‘It Just Spoke to Me’: 5 Collectors Remember Their First Artwork Purchases

Collectors Clara Xing, Jens Faurschou, and others share the memories of their first artwork purchases—and what the work means to them today.

Clara Xing in front of Marc Chagall’s Fleurs ou Le bouquet champêtre. Courtesy of Clara Xing.

The passion for art collecting ignites with just one work—but the stories of these first artwork purchase are always unique. A collector might make their first-ever purchase on an impulse, after long deliberation, or at the advice of an advisor. But, whatever the circumstances, the first purchase is one that art collectors rarely forget. And this work often holds outsize importance, informing and shaping the collection that forms in its wake. Over the dozens of interviews with collectors we’ve done this year, here are a few “first artwork” stories we’re still thinking about.

 

Roya Khadjavi

Ori Gersht, Untitled (Poppy) (2004). Courtesy of Roya Khadjavi.

Ori Gersht, Untitled (Poppy) (2004). Courtesy of Roya Khadjavi.

“An Ori Gersht photograph of a poppy field on an English beach, which I gifted to my daughter. It was the first piece I collected when I was just starting to learn about contemporary art. A friend of mine who was an art consultant took me on many trips to galleries and museums so I could form an aesthetic. It was an impulsive purchase. I connected with it because it’s romantic.”

 

Dow Kim 

Marc Chagall, Les fiancés à l'horloge (1965). Courtesy of Dow Kim.

Marc Chagall, Les fiancés à l’horloge (1965). Courtesy of Dow Kim.

“Like many occurrences in life, it was happenstance that led to the purchase of my first significant painting in 1997. At that time, I didn’t know much about the art market but was aware of big-name artists, such as Monet, Picasso, Renoir, and Chagall. I was living in Tokyo back then when a colleague alerted me that a seller was looking to unload a number of paintings, including works by Picasso and Chagall. Through that opportunity, and with no previous experience in buying original art, I dove in and bought a classic 1965 Chagall oil painting, Les fiancés à l’horloge.”

 

Clara Xing

Numbered JUN JARDINIÈRE in purplish glaze.

“The first time I got involved in art collecting was when I entered an auction house eight years ago and there was an exhibition preview. That was the first time I touched Song dynasty porcelain. I will never forget the shock I had that day, that the ancient Chinese people from a thousand years ago had created something so elegant. I later learned that it came from a rare batch of high-quality Song porcelain that was in the collection of the Japanese collector Linyushanren. I remember that when I held the porcelain in my hands, I felt for the first time the unique aura conveyed by the objects, which is actually what we call Song Yi (“the spirit of Song”). From today’s point of view, the Song dynasty was a very avant-garde historical era. Western abstraction and minimalist aesthetics already appeared in China during the Song dynasty, but conceptually different from Western minimalism, which is a process of subtraction, while Song dynasty minimalism is subtraction made into addition. It was with that one chance encounter with Song porcelain that collecting entered my life. I was also fortunate enough to collect my first porcelain piece, a numbered Jun jardinière in a purplish glaze.”

 

Jens Faurschou 

Balder Olrik, Untitled (1985). Courtesy of Jens Faurschou.

Balder Olrik, Untitled (1985). Courtesy of Jens Faurschou.

“Danish artist Balder Olrik’s painting Untitled from 1985, which we still own. It was around $500 at the time, and a work I would never like to sell. It just spoke to me immediately.”

 

Jordan Schnitzer

Arlene Schnitzer. Courtesy of Jordan Schnitzer.

Arlene Schnitzer. Courtesy of Jordan Schnitzer.

“After my mother, Arlene Schnitzer, opened the Fountain Gallery of Art in 1963 in Portland, Oregon, I started getting art for my birthdays, Hanukkah, and other events. But my first purchase was June 23, 1965. I bought a small painting, a study by Portland artist Louis Bunce called Sanctuary. It was $75 but with the family discount I had to pay $60. So, I paid $5 a month out of my allowance. But if I ever missed a payment, I knew my mother could foreclose because my bedroom was next to my parent’s bedroom! I’ve had that work with me ever since.”

 

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