art collecting, the 21st century way

“Of course, collecting is more than just buying objects. It is a disease with no known cure.”  -Guy Trebay, for the New York Times, on Eli Broad and art collecting.

Is art collecting a disease? That’s a bit hyperbolic. An obsession? Maybe. An adventure? Absolutely. Potentially heartbreaking? That too. If art collecting is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

francesca woodman photo of sloane and the sun

Nowadays there are a ton of ways to go about collecting art. You’ve still got your high-end galleries, your mega art fairs and your offshoot fairs, and within the last few years, a whole slew of art and e-commerce startups have emerged for purchasing art online. There’s Artspace, which cleverly partners with art museums and galleries to give their back storage a second chance to make it on a collector’s wall. (And it is an impressive roster of artists–Richard Tuttle, Jenny Holzer, Tomma Abts–can you guess my aesthetic?). Then there’s Paddle8, run by an ambitious group of former auction house employees, as an invite-only website featuring online exhibitions curated  by artists like Marina Abramovic. Upping the ante, last month they partnered with Nada Art Fair in Miami, giving collectors early access to works being sold at the fair. The galleries who listed their works on Nada Art Fair must have done well, as rumour has it there are more art fair partnerships to come for Paddle8. (This could be very exciting, and throws a whole other wrench in the regular red-dot-but-has-it-truly-sold art fair scandal. So much drama.)

Catering to a markedly different audience is Artsicle, which has taken the “Netflix approach” to renting art online, (generally by young MFA’s), while the mega-invested and much buzzed about Art.sy has linked up with some pretty heavyweight galleries (museums are next), and is attempting to classify art into genes and help users discover their tastes, and link up to galleries where they might actually purchase a work that suits them. (An ambitious project that if pulled off is really going to be something extraordinary, for collectors, novices, educators, and students alike.) The collecting landscape is changing, but you know what hasn’t changed yet? The delivery. Remember back in October when I mentioned that Francesca Woodman I’d purchased at FIAC? Well, that photograph has gotten a lot of mileage since then, from London, to Paris, to London again, to some regional office in the US of A, and finally to me in NY. Yes, yes, dear readers, I am happy to say that after some shipping delays and snags at customs, my photograph has finally arrived. Color me excited. Now I just have to decide where to hang it, but that, my friends, is a challenge I am very much looking forward to facing.

notes on francesca woodman

francesca woodman is one of my fave photographers, ever. she produced over 800 photographs over a very brief lifetime (only ~120 or so have been published). woodman’s portfolio stems largely from her years at RISD, before her death at the age of 22. this is some of the most impressive student work out there, and critics, collectors, and historians alike agree that she likely would have produced a tremendous body of work as a mature artist.

i wrote about fw in college for a seminar on contemporary female artists and have been hooked ever since; i find her use of space and her play with patterns, texture and materiality really wonderful, esp. how she played with long exposure times to blur bodies in with their surroundings. there’s a lot of feminist criticism on this (some good, some bad), and her work is also often read with a heavily psychanalytic lens (to varying degrees of success). visually, her photos are dark, funny, playful and whimsical, sometimes slightly disturbing but somehow oddly sweet.

this year marks the 30th anniversary of her death, so expect big retrospectives coming to a museum near you. the san francisco moma kicks it off this saturday, and seriously, if you are around, you should really go. the show will hit the east coast in january at the guggenheim in 2012, so i’m happy to say i’ll be able to check her stuff out come winter when i’m back in the states. in the meantime, i can content myself with a little photograph i bought last week at the fiac au grand palais. (!!!!!) the fiac is paris’s alternative to london’s frieze. it’s older (some say wiser), larger, has a greater mix of modern and contemporary, as well as a greater range of prices (says the humble newbie collector). like frieze, neon was a big hit at the fair. unlike frieze, there was also a lot of video and, yep, photography. let’s just say my heart skipped a beat when i saw the francesca woodman’s on display.

i won’t flash mine, but here are some of my fave francesca woodman photos: