As can be seen in the exhibition at the Grand Palais, in Paris, when Gertrude, Leo and Michel Stein settled in France at the turn of the 20th century, they became Picasso and Matisse’s patrons, buying the artist’s first works. Does this avant-garde mentality and intellectual complicity between collectors and artists still live on today? I consider than now a collector need a desire to live fully with one’s times, to be extremely close to the artists, dialoguing frequently with them about their works and art history, supporting and accompanying them on a long-term basis.
For some collectors, this support means commissioning, lending and exhibiting works of art. Probably, a collector’s outlook may not have changed, but the times have. The Stein’s sphere of influence and intervention was limited to Paris, which was at that time the uncontested capital of art. There was an obvious notion of unity of place. Today if you want to try and see even a fraction of the multitude of creations, you have to travel around going from fairs to biennials and from galleries to auctions.
The general opinion is that for some purchasers, the commercial side to the art market has become pre-eminent, to the extent that it even tarnishes the reputation of collectors. What has undoubtedly changed in recent history is that collections have become a sort of leverage to gain recognition of one’s position in society, or even worse a mean to increase one’s wealth through speculation. In my opinion, these kinds of collector are subverting what could be the true role of a collector: a humanist participating in the great leap forward that is art history.
In spite of the perverse effects of the art market, the collector is still a discover who often spots talent before it is officially recognised by art institutions…and sometimes even before galleries. The collector helps artists to make a name for themselves and allows them to live from their art. The collector must be a defender and an amplifier.
Even a recognised artist can have ups and downs. The collector should be there to help and not just from a financial point of view. If the collector becomes an artist’s patron, he/she participates at every level: production, editing the catalogue, creating networks, helping to find a gallery…There are thousands of ways to help in an artist’s development.
Even if the context has evolved over the last century, the role of the collector remains paramount in the artistic chain. In conclusion, in the collector Michel Poitevin’s words of wisdom. “There is no market without consumers and no creation without the act of purchasing”.