One always wonders about the motivations that prompt a person to seriously collect art. Of course, there is the rationale of art being a lucrative asset. But that aside, could there be other reasons for building an art collection? A Delhi-based seasoned collector in his fifties once said to me that he had the desire to express his ideas through visual arts but could not become an artist himself. So, he collected works of contemporary artists to ‘curate’ his space with art to tell a story.
Serious collection of contemporary art requires considerable time to track new artists on the block. It goes without saying that basic knowledge of arts is crucial to understand trends, decipher the fine line between influences and plagiarism, and to contextualise practices. Having a consultant on speed-dial, of course, comes in handy to provide unbiased guidance. However, not everyone wishes to go down that route. So, now the upcoming debut edition of Young Collectors’ Weekend (YCW) seeks to connect aspiring collectors with young artists, thus helping them grow together.
Farah Siddiqui, who co-founded Cultivate Art with Arya Mistry, has started this event in collaboration with Teesta Bhandare, a corporate and art lawyer. “This emerged from the realisation that young art collectors have had a history of family members having acquired art in the past. Therefore, they too want to embark on their own collecting journey but do not often know where to begin,” says Siddiqui. The goal of YCW is to help demystify the art world and to teach new collectors what it means to build a meaningful selection.
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She adds that while passion is certainly the most important aspect of collecting, there is more to it than just that. In the first edition of YCW, 15 early- to mid-career artists will be showcased. Some promising names include Shivangi Ladha, Digbijayee Katua, Al-Qawi Nanavati, and Puja Mondal. “We want our young collectors to grow alongside these artists. Some of the best collecting stories in history have emerged from the bond between artists and their close patrons, and we humbly aspire to facilitate those relationships,” elaborates Mistry. This edition of YCW was planned as a physical event in Delhi, but owing to the covid-19 restrictions, it has pivoted to a virtual mode. “We hope to take this concept to different cities across the country and engage with young and first-time collectors,” adds Siddiqui.
Outside of the gallery ecosystem, there are only a handful of consultants for aspiring collectors. Amit Kumar Jain is an independent collections advisor with previous experience with the Devi Art Foundation, Saffronart, and The Museum of Art & Photography (MAP). He believes that art is about personal choices and those need to be kept in mind while offering advice about building or growing a collection. “It helps to be attached to a collector for a long time to help forge a relationship of trust,” he adds, “Make sure you are transparent about your opinion of the work, its pricing as well as the artist’s marketability in the long run.”
He has observed that new collectors come into the market with a list of artists they have heard about or seen at their friend’s home. In his opinion, it is imperative to help them fulfil their aspirations. “Establishing a narrative within the collection only comes with time,” says Jain.
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Bhandare believes YCW seeks to fulfil not just short-term aspirations but long-term objectives of young collectors. The programming includes not just curated exhibitions but talks as well. Take, for instance, lectures by Young Collectors' Circle, a Dutch organisation that aims to assist millennial artists with their practice, and upcoming collectors to develop their collections. Conversations with global galleries and panel discussions with collectors from across the world are part of the event.
The event also hopes to focus on a key influencer group for art purchase decisions—architects and interior designers. While they have an idea of space, they may lack deep knowledge of art. The programming includes events that help both the collector and the interior designer with a more conscious selection, which goes beyond beautifying the space.
Rahul Kumar is a Gurugram-based culture writer