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Learn From The Best

For serious collectors, a strategy is essential to inform acquisitions and provide a focus to a collection. But what exactly is a collection strategy? Nicola Kritzinger suggests taking cues from world-renowned collectors.

A collecting strategy is the overall idea of what your art collection should look like, founded on a set of ideals related to your collecting practice. There are many ways to go about this, but the best way is to learn from the best.

Collectors often rely on advisors. Art dealer,  João Ferreira, recommends you “move through the art world with legerity.” He believes that “artists with a strong brand will stand the test of time and make for a strong collection”.

Walker Scott advise that established collectors sell minor artworks in their collection to buy works by established artists. They suggest evaluating space and budget, and creating a focus that reflects vision.

Learning from what established collectors love and how they collect can be a good way to build a valuable collection, or inspire an area of focus. There is the potential to collect on any budget, but many of the best-known collectors have large and prestigious collections.

Collector Jochen Zeitz has focused on buying the work of early-career African artists who have an established market. He supports living artists and established the Zeitz MOCAA where South African artists such as Nicholas Hlobo and Kendell Geers are in the permanent collection. The museum also exhibits the work of important late-career artists from the African continent and diaspora, Chéri Samba, El Anatsui, Chris Ofili, and Wangechi Mutu.

It was important to Louis Norval, a South African collector, to collect works by valuable historical South African artists over many years, focusing on sculptures by important artists such as Edoardo Villa and Dumile Feni for the Norval Foundation in Cape Town. Norval also collects the sculptural work of the most talented contemporary South African artists.

Famous collectors like Liu Yiqian have collecting strategies discernible from auction records; for instance, he buys only the best and most rare objects within his areas of interest such as the Ming dynasty Meiyintang doucai Chicken Cup, or an exceptional Modigliani.

Charles Saatchi sought out the most talented young British artists (YBAs) for his collection.

In buying the work of young artists, he purchased at a low price. Their fame and value rose in estimation quickly because of his purchases. Saatchi buys art like groceries, and his strategies have been criticised by many art-world stalwarts, but Saatchi changed the contemporary art world with his contemporary art gallery and fascinating publications.

Some advisors build collections and hand-pick artworks for a collector. It is still possible to see the indelible mark of Duveen on public art collections in the USA, like the Ingres Comtesse d’Haussonville in the Frick Collection, or Turner’s Rotterdam Ferry-Boat in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. He sold only the best quality works to his clients who included JP Morgan, Henry Frick and Andrew Mellon.

A collecting strategy is personal, and it depends on what kind of collector you want to be and what you love. Building a valuable collection takes time and money, but most importantly, alongside building a collection, you create something that reflects who you are.

Recommended Reading List:

Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton

Bernard Berenson by Ernest Samuels

The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Collectors, Collections and Museums by Stacey Pierson

Duveen by SN Behrman

Babble by Charles Saatchi

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