To the vast majority, it’s possible that ‘collectors’ can sometimes be seen as rather irrational; acquiring ‘objects’ that in truth, have invariably, no intrinsic value. Whenever I am faced with this reproach, I am always reminded of Susan Sontag’s “The Volcano Lover”, a novel set in Naples during the Baroque period of the Enlightenment, wherein a character known only as "the Cavaliere" (but based on Sir William Hamilton, the British diplomat and antiquary who is best remembered as the complaisant husband of Emma Hamilton, notorious mistress of Admiral Nelson) concerns himself with the creation of a perfect art collection. In the novel we first meet the obsessive, compulsive Cavaliere at the end of an art auction, in London. He has tried and failed to sell a thing he loves dearly, a "Venus Disarming Cupid" painting by Correggio. "Having stopped loving it in order to sell it," he tells his nephew, "I can't enjoy it in the same way, but if I am unable to sell it I do want to love it again."
Beside the emotional factors, what are some of the reasons or rationale behind collections?
Clinton Ng, an Australian collector tells us he collects “because looking and collecting art stimulates my heart, mind and emotions. It gives me a new perspective on life, the world, politics, people etc. Art opens doors allowing me to engage with interesting like-minded people who share my passion.”
As a result of living and working in Beijing, Maxine Bureau, a French entrepreneur, started actively collecting post 1980s Chinese contemporary art in 2010, largely due to his social interaction with many young artists, frequenting his very hip nightclubs. As he says, the main motivation behind his collecting is to “better understand Modern Chinese society and its history … as well as finding artworks that not only look good aesthetically but also transmit a message. For me, this is very important and it is also the reason why I tend to meet the artists I collect.”
Yang Jiawei, of Beijing sees his motivation for collecting as “pure passion”. What he is looking for “is gaining access to a peaceful mind of an artist through his artwork.”
Zhang Lan, the creator of the Chinese restaurant chain South Beauty, regards her collecting as “an extension of life. It is a happy thing. As a businesswoman, I deal with people. When I work on my collection, I engage with art, which impacts on the eye and is intellectually stimulating. The joy is beyond words. I have only experienced surprise and wonder.”
The main motivation behind Munich-based investor, Benedict Rodenstock’s collection is “simply the pleasure of living with art and the intellectual stimulus that comes with it. Of course, there is also an investment aspect.”
Marc Bollansee, Belgian art collector based in France, collects Southeast Asian art. He advocates that “it is very important to live with your artworks, because they speak to you, you enjoy them. And basically you also learn more about them when you look at them every day…”
From the comments above, it would seem art and collecting art can be so much more than simply “value”.
If I could own any artwork without needing to consider price, my choice would be Zhang Xiaogang’s “Bloodline: Big Family No 3.” (1995). Which is interesting, at least for me, because 10 years ago I doubt very much this work would have been my selection, let alone even on my radar. The truth is were I not to have been seduced by the Asian art market several years ago, and such was only the result of having travelled and lived within the region, I may very well have ‘overlooked’ this artist, an artist who is now considered as holding a paramount position within the Asian art market. Quite simply, my travels and exposure to new and very different cultures, has thankfully, opened my eyes to what is ostensibly, a new aesthetic.
I still retain a strong interest in the comfortable enclaves of ‘western art’, and indeed, from time to time, covet ridiculously expensive artworks from this market. But if anything, my working knowledge of Asian art enhances, perhaps even, amplifies, my appreciation of the global art scene.
Interestingly, if we chart the backstory to Zhang’s art career, it is a similar story insofar as his travels and exposure to Europe and its ‘master’ artists, that impacted deeply on his practice; moreover though, his engagement with foreign cultures, visual and otherwise, caused him to consider more thoughtfully, his position as a :”Chinese artist”. As Zhang observed: “I looked from the ‘early phase’ to the present for a position for myself, but even after this I still didn’t know who I was. But an idea did emerge clearly: if I continue being an artist, I have to be an artist of ‘China.’”
The question I am interested in addressing, is how much does travel impact on one’s art appreciation?
Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline: Big Family No 3, was auctioned (Lot 145) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 5 April 2014, with an estimate of HKD65,000,000 to 80,000,000. It achieved a hammer price of HKD94,200,000 with buyer’s premium. Sotheby’s catalogue entry for the work noted its provenance as “Property from an Important Private Asian Collection”. The extensive catalogue note can be read here.
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York has acquired Richard Serra’s Equal (2015), a sculpture made of eight blocks of steel that is currently on view at David Zwirner’s West 20th Street location in Chelsea (New York). Displayed in four pairs, with one block precariously placed on top of the other, the steel cubes weigh 40 tons each. The asking price for the work was $20 million, though the gallery and museum are staying quiet on the figure that was paid.
The acquisition was announce last week by the museum’s president, Marie-Josée Kravis. The museum has had a long relationship with the Minimalist sculptor, who had a retrospective at the museum in 2007 and holds a number of major works by the artist.
