Some years ago we decided to build a contemporary collection for our company, John Jones. As an art framer, we worked with a wide variety of artists, photographers, collectors and galleries. We’d see work come into the studios for framing and leave, off to its new home, looking wonderful. We already had some art in the company – my husband’s father founded the business back in the 1970s and had pieces from Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Richard Hamilton. But we were eager to bring in works from younger, edgier artists. And so our contemporary collection began.
The first thing we did was to take a course on art collecting. You’d think art collecting is simple – you just buy a lot of art. But theres far more to it. Should you theme your collection for example, is there a particular subject or era you’d like to explore, an artist you’d like to collect in depth. Some collectors take their collections incredibly seriously – they’re coinesseurs in their chosen area. For us it was more about having fun. We loved getting out to artist studios, connecting with interesting people, broadening our imaginations with the type of art we discovered.
We took a course at the Whitechapel Gallery which gave us more of an insight into collecting. We read all sorts of books (back in 2006 buying emerging art was a big thing and there were new books coming out practically every week), including Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann.
We went to art fairs (Miami was our favourite – parties on the beach). We joined patrons groups, had dinners in artist studios, sponsored an art prize and took part in panel discussions to talk about our collection. The really big collectors started their own foundations to rival museums. It was so much fun. Sadly when the financial markets crashed in 2008 many of the smaller galleries closed up shop and the market constricted.
We now have a collection of just over 200 works of art, most of which are on the walls of The Arts Building in London. We’re certainly not coinesseurs in the way some collectors are, but we’re still passionate about our collection. We loan pieces out to exhibitions and biennials and one day we’ll sit down and write a book about it all for anyone who is interested.
If you’re thinking about starting a collection, or building on one, my friend Charlotte Appleyard has just announced a two day course at the Royal Academy in June. Charlotte really knows her stuff and is extremely down to earth, so I’d highly recommend it. The art world may have changed since 2008 but its still lots of fun and Charlotte is certainly the one to show you around.
Royal Academy Art Collecting course