Catherine Asquith Art Advisory
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”.