On Collecting Art & Building Culture
There is a misunderstanding that one who collects art has to be wealthy. I recognize this makes sense, as art is typically expensive and not in everyone’s monthly budget. I thought this way until I heard a Donna Nelson artist talk at The New School in 2015. Donna, an acclaimed painter and professor at the Tyler School of Art and a 2014 Whitney Biennial participant was talking on stage about how important it is to collect art.
Donna spoke with such pride and enthusiasm about the art she collects and advocated to the crowd to look beyond galleries to buy art. Senior citizen homes, children’s art and untrained artists were on Nelson’s radar for important art that should be supported as well as her peer’s work. I was inspired and began my own collection soon after.
When I taught art, I kept an eye out for unique pieces from students needing some encouragement and would make them an offer, sometimes for as little as $20. I would buy a piece of art from them and it would make their day and mine! I did this for two main reasons. One, I liked the work and saw something unique and strange I didn’t normally see. Secondly, I wanted them to know their work was worth something – that they could make work and it could make them money. Their work had a value outside their own personal need to create it – that matters.
On the other end of art collecting, is trading and swapping pieces from your peers. I do this sometimes and think it is a great way to share culture in an affordable way. Still though, I think the gesture of buying work even from one’s peers is really important, even if I have to pay the artist or gallery in increments.
Supporting the arts can happen in many ways – it is important to artists of all education and levels of success to have support. Buying and collecting art builds culture and cultivates a generosity that feeds artists work and momentum. Most importantly, it encourages others to do the same. No purchase, whether it be small or large is insignificant.
I encourage you to look around at those making work that need support and just reach out, inquire and see if a purchase can be made. Often times, artists and galleries give discounts and flexible payment plans. In the end, these investments go so far – they allow artists to continue investing in their work and they create a beautiful home full of work that keeps you company long after the show closes.