I was thinking about the art collectors that cross my path on a daily basis and also about my own behavior throughout all the years that I have been collecting contemporary art (13 to be more precise). I dissected the most common examples and created some fun categories. Collectors can be a combination of two or more. Hence it is not uncommon to find a mix of a Hotshot-Altruist, or an Investor-Hedonist. The more a collector knows himself, the higher are the chances of avoiding some of the pitfalls that I highlight below.
I could not add actual pictures of the people who represent each category, so I decided to create my own illustrations, and I’m excited about bringing them to the public light for the first time.
Let me know if you think of more categories for art collectors or unusual combinations of the types below.
This is the person who values living with good art, and can make excellent purchases –usually with guidance-, but decisions are all determined by the size of his/her walls and aesthetically pleasing pieces that rarely push the envelope. A lot of my clients fall into this category, and as long as they want to live with good art, even if they never rotate it and/or upgrade it (which rarely happens after they fall in love with contemporary art), I’m ok with that.
This is the typical finance man or woman who is almost always exclusively looking at the ROI of a piece of art regardless of how it looks or what’s their emotional connection with the artist. They go after mid-career or blue chip artists and do not necessarily understand a lot about the art world. Caveat emptor: the contemporary art world has grown so much in the past five years, it is quite difficult to predict with certainty what the investment curve of a specific artist will look like in the future. Also, blue chip artworks, don’t have an explosive upward curve, they already experienced that growth in the past. Their purchases usually represent safe bets, though.
Hotshot collectors are intense and passionate people; extremely skilled and engaging. They will go to great lengths researching artists that are hot right now -both in the emerging and mid-career levels-. These collectors tend to go to all the gallery and museum shows and art fairs, record lots of information, make careful purchases and usually develop great collections over time.
Always looking for intense visual pleasure regardless of the price point of the art piece or the artist background and/or potential career path. Hedonists have art advisors, connections in every gallery and auction house and may get bored of their purchases after a certain period of time. They are also in the lookout for the next big thing but won’t collect any artist in depth or develop a coherent collection over time.
OCD’s are collectors who can’t hold themselves for much time without having to buy a piece of art. Money is not an issue but when it is, they will buy smaller works by emerging artists. They have many pieces in storage and have covered their walls (and in some cases ceilings) with great pieces. It's incredibly hard for an OCD to actually sell a piece from his/her collection and because sometimes purchase decisions are made in haste some of their collections might not look well-curated.
These collectors buy art with a great degree of care. They love to support emerging artists and get quite involved with them. They develop their collection thinking about the greater good of the artists and know they can make a positive impact in their lives. Over time, they will either donate a portion of their collection to a big institution or open their own (tax benefits may drive such decisions). While altruists are quite important for the contemporary art world, they can be very egocentric. At the end of the day, their egos aren't such a bad thing if we see all the positives that they bring with them.