Sunday, August 21, 2011

the Collecting Friend

Earlier this year I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. When she saw my work in print, she immediately said: “I want to buy some.” But I think I surprised her when I was quick on the uptake, figuring how to get some work in front of her.

I think when I knew her 20 years ago, art was more my lover or my church. But it is now my business and I’m OK with that arrangement.

A few years ago in Talk is Cheap, I detailed a friendship which went south for many reasons, and a big one was the “we want to buy your work” threat. I heard this often and generally said nothing back then. I didn’t want to appear as though I used my friends - but meanwhile their generous grandeur, if only in their minds, was a use of me. (Obviously these friends are not art world people; they know better.)

Perhaps I also entertained this silly romantic idea that mere strangers and exotic collectors would descend upon me and change my life.

This recent era here in Portland has panned out much differently for me. I don’t know how typical this is, but I’ve known nearly every collector. We are friends. We talk about everything and anything but when the “I want to buy something” pitch comes up, I decide it’s true as opposed to not.

Perhaps my old friend wanted that old romance too, to live in the space of maybe, possibility and hope. But for me, I do not want to hear that too often. It’s fine if you never wanted to get anything. We can still talk dreams, how to spend money we may or may not have, etc. But not my work - because that’s what it is, my work.


Gwenn said...

I really enjoy the back-and-forth between life and work. I like it when friends become collectors and when collectors become friends. For me it's an accurate reflection of the place my work has in my life: it's all integrated!

Anonymous said...

We found this at Kremer's Pigments in Manhattan, but you can order it direct: an absolute riot of a primer on "good" behavior... wish I had a stack of 'em sometimes.

Eva said...

Thanks for the tip, anonymous. I'll pick up a copy.

Duane said...

Like artists, collectors come in a kaleidoscope of personalities, income levels, and commitment levels. That said, I have yet to meet someone who was really interested in buying a living artist's work who doesn't desires some personal connection with the artist who produced an object they became compelled to own. I am no different in that respect.

But a funny thing happened on the way to building my blue collar collection. I quickly realized that I would never be able to afford art buy work by all the artists I coveted. Many were beyond my price range before I ever came across their work. Others just never got to the top of my wish list.

Then there is the simple fact that that most to the art I see, regardless of how good it is, just doesn't quite fulfill all the requirements I have for buying a piece. Believe me, the longer I've looked, and the bigger my collection has gotten, the longer that list has become.

One thing I have learn is that, after an artist puts work in font of the public for sale, it is no longer about the artist, it is about me (the viewer); who I am and what I see of myself when I respond to a piece. I have also learned that whether I buy an artist's work or not; or even whether I like an artist's work or not, I usually find myself admiring the artist for all the time, work, commitment, and risk they put into offering their work to the public.

The other aspect of collecting that I just love is the response I have gotten from artists I have bought work by for including their work in our collection. Even if we only have one piece by an artist, they appreciate the context that the collection gives to their work.

We have a very good collection for a household of modest means. We have managed to put together a collection that includes many great pieces by scores of very talented artists. No artist who has seen the collection has failed to express appreciation for having their piece added to our cache of our holdings. The collection clearly reflects our commitment the quality of content and execution as well as our distinct personalities and character; artists love that.

This all goes toward building the bond of friendship between the artist and collector. I will say that I have had many awkward moments trying to explain to many artists why I have not included their work in our collection.

Most are very understanding; especially the experienced, committed artists who have been at it long enough to realize the importance of not taking it personally when an acquaintance doesn't get around to buying their work. I get a lot of credit for having brought many new blue collar types to the joy of collecting and I think most artists understand that's a big part of how I try to give back to the arts community.

Eva said...

Hi Duane, thanks for your comment. I never have expectations that friends will or will not collect - especially as I would say that in the course of a lifetime, most don't. (I have certainly given away a lot though, much more than I have sold.) I would never expect you to collect my work just because you are a collector. What I do not like is constant bait and promise, like artists are just suspended and waiting, as if words and want are what it's about.