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DETERMINING THE VALUE OF
INVESTING IN ART
INSURING FINE ART
Adam Lindeman's Collecting Contemporary (Taschen, $29.99), composed of conversations with art-world luminaries, addresses the nature of present-day art collecting from just about every imaginable angle.
In the book, Lindeman discusses strategies with some of today's leading art dealers, collectors, consultants and auction-house experts. The following are a list of key lessons imparted by the book to those who want to ascend to the absolute top ranks of collecting:
The 7 Lessons in Adam Lindemann's "Collecting Contemporary"
by Robert Ayers - from ARTINFO.com News & Features
1. You Can't Teach Collecting
What you can do is share experiences and pass on the advice of others. So the reader of this book can learn what pitfalls to avoid, how galleries operate (and for whom they save their best works), how art consultants work, and how the auction houses and museums function. But at the end of the day, collecting can only be driven by personal decision-making. As Lindemann points out in his introduction, "Not everyone is going to like what you like." And as Bernardo Paz, one of the collectors Lindemann interviewed, puts it, what makes a great collection is "independence of mind."
2. Uninformed Collecting Is Almost a Contradiction in Terms
As collectors and dealers have commented repeatedly on ArtInfo, unless you educate yourself in the historical and intellectual contexts in which contemporary artists are working, your decision-making can only be based on guesswork, or-as Lindemann characterizes it-will amount to little more than "I like the color blue."
In fact, so far as he is concerned, people whose enthusiasm for contemporary art is uninformed are no better than those who dismiss it out of ignorance. Not only does the successful collector have to care profoundly about what they are acquiring, they have to care enough to educate themselves to know why they care.
And the reason why this is so important isn't merely so that you will assemble a more satisfying collection, but because:
3. To Collect Contemporary Art Is to Shape Its Direction
For Lindemann-who started out collecting tribal art but discovered that he "missed the excitement of the art and artists of my time"-this is what makes collecting contemporary art genuinely special. At a time when artists' careers are established by market success more than anything else, every single collector (and particularly those with an independent spirit and a willingness to make their own decisions) can contribute to artists' status-and thus to what will come to be seen as the important art of our time. It's a heady prospect.
4. Remember: It's the Art You're Collecting, Not the Artists
Lindemann makes this point somewhat provocatively: He doesn't talk to a single artist in his book. One reason why is simply because he found it impossible to narrow down the whole community of artists to a representative half-dozen. But he also didn't include them because no matter how eloquent, how persuasive, how glamorous an artist might be in talking about his work, unless the actual piece can succeed on its own terms, then it's not really worth acquiring.
5. If You Don't Enjoy the Social Scene that Revolves Around the Art Business, You May Have Problems
While lesson No. 4 stresses that buyers shouldn't focus on an artist's personality, successful collectors are "people persons."
Lindemann observes "the art scene is filled with fascinating, if somewhat mercenary characters." And if you don't like mingling with these types (and/or if they don't like you), you will be at a decided disadvantage.
Indeed, like many of his book's contributors, it is clear that Lindemann derives a palpable excitement from exhibition openings, from benefit dinners and exclusive parties, from jet-setting to Basel and Miami and London, from all the social events where acquaintances are made, recommendations are passed on, deals are done and, very often, collections are built. If you're a stay-at-home wallflower, you'll have to employ someone else to do all this social networking on your behalf-or have to content yourself with an inferior collection.
6. Top Collectors Are Born, Not Made
Reading Lindemann's book, and reflecting on his contributors' comments, it becomes obvious there are a number of innate instincts-not all of them altogether attractive-that are basic to their art-world success. Unfortunately, many of these traits are like a ballerina's body or a sprinter's speed: Either you have them or you don't. Training, education (and, of course, money) can get you only so far.
Being a social animal is only one prerequisite. You also have to enjoy what he calls "the ego trip of possession." You have to get a thrill from putting your money on the line and being proven right in the face of other people's skepticism. You have to be competitive and relentlessly aggressive. And, as a number of Lindemann's contributors suggest, you must have an addictive personality: The best collectors couldn't stop if they wanted to.
7. Collecting Cannot Be (Only) about the Money
A book about collecting, of course, can't ignore the issue of money (facing the book's table of contents page is a big Warhol dollar sign). But Lindemann and his friends take pains to underscore that the best collectors aren't in it for the profits. As gallerist Marc Glimcher points out, "You cannot 'due diligence' your way to having just the right portfolio of art."
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