How Far Would You Go to Get the Perfect Artwork? We Asked Young Art Collectors How They Landed Their Most Elusive Trophies
Young collectors are embracing the thrill of the chase.
As any art collector will tell you, once you catch the collecting bug, it doesn’t leave you. But a new generation of collectors is taking a variety of novel approaches to track down the works they want, often going to wildly impractical or time-consuming lengths to land elusive trophies. Technology has accelerated the dissemination of images, exposing the Instagram generation to an unprecedented number of artworks and artists; at the same time, millennial are accustomed to being able to shop on-demand, at the click of a button. The result is a new crop of collectors who are fortunate enough to have the time, resources, and ability to buy art—and are more determined than ever to chase after what they want.
Michael Xufu Huang
Occupation: Co-founder of M WOODS Museum, Beijing
Collects: Amalia Ulman, Yngve Holen, Nicolas Party, Austin Lee, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, and Pamela Rosenkranz
“Over the past several years, Amalia Ulman and I have built a strong working relationship. DIS invited her to participate in Berlin Biennial 9, and she and I both felt this was pivotal moment for career. I covered much of the production fees for her project there and acquired one of the works from the show.
I think buying an artwork is only part of the process of building a collection. You have to be there to support artists throughout their careers. Our endeavors at the museum are focused on bridging Eastern and Western cultural spheres through exhibitions and educational videos that are easily accessed by young Chinese viewers, and we think this contributes to the visibility and value of an artist’s career.”
Occupation: MBA student
Collects: EJ Hill, Derek Fordjour, Hank Willis Thomas, Jordan Casteel, Jennifer Packer, Mickalene Thomas, Lorna Simpson, Theaster Gates, Derrick Adams
“I went to Yale at the same time as Jennifer Packer. She was an MFA student and I was an undergraduate. When I was a senior, went to the art school open studios and completely fell in love with her work, but was too shy to say anything.
We graduated that same year from different programs and both moved to New York. By chance, I saw her walking in my neighborhood one day in Manhattan, but again I was too shy to approach her. A couple weeks go by and I see her on the street in a different neighborhood and I finally brought up that I love her work and she was so open and kind, and we organized a studio visit.
It became this year-long conversation and dialogue around her work, so the piece that I have from her was the culmination of a long process. It felt like fate—what are the chances of running into her twice in Manhattan within a few weeks? The amount of time that I spent learning about her practice and her story made my connection to the work stronger.”
Occupation: Business development, Google
Collects: Raymond Pettibon, Alex da Corte, Chris Succo, and Daniel Arsham
“There was a piece that I saw at a charity auction in 2012 that I missed out on, and it always haunted me. Two years later, I saw the artist at an event and told her that I missed this work that I really wanted, and ended up commissioning a similar one from her directly.
I never thought that would be a possibility and it seemed like an extreme thing to do at the time, but I actually ended up getting the work, and I think I paid a lot less.
When I fall in love with something, it never really leaves me—even if it’s years later, I feel like sometimes I have to have it. I have a tough time letting go, and I’ll constantly look for those pieces and artists.”
Maria Baibakova. Photo: Michael Bowles/Getty Images for Maria Baibakova.
Collects: Louise Lawler, Barbara Kruger, Cui Jie, Eliza Douglas, Mernet Larsen, Ida Barbarigo
“I mainly collect women artists, and my philanthropic work as chair of the Artemis Council for women artists at the New Museum keeps me engaged and discovering new artists all the time. As we do a lot of studio visits, I tend to meet the artists whose work I collect in person, and this familiarity makes them feel more comfortable with me owning their works, even when there are wait lists at galleries. I try to keep a balance between collecting works by emerging voices, as well as by the pioneers of feminism in the art world!”
Occupation: Vice President of Business Development for the Huntington Learning Center
Collects: Margaret Lee, Loie Hollowell, Brendan Fernandes, Elsa Hansen
“For more than a decade, I have been immersed in art and have built relationships with all those within the art ecosystem, from artists to curators, dealers to collectors. My collection is mostly contemporary and includes works by many living artists, some of whom I have developed personal relationships with. For example, I hosted a dinner for Margaret Lee at the Guggenheim Museum, purchased works of hers from various shows and art fairs, and included her work in shows that I’ve curated or been involved in. Brendan Fernandes is another great example: he and I are friends and we support each other. He donates to causes I’m involved in and I collect his work. I first came across Elsa Hansen through a dealer who is a dear friend. I purchased a work by her at her first show in NYC many years ago and she currently has a museum show up now that my work is included in. I was offered a Hollowell work because the dealer I’ve worked with for years knows that I support artists and do not ‘flip’ works at auction. Before acquiring the work, I met the artist and did a studio visit with her to understand her practice more. I think these relationships have helped me understand the fabric of this ecosystem and continue to help guide me as I grow within it.”
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