolutions. Though I sincerely hope that as with most new year’s resolutions, these aren’t abandoned within the month itself. Also, in full disclosure, I’m personally not a follower of setting year-opening resolutions. I prefer year-end reviews to consider what the soon-to-pass year held in terms of results. My life coach has been pushing me for years to place these review charts in context to goals that are set at the beginning of the year, without much success.
My personal predilections and quirks notwithstanding, I’ve listed some resolutions in response to a message from a budding collector who intends on buying her first work of art in 2019. If you follow the following resolutions, I can state with a high level of certitude that you’ll be walking on a firm foundation. These resolutions are essentially built for a collector taking her/his baby steps into the art world, and if you’re an evolved patron, the following text might seem like baby speak to you.
View at least one exhibition a month
The first ground rule, as I’ve perhaps stated on scores of occasions already is to keep one’s visual directory in rich supply. Nothing compares to actively viewing works of art on an ongoing basis to identifying, establishing and refining one’s tastes. I’d go one step further and urge you to write a few words following each exhibition viewing—the highlights of the visit, the works you enjoyed the most and ones that you detested, if any. This exercise will be an excellent route to clarifying your perspective and would be particularly interesting when revisited after the passage of a year or more.
I’d like to make a side note of the fact that there will be times when you might encounter a dry spell, when nothing new will be on display. Visit (or revisit, as might be the case) the NGMA’s permanent collection for another look at the classics on such occasions. And also, when you travel, make it a mandatory requisite to visit at least one leading museum, and one mainstream gallery.
Buy (and read) at least one art book per month
I’d like to make a minor revision here. You’re welcome to buy that book only for its pictures (and skip the reading to a little later). The objective here is to familiarise yourself with a particular art movement, or that of the practice of a legendary artist. Come to understand what made the artist this legend she/he is championed as. What were the contributions of the artist, and how did a movement come to differentiate itself from the existing order and practice of the time? The academic referencing, even if this is largely visual at the outset, will with the passage of time, allow you to appreciate what qualifies as genius. And hopefully ensure you are adept at spotting the next genius when said genius shows her/his work at the annual art college display.
Befriend one art world figure
The reason herein is simple. You must find someone who can answer your growing list of questions. Someone seasoned and reliable, who can help you unravel that which appears currently as mumbo-jumbo. If possible, schedule your monthly exhibition visit with this friend. The learning these interactions can pack, especially during the early days, will remain unparalleled. As your own confidence rises, a number of these queries will dissipate, eventually failing to challenge you, and you will find a clarified response to any possible concern in your own capacity. Till you clock that milestone, please make sure you have the ear of someone who knows their way around the domain, and can provide you with a rational interpretation of all that you view and encounter.
Buy one work of art
Go right ahead and make that decision (or a few) this year. There are no absolute rights and wrongs when it comes to buying the opening works in your collection. The most valuable rule that you can follow when collecting is to entirely and stubbornly follow your own voice. In that regard, don’t bother with the din of the world. As I’ve already stated, the counsel of a few learned ones is crucial and necessary, especially at the advent and during the early days, but the sooner you decide to find your own feet, the better. Make that decision your own, and let others say what they will. My only word of caution here would be to remain a touch conservative before taking a large leap financially. The early decisions should be fuelled by a moderate budget, even if you can spend beyond. Start with pocket change, and open those pursestrings once you’ve understood your way around the landscape. If you’re a natural, that might well happen before this year’s calendar runs out.
(Arvind Vijaymohan is the CEO of Artery India, a financial data centre focused on Indian art sales globally)
First Published: Jan 04, 2019 15:23 IST