The wandering art collectors

The wandering art collectors

The art hype this weekend is focused on Miami where the Art Basel Miami Beach (or ABMB for short) takes place. What makes art fairs so important and attractive? Considering that these mega events are relatively young, it is interesting to understand their power of attraction. Let’s take ABMB for example. This may be the anchor fair this weekend in Miami but another 20 (!) art and design fairs are taking place at the same time. 5 Days, 1,087 galleries from all over the world and a dedicated group of collectors and art lovers from around the globe that obediently show up. This happens not once, but four times a year in different locations with many other cities trying to make the bill and join the game. The big four are the Armory show in New York in March, Art Basel (in Basel) in June, Frieze art fair London in October and back to ABMB in December.

There are many more. Frieze will have its New York debut in May and it will be interesting to see when the satellite fairs will take place – will they satellite round the Armory Show or will they join the newcomer. Which stellar shines brighter?

After a decent mileage through various art fairs I can tell you that they are very similar. More or less the same galleries and the same audience. But yet, the serious collectors cannot afford to miss any of them Why?

The rational behind these art fairs is simple: Lets bring together all the best art that is being created right now around the world and invite people to see it in one place. Let’s throw in top level VIP treatment including chauffeured cars, cocktail parties, VVIP views and parties and you get a hoard of private jets clogging up the local airport. But that is not the most important attraction.

Art collecting is mostly a soloist affair. One’s collection is private and collectors do not necessarily know each other. These events are power spectacles – who is included in the VIP list, who gets first choice and who is willing to pay the prices… They enable high scale power mingling and enhance competition – which is also excellent for business.. Being considered a VIP means belonging to an exclusive elite group that all art collectors want to be a part of.

Although the title “art collector” has developed an aura that has gained social capital, at the top of the pyramid are the IMPORTANT art collectors. What makes an art collector important is the artists he collects, where he buys, how much he spends on art and who loans artworks from his collection. Being seen and of course, being invited to the right parties, confirms the status of the art collector as part of the elite group of IMPORTANT collectors and unlike Groucho Marx – they definitely will be happy to belong to this club that will have them as a member. So they will keep wandering either to maintain their position or to improve it.