Thoughts on Art Collecting

At Anthony Gunin’s November 2018 iconography show in Brookline, Massachusetts.Photo by Joanna Chow.
  • Art collecting is saying no until what’s left is museum quality.
  • My ideal percentage of income spent on living artists is 100%. Extraneous costs are deterred because of the additional artworks that they would prevent me from buying.
  • The collector should be wary of selling his best stuff, because the privileges unique to ownership are steadily increasing.
  • PLEASE look at the catalogue raisonné of your favorite artist. Were they alive today, what would you have given to help add a few extra chapters to that book? This is the opportunity that presents itself to you with living artists.
  • If you care genuinely about art, there are plenty of opportunities to support unfashionable artists that will garner ridicule and condescension. But when all of these critics are dead, others will step in their place and thank you for caring and helping to bring something into the world that would not otherwise have existed.
  • I’ve said Yes 17 times that I am proud of, and I’ve said No 17 million times that I am proud of.
  • I try as much as possible to avoid buying art that I like at the time of purchase. If I already like it, that means the art is already within the bounds of my conception of what constitutes good art, and therefore those boundaries will never grow to encompass all of reality.
  • I’m playing such a long game, the vast majority of artists I want to work with haven’t even been born yet.
  • I challenge you to spend one year’s worth of income on original art of your own choosing. I don’t care how long it takes, only that you spend this much of your own money. I think this is the only way you can come to understand the value of what you’re buying.
  • Most people don’t have the slightest clue what to buy with their expendable income. If they were wise they would buy something no one else is buying that would make society better. By that one purchase alone they are providing an irreplaceable gift. There is a world of meaning and purpose in that one transaction.
  • You could spend $1 billion and have a terrible collection. You could spend $500 and have museum-quality. The quality of your choices makes all the difference.
  • When you commission the best artists without making any demands, you expedite the process of artists creating that which fulfills them as artists. There is a mutual understanding that all sacrifices of time and hard living are repaid many times over by the legacy that results from such a partnership.
  • I’m desperate to wrangle the narrative of art collecting away from the Larry’s List crowd. You don’t need to be fancy. You don’t need to be fashionable. I’m trying to get the Dirty Jobs crowd to outclass Andrew Carnegie.
  • Getting the best artists on Earth to work on long-term projects is for me the best thing that money can buy. I will work as a dishwasher when I’m 90 years old if I have to to get them more money.
  • Everyone thinks you need a fortune to be a patron of art: NO, you just need to stop spending money on yourself, and start spending money on someone that matters.
  • It seems as though my whole life has been dedicated to disproving the saying, “They don’t make them like they used to.”
  • I look for the existence of brilliant living artists under the pretense that the ones who need the most help, the ones who are the least understood, are the most off-the-charts talented people in their fields, and that this is no coincidence.
  • As a general rule, attempting to collect museum-quality art with extreme frugality will always result in a higher quality collection than someone who can easily afford one.
  • History has shown that the independent patron acting alone and with a good eye is the reason most of the art that we admire today exists.
  • In this age the game of art patronage is maximally competitive. The talent pool is the world population as it ebbs and flows within your lifetime, and posterity will know whether you succeeded or failed in finding the best people available.
  • There is no upper limit to what I want to make happen. It could be 10,000 artists making one artwork per year, for life. It could be a new museum for every capital in the US. All of this sounds easier to me than convincing ONE other person to dedicate their life to art patronage.
  • Tens of millions of people happily contribute to an economy that allows professional sports to exist, and yet people still routinely say that the superstars of professional sports are criminally underpaid. Imagine how much of a difference YOU can make for the superstars of less popular professions with voluntary offers of $1,000, $10,000, or $100,000 for their work.
  • Mission: Identify and support the best living representative of each medium of art on the planet.
  • How can I honor the damaged mosaics of Istanbul? By commissioning new mosaics by Yury Yarin. How can I honor the damaged icons of Moscow? By commissioning new icons by Anthony Gunin. If I do my job right, they will become valuable new creations for students to learn from. Every city has an artistic heritage, and somewhere around the world there is an artist worthy of being it’s heir. These artists need patronage the most.
  • Second-hand masterpieces are guarded by gatekeepers and hearsay. Uncommissioned masterpieces are guarded by a lack of courage and connoisseurship.
  • Don’t go sightseeing if you can help it: Build your own monument. Make it the primary reason someone you don’t know moves to your city.
  • By the time someone else decides it might be a good idea to also commission the artists that I support, it could be too late. I take the initiative immediately, because I don’t take it for granted that anyone will be alive tomorrow.
  • Archaeology is putting some pieces back together. Patronage is putting some pieces back together that haven’t yet been created.
  • It’s great that so much is done to raise up the bottom 50%, but if the top three people in a particular field are not getting any help at all, then that’s a HUGE problem. Sometimes the people who can change the world already have the competence to do so, they just need recognition and assistance just like anyone else.
  • What I am trying to do as a collector is to stand up for artists who have taken matters into their own hands and who have created something not only exquisitely beautiful, but defiant, strong, irreverent, always with a chip on their shoulder. They are always being challenged, there is always someone in a position of authority trying to dismiss them, to belittle them, to laugh at them, but these artists fight back — with the power of their art. I am trying to create a sanctuary of sorts, a quiet stage where all of that negativity is silenced, and where the artists are free to speak for themselves.
  • Patrons must aspire to encyclopedic knowledge of art and materials because great living artists do not cater to your specialty or the fashions of the day. You must rise above yourself to find them on their own terms or not at all.
  • Art restoration would be worthless if patrons didn’t take a chance on artists hundreds of years ago. The secondary art market would be worthless if patrons didn’t take a chance on artists hundreds of years ago. There’s only so much recycling that you can do before patrons need to exercise connoisseurship and spend money on the best living artists.
  • There are always enough world-class artists to create a Renaissance at any time. It is the ignorance and cowardice of would-be patrons that stop the artists in their tracks.
  • Who are the Medici patrons of today? They don’t exist. The responsibility is now yours, when you are ready. Meanwhile the artists are dying.
  • All it takes is one artist and one patron.
  • There are more great artists alive right now than at any point in history. They are currently doing brilliant work in every field imaginable. The means to find and support them all are freely available. If the future could speak to us, museums in 100 years will be kicking and screaming at us to seize the opportunities at hand.
  • I want as many people as will listen to understand what is being lost by not giving artists the support they need in order to flourish: The future is being robbed of some of the greatest works imaginable, because we don’t have the audacity to give artists a chance. The artists need a collecting culture, and collectors need to be patient.