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Tommi Brem on Independent Collecting

March 26, 2010 Art Thoughts No Comments

I thought this was an interesting take on collectors sharing information.

Where is everybody? And what’s the point in finding them?

Tommi Brem, photo credit Manuel Wagner

When you start collecting contemporary art and happen to do so without being an art professional of some sort before, it can be very difficult to meet people. Not gallery owners, because it is their job to get to know you, in a way. Also not artists, curators, consultants, historians, and the many disciples usually trailing the art circus. All of them are open to meet people, it is almost as if that were part of their job description.

What’s more difficult is to meet other collectors. It does sound absurd, doesn’t it? However, collecting art might be the one hobby you can spend years practicing without ever getting to know too many other people who share the same passion. Music, sports, even literature … in most other fields the “fans” tend to meet like-minded people. A social network for collectors seems to be a rare novelty.

Independent Collectors was born out of this seeming lack of a dedicated, international community for collectors of contemporary art. The idea was to provide collectors not only with a secure arena that excludes promotion by galleries and artists, but also with a set of online tools to manage private collections, to share them with people (if the collector wishes) and to meet like-minded people from all over the world. Despite the preoccupation that collectors actually didn’t want to talk to each other, many welcomed the initiative. Today, over 2,800 members from over 80 countries have joined the initiative.

It’s not only the young collectors, as one might suspect, but all those who wish to exchange insights and who are interested in a more transparent, more dynamic and also more social form of collecting. It’s also not only those buying young artists, as the works uploaded by the members show: Unique works by Kippenberger, Richter and Prince, just to drop a few names, that’s serious stuff, even by the Forbes ranking standards.

Fiona Banner's "Book 1/1", 2009

I personally started collecting in June 2008, when the platform was launched. Basically because I had an interest in art before and because I work for Independent Collectors. I experienced both the difficulty of making contact with collectors in real life and the benefits of a community for these people. At fairs and in galleries I meet the “officials”, and online I get in contact with collectors who like similar things  from all five continents. I don’t have to go to Basel to be inspired. Ten minutes online might give me more great suggestions than I can deal with in a month. And of course, visiting a fair is now also a chance to meet all those “virtual peers”.

Troels Carlsen's "Entirely Imaginable #2"

What’s great about it, from my perspective as a very young collector, is that I have access to  many people who are more than willing to tell me why they love an artist or a certain work, not why I should like it. They don’t recite awards and prestigious names, they share their excitement, not caring whether I agree or not. That’s one reason why I think it’s important and worthwhile to connect with other collectors.

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Tommi Brem (33) is working for Independent Collectors. He sees himself as “young collector” interested mostly in conceptual contemporary art. His growing collection includes works and editions by Karin Sander, Fiona Banner, Kris Martin, Frank Kozik and Troels Carlsen. You can follow his experiences as a collector in his blog “Collecting under public surveillance” (http://blog.independent-collectors.com).

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