The collector as artist and critic


Like artists, collectors take a lot of crap for their personal tastes. It takes a certain kind of bravery to buy a piece of art and display it unapologetically in your home. It’s the same kind of bravery it takes to create it in the first place.

Think about it. When an artist shows his work to the world and puts a price tag on it he is making a value statement about the nature of his work. “I made this, it has value, it deserves appreciation.” The collector confirms this value when he buys it. And he will defend his purchase if friends and relatives questions its value and his judgement. “What you paid 2000 $ for that? You could have bought new golf clubs and a steak dinner for the family you nut!” You could even consider the act of buying to be the completion of the long process of transforming a cheap canvas into a work of art.

I strongly suspect this is why such a disproportionate amount of paintings are of sails in the sunset and pretty pastures with a few sheep in them or abstract pieces titled “Untitled”. It’s safe. Safe to paint, safe to appreciate them. If you own a glow in the dark fluorescent painting of a penis with a few swastikas thrown in for good measure it will surely raise more questions about your person than a painting of a golden sunset over a pond. Other than that I make no judgement of which is better but in this instance I’d go with the sunset if I had to chose. Art communicates something about who we are or at least who we would like to be.

Odd paintings make bold a statement about the owner and the creator alike. It seems that the only thing that will mitigate the boldness of this statement is universal recognition from critics and art historians. Once in the history books, art that was once controversial no longer is. Art that once spawned outrage can suddenly be sold as cheap posters and displayed in living rooms of ordinary people who care less about de-constructing reality than they do about covering the stain on the wall.

The reverse is also true. When the academic work of the 19th century became unfashionable, displaying it became an act of defiance against the new dogma of the avant garde. And we couldn’t have that, could we? And sure enough, many museums were suddenly too embarrassed to show academic paintings and put them in storage in a basement somewhere in a desperate attempt to keep up with the times. Thus unwittingly contributing to the devaluation of their collection.

But that’s how it goes… What is considered good, and socially acceptable art will change over time much like the preferred skirt length in fashion. Change is necessary and essential. In art, in society and in life.

This is why I am truly grateful that there are still people in this world who can look anyone in the eye and say. “Yes, I like it” without consulting an expert. Not just when it comes to art but in all aspects of life. These are my people. Thanks for existing.

Cheers, Richard Vännström

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Independence… for artists?


A few years ago something important occurred to me. Being a painter shouldn’t involve this much bullshit! The bullshit I’m referring to is of course everything the contemporary artist is supposed to do… except making art.

Marketing, organising exhibitions and “networking” whatever that is… I never quite figured that one out. As far as I understand “networking” is pretending to be someone’s friend if they are in a position to further you career? What normal people used to call being a fake piece of shit. I could be wrong though. I told you I’m not good at this.

Anyway it wasn’t enjoying myself so I decided that peddling my wares at the kind of venues that would actually allow me to exhibit without knowing someone “important” just wasn’t worth it and I semi-retired from my semi-professional career as an artist. I kept painting though. Painting for myself, painting for fun. Now and then old customers and people who had seen my work in other people’s homes would seek me out and buy something. Just enough to keep the ball rolling… and I wasn’t doing any “networking” at all.

This happened often enough to make me doubt the necessity of self-promotion and sucking up to non-artists in positions of power. What if I could cut out the middleman and suck up to the people who actually buy paintings instead? After all I like collectors, a lot more than most gallery owners. Collectors give me money their hard earned money, and we like the same art.

We share the same madness. I think most collectors are basically artists who were sent to business school by their parents.

That’s why I have built Hopefully I can keep a bigger piece of a smaller pie while offering the collector more pie for his money. I may be naive but it’s very difficult for me to see the downside. Everyone likes pie right? If I can get to know some cool people in the process that’s great too.

So, if you see anything you like, I have made it real easy to get it. Just like buying a book or a new computer. No need to go to a dark, dank hole in the wall in some awful part of town and ask for the “secret” price when you need more art in your life. You buy, I ship. If you change your mind you can return it. Same as every other thing you ever bought. The way it should be.

Richard Vännström

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