Richard Serra is perhaps one of the most significant artists of his generation. His ground-breaking sculpture explores the exchange between artwork, site, and viewer. He has produced large-scale, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban, and landscape settings spanning the globe, from Iceland to New Zealand.
Richard Serra’s (b. 1938) first solo exhibitions were held at the Galleria La Salita, Rome, 1966, and, in the United States, at the Leo Castelli Warehouse, New York, in 1969. His first solo museum exhibition was held at The Pasadena Art Museum in 1970. Serra has since participated in Documenta 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987), in Kassel; the Venice Biennales of 1980, 1984, 2001, and 2013; and the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual and Biennial exhibitions of 1968, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1995, and 2006.
Serra has had solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1977; the Kunsthalle Tübingen, 1978; the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, 1978; the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1980; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, 1984; the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 1985; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1986; the Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, 1986; the Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, 1987; the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, 1987; the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 1988; the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, 1990; the Kunsthaus Zürich, 1990; CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, 1990; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 1992; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1992; Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1997; Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro, 1997-98; Trajan’s Market, Rome, 2000; The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, St. Louis, 2003; and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, 2004.
More recently, in 2005 eight large-scale works by Serra were installed permanently at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and in 2007 The Museum of Modern Art, New York presented a retrospective of the artist’s work. His work was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris in 2008 (MONUMENTA 2008: Richard Serra: Promenade); in 2011-12 the exhibition Brancusi-Serra travelled from the Beyeler Foundation, Riehen to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and a traveling survey of Serra’s drawings was on view in 2011-12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Menil Collection, Houston (the exhibition was organized by the Menil Collection).
In 2014, the Qatar Museum Authority presented a two-venue retrospective survey of his work at the QMA Gallery and the Al Riwaq exhibition space, Doha; also in Qatar, a new permanent, site-specific work, East-West/West-East was installed in the Brouq Nature Reserve in the Zekreet Desert. An exhibition of recent works on paper by the artist was presented at the Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro.
Equal continues until July 24, 2015 @ David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, New York.
The incredibly accomplished Australian artist, Kate Briscoe, will be exhibiting at Janet Clayton's new space on Oxford Street, Paddington (Sydney) in June and July. Entitled, "Geologica IV", Kate continues her interest in the geological 'history' of the Australian landscape.
My work is abstract, but it is sourced from my visual experiences. The drama of geological formations is informing the structures and shapes, so that the work transmits these ideas, the essence of a place. If you are using simple forms, your drawing has to be precise. The way that the forms are arranged and the way that the lines and the stresses come through is absoultely crucial to the final compositions. Otherwise, you would not get that tension, that sensation that a split in the rock is imminent.
Kate has refined a unique technique for creating her paintings, working sand, acrylic and pigment across the canvas to create layering and textures reminiscent of the rock faces that inspire her. Joanna Mendelssohn writes: "The best way of describing these paintings is to say that they were born old - their toughness, monumentality and their rugged surface give the impression that in these works Briscoe has captured the ultimate essence of an ancient land."
Listen to Kate Briscoe discussing her work.
Given the NGV International's A Golden Age of China: Qianlong Emperor, 1736 - 1795 exhibition, on until 21 June 2015 (visit NGV), Mossgreen's forthcoming Autumn Auction Series is timely, particularly in respect of its session for "Chinese & Asian Art",
The standout piece is a museum quality, rare and magnificent carved white jade 'lotus leaf' brush washer, from the early Qing Dynasty (Lot 31). In the accompanying catalogue entry, it notes "Lotus was highly appreciated by Chinese scholars, it represents their spiritual purity..." And "Chinese Jade in Qing dynasty was often carved in a nature form, which represents the naturalism idea of scholars."
A fine carved white jade “lotus leaf” brush washer, "Bixi", early Qing Dynasty, 17th /18th century
A fine carved white jade “lotus leaf” brush washer, "Bixi", early Qing Dynasty, 17th /18th century, the stem acting as a handle, the vessel supported on a bed of small leaves and tendrils, the veins in the leaves exquisitely carved, the exterior with traces of russet skin.
Zitan stand with Spink and Son Ltd. label.
15.3cm long, 14.5cm wide, 7.1cm high
Estimate: AUD30,000 to AUD40,000
Spink & Son Ltd., 28/4/1987
Another similar white jade brush washer although smaller in size and with a simpler design was sold at Christie's King Street, UK, in November 2013, Lot.80.
(Estimate:£8,000 to £12,000. Price realized: £10,625)
A SMALL WHITE JADE 'LOTUS LEAF' BRUSH WASHER, XI, 18TH CENTURY
The washer is elegantly modelled in the form of a curled lotus leaf, with the exterior carved with a thick stem to one side. Naturalistic veins are depicted rising from the base to the incurved rim. The stone is of an even pale milky tone.
3¾ in. (9.5 cm.) wide
Provenance: Spink & Son Ltd., London
Mossgreen's forthcoming Autumn Auction Series comprises 679 lots and will be auctioned over 4 sessions. "Chinese & Asian Arts" (Lots 1-140) which commences Tuesday 16 June. (Visit Mossgreen)