The Hidden Value of Art
7 things you don’t know about collecting art by Belinda Aucott
The art world is a thumping global business. In 2015 alone, the global art market achieved total sales of $63.8 billion. Contemporary art fairs now cover the world and arts events fill the calendar from January to December. Circa 2017 it seems everyone wants piece of the contemporary art world, from fashion labels to great cities. But beyond going to glittering gallery openings, meeting eccentric artists and owning priceless works of art, what does collecting art really offer you?
This month we caught up with art advisers and collectors Mark Hughes and Amanda Love to discuss their thoughts. We also sat down with Lawrence Smith and Shannan Whitney to hear about their experiences buying art. We talked not about the investment in art but the emotional and social components to collecting. One-by-one they told us what first got them hooked and what they now get from art, that they can’t get anywhere else.
Fondazione Prada, Theaster-Gates
01. Art is emotional
Everyone agrees, that art inspires strong love hate polarities, from the primitive to the sublime.
Art Adviser Amanda Love is a business woman, with an impressive private collection. One of the things she loves most about collecting art is how art can divide a room. Her very first significant piece was a Rosalie Gascoigne work called ‘Top Brass’ which she purchased from Roslyn Oxley in the late 1990’s.
Rosalie Gascoigne Top Brass, 1990 retro-reflective road signs on plywood 142 × 141cm.
“When I first started collecting people would come to the house and say, “Oh you have paintings, ” and then people would look at Rosalie work and say: “That work actually makes me want to vomit on the floor, it’s so horrible,’” Love says.
Still Amanda was undeterred by people’s ignorance of contemporary art. What she has on her walls today she calls ‘a snap shot of the last 30 years’. She has works by Caroline Rothwell, Theaster Gates, Isaac Julien and Tracey Emin in her home. The Rosalie work now hangs in her husband’s study.
Fellow art adviser Mark Hughes agrees with Amanda that it is these strong emotional polarities that make art so unique. “You might hate it, that’s an emotional engagement, you could feel frustrated by it and not be able to understand it, or you could fall in love with it; those instincts are the bottom line,” Hughes says.
Mark says collecting art helps expand your mind and acts differently on a person’s personal development to the collecting furniture for example.
02. Art enriches your life, helps your mind expand
Collectors who live with works of art have the possibility of engaging with them deeply and constantly over years.
CEO of BresicWhitney Shannan Whitney started his corporate collection with the help of Art Adviser Mark Hughes in 2002. He purchased a Bill Henson painting for his Hunter’s Hill office and immediately got the bug. Now he co-owns a successful real estate brand, that has aligned itself through art and their corporate collection.
Bill Henson, Untitled 35 courtesy of the BresicWhitney Collection
“I hadn’t really had any real interests in my life outside of business and I think art has been a really important outlet for me in terms of my personal development,” he says.
“Without that, my life experience wouldn’t be as rich. So I am eternally grateful that it happened and I have found working with my art adviser Mark Hughes enormously valuable.”
Shannan’s collection has moved from being just Australian art by Adam Cullen, Shaun Gladwell and Rover Thomas to include works by international artists, sculptors and video artists. Some of his offices feature photographs by Ori Gersht and Richard Moss.
03. Art is about the hunt
Acquavella Galleries New York
It follows then, that if art is an enriching experience, attached to overseas trips and mind expanding emotional experiences, that art acquisition is often the proud focus of collectors.
“In someways you’re always looking forward to the next adventure or the next unknown; the next surprise and really the emotional bit,” says Shannan Whitney. “You know that there is always going to be another great surprise there is always going to be another experience out there,” he says.
Shannan loves going to galleries like Stuart Shave Modern Art in Islington, London. He find the aesthetic there resonates with him. He says that since he starting collecting his new hobby has encouraged many overseas trips and many incredible new moments.
04. Art educates you and pushes you
Fellow business owner Lawrence Smith is a benefactor to the Sydney Biennale and a hobbyist art collector. He describes buying art as both euphoric and educational.
“Everything I acquire has had significance for me at the time, even if it tells me that I’m stupid and need more education,” he says.
