Collecting Art: What Makes an Influential Collection?

Every work of art is affected and altered by its relationship with its audience. However, when a collector is involved, he becomes a direct role-player who can drastically affect the value, significance, and interpretation of the work.

Collecting art is taking an active stance and becoming part of the commercial and social dynamics that shape the world of art. If a collector is aware of his role, there is much more to collecting than just buying out of an impulse or an aesthetic taste. In fact, collecting art is a rather controlled and rational acquisition attitude that has a long-term intention and goal. A well-thought collection can be a way of telling the history of art from a certain perspective or highlighting the underlying connections between seemingly disparate works of art, enhancing an artistic theme or debate.

In theory, any given work of art is collectible by default, with some artists believing that it is inevitable for a work of art to become collectible, as if it is a part of its fate. Being part of a collection gives a work of art a place to “belong”, and an unconscious connection to the other works of art that keep it company will be created, adding new significations and interpretations to the scope of possibilities of that work of art. There is a saga behind the discovery and acquisition of each piece that belongs to a collection, which turns it into a living thing.

Art collections stand out when they arise not only out of money, but out of an inspired drive, a research-driven curiosity, and the talent needed to excel in the art of finding precisely the items that have always belonged into a collection. While there is this very personal aspect of a collection, which is the collector’s way of self-expression, there’s also the explicit political and public effect that a collection withholds by exhibiting and turning a work of art visible to society.

With so many new art collectors appearing, innovative collectors are aiming to find new stories to be told through their collections and give it a more wholesome purpose such as promoting visibility to emerging local artists or rescuing the affective memory of a certain culture as collectors Denise Gardner and her husband Gary Gardner, who are helping preserve the artistic memory of the African diaspora, while intentionally aiming to acquire the work of living artists. The most important question to be asked by a conscientious art collector who aspires to have an influential collection is, “what is my collection going to contribute to the art world?

An art collection tends to tell a story about a certain period or locale in the history of art, however, being stuck to a sense of time progression or geographic location can cut off the wings of those collectors who are motivated by a spirit of freedom and spontaneity caused by the art’s effect on them. In that case, a great art collection will focus on a theme or a question to be answered and the candidates to belong in it will be any works of art that give the collector a sense of answer to that question.

For example, a collection can be inspired on the question of the human body and collect works across different styles and countries that somehow represent this question, from formalism all the way to the surreal. This type of collection emphasizes art’s subjectivity and endless multiplicity of meanings, portraying how different artistic minds expressed the same idea. 

Digital Art Drawing by Sarah Saroufim

For those who are foreseeing the future, rather than the past of art, collecting digital art has become the new trend with the surge of NFTs making it that much more convenient and accessible, which in turn caused a dramatic growth of digital art creators and collectors. Those who are creating digital art collections right now, are becoming storytellers and documentors of the grassroots stage of a revolutionary artistic movement.

Here on sooqbeirut you will find a diversity of artwork options that are worthy of belonging in outstanding Lebanese or Middle Eastern art collections, from paintings and historical posters all the way to digital art by renowned artists.

Written by Yasmim Franceschi exclusively for sooqbeirut

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