Part One: My Approach to Art Appreciation

You probably have reached this post looking for answers. I have done the same. I have also searched tirelessly for information to comfort and reassure myself. There is indeed people like you and me with the same queries, doubts and anxieties for art collecting.

Let me introduce myself, as to give a better context to my answers. I am middle class person, with a regular office job earning a decent salary covers sufficiently my expenses and savings. Work-wise, I am a financial risk manager by training, and my workdays go around calculating numbers and discussing facts, assumptions and perspectives in clear-cut, emotionless ways. So yes, I derive a salary from de-sensitizing analyses and outcomes.

Art collecting is the antithesis to what I do professionally. For me, collecting is a fun passion that demands reconciling myself with my feelings. Collecting truthfully for the sake of plain personal appreciation requires one to look beyond numbers and measured returns. Similar to artists producing works, collecting art requires oneself to listen to inner gut-feels. It requires inward sincerity to justify subjective decisions.  Like with many other passions, art collecting requires one to be genuine to oneself. 

So, how I started? well, that is a question I get often indeed. I was clueless at the beginning. I never pursued any ‘formal’ education in art history or previously analyzed art market dynamics in any way. I knew very little back then about the market mechanics and its steering forces. At the very beginning, I felt like standing at the edge of a cliff, all confused alongside my eagerness to acquire what I liked versus the well-known, and very intimating, pressure of not knowing what to pay for a work. Furthermore, reading news on those strepitous auctions records and opaque dealings, mixed with pretentious attitudes by some gallerists, kept me frightened and discouraged to invest in. The passion kept calling nevertheless. I thus decided to nurse that anxiety inwards instead, by honestly asking myself why-it and how-to repeatedly for a long committed while. A convincing rationale oozed out eventually shortly after.

So, how I went around it? Well, here is how: First, I liked the works I saw – and I cemented that as starting point for any appreciation going forward. Second, I reached deeper in me for more concrete reasons. I gradually understood my admiration being not only based solely on aesthetics, but also by the intrigue surrounding the creative process behind the work. I found exciting how artists translated ethereal ideas through tangible materials. Through such, I grasped the courage artists endure to transform intimate imagination into palpable mediums for the public to judge. To me, the visual deeds on any artwork are most compelling when endorsed by the daring bravery of its artist. I thus learnt to undertake pieces by artists that I admired and respected fully. Such is, unquestionably, the biggest lessons I cultured since my early days as a collector: to value the work and study the craftsmanship behind it.

Deciding to whether collect requires patience, sincerity and self-awareness. The effort alone is worth it – as it is, in my opinion, an authentic act of self-respect.