As owner of her eponymous gallery in Harlem (where she represents John Giorno) and co-founder of two international art fairs (Independent in both New York and Brussels), Elizabeth Dee is the perfect person to tell you how to get an art collection up and running, regardless of the size of your bank balance, apartment or social standing.
The whip-smart American launches the second edition of Independent Brussels in the Vanderborght building today (until 23rd April), with 70 international galleries and non-profits from 32 cities present, including David Zwirner, Sprüth Magers and Peres Projects. Dee took time out to advise you on how to become a quality long-term collector (and not a hype hoarder of hot-right-now artists).
Get Going (Even If You Have A One-Bed Rental)
“Not every artist works at a large scale. A conversation with a gallerist is about showing a long-term commitment to collecting. Show the gallerist that they can be a part in shaping your journey as a collector. Most galleries would want to help you get the perfect first piece with suggestions and introductions. I’ve seen some museum quality collections in one-bed apartments in New York that are astounding. It’s not quantity. It’s about that level of engagement. Make it personal, particularly if you’re collecting in a smaller way.”
Talk To Gallerists
“Read, look and talk to galleries to get introductions to artists and establish what interests you. Gallerists have deep knowledge. They’re an untapped resource for learning and getting insight into artists, their work and intentions. I find that most collectors don’t take advantage of that enough. The format we created at Independent was to establish more of a dialogue with the galleries, making it more accessible and more conversational.”
Avoid Hot Artists
“Keep a balanced viewpoint, and avoid hot artists or trends. You can be passionate and excited by artists without having to follow trends that are more of a manufactured form of excitement. Go for something more long-term and sustainable. It takes a certain confidence to carve out an independent path. Good collectors have a strong point of view and vision. They don’t have to have the biggest collections to have that strong vision – it’s just a clear way of looking, reading, deciding and assessing. They’re often the collections I’m more impressed by. And they’re more happy with them in the end.”
“Define a network to operate in. Select a few galleries to build a relationship with. This is how you establish a strong point of view, focus and context. Because the art market is such a global market, you can’t specialise in everything, so defining your own territory can be the most sure-fire way to be move with the right direction. And buy the artist, not an individual piece.”
Buy Different Bodies of Work
“Try to buy more than one work by an artist that inspires you, preferably over a few different bodies of work. If an artist you collect begins working with different materials, buy a piece. If they move into design, then collect that. Also, collect their works that are a little more challenging. Think about the archetypes of what the artists are making and keep track as they move in different directions. You want to keep watching that.”