David Noonan, Untitled, 2013, silkscreen on linen collage, framed, 213.5 x 303.5 cm, 84 1/8 x 119 1/2 ins Courtesy of Stuart Shave Modern Art
Lawrence is a disarmingly funny man who runs a media agency in Surry Hills. His first significant purchase was a Phillip Hunter landscape painting that he saw in catalogue when it came in the post.
He finds collecting to be a very satisfying journey and calls it ‘a real process’.
“Art can be very complicated and it requires effort. It requires intrigue and humility. Let’s face it, many serious artists are very bright, we are lucky if we can enter their world, for more meaning about our own,” he says. “Art is completely absorbing and a complete way of life,” says Amanda Love.
“If you view art rigorously, art enables you to see things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, both about the world and about yourself,” she says.
“Museum quality contemporary art is part of a historical conversation and I think the best art is always a conversation between the artist and themselves anyway. So if you are able to eavesdrop in on that conversation, by being a collector or a connoisseur of art, then that is such a privilege,” says Love.
With her home laid out like a gallery it is pretty clear where her priorities lie. Even her outdoor pool presided over by a neon work set into a perfectly clipped hedge.
Jodie Clark drawing, L: Unknown man, Amanda Love and Tracey Emin at .M Contemporary
Opening at M Contemporary
05. Art collecting provides you with artist access
For Amanda Love who counts people like Isaac Julien and Tracey Emin as close personal friends, meeting artists has provided her with deeper insight into the life of mid-career and established artists.
“You understand the singular drive and dedication that has to accompany talent to achieve success and that sheer, often relentless will, to have your voice heard and to be understood and express yourself in your own terms. That never ceases to amaze me. It continually amazes me,” she says.
Lawrence Smith says he loves the social side or art as much as the intellectual side.
“The art world has completely opened up society and the world to me, it’s amazing how very connected it all is. I tend to meet all the artists I buy, except I have a Picasso ceramic. Artists love it when you tell them you own their work, it’s a kind of validation,” he says.
06. Art can help you in your relationships
Art is not just for the office or the gallery context either. It can also be a good bonding ritual for couples according to collectors.
“Art has helped me enormously in my personal life,” says Lawrence Smith .
“My wife, Anthea Williamson, is a photographer, she has a great way of capturing structural elements in her images. We go to a lot of shows and look at a lot of work together. It’s where the communication is at its best.”
Amanda Love says she always advises couples to use their collection to unite them and to use the buying opportunity to open a running dialogue.
“There are enough things in life to divide you without your art collection doing it. I always advise couples to agree on a piece before buying it,” Love says.
Mark Hughes describe art as being quite like human life – full of risks and joys, ups and downs.
07. Art can aid your corporate brand
Works by Ori Gersht (left) and Richard Moss (right)courtesy of the BresicWhitney Collection
Corporate Collections not only add colour to office walls and act as a tax deduction, they can also reflect the mission of the company.
“Art was never introduced to provide new business opportunities,” says Shannan Whitney about the start of his corporate collection for BresicWhitney.
“But it was in a sense a strategic decision to align ourselves with everything that art creates,” says Whitney.
He admits that buying art is much like buying a home, because the more you see the more educated you become and the better decisions you will ultimately make.
“Art was really supportive of what I thought a real estate brand could be.
I suspect that it has helped my business but I have no proof. It has been synonymous with the brand from the start and I think that more directly art has been a great enabler for many relationships.
“It probably provides us with a really great audience in terms of how people view our business and the association,” he says.
Lawrence Smith says he also finds that art alters people’s perception.
“My office is full of artwork, I can see how it challenges people that come and visit. I like seeing the discomfort this causes. It’s great when people start asking questions or are enthusiastic about a piece they know nothing about.
“I have a giant work by Trent Parke in my office, everyone comments on it, I like telling them the story of why I bought it and what the work is about. I have another piece by Todd MacMillan that says ‘We Cannot Fail’,” says Smith.
“Work is obscure, it’s there to make us think. The Art has set us apart slightly as a business,” he says.
What we can all take from collecting art, is that it’s a personal journey that enriches and colours one’s surroundings. But it is also another tool in your arsenal for seeing the world and relating to it.