Great Collectors of Our Time. The title of James Stourton’s fascinating survey of art collecting since the Second World War sounds comprehensive and assured, and rightly so. The second half of the 20th century saw the formation of numerous outstanding private collections of both modern and historical art, and across fields of decorative and fine arts. Guggenheim, Lehman, Mellon, Wrightsman, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Beyeler, Mahon… one could easily go on. These are just a few of the towering figures whose collections and legacies we now associate with major museums and institutions.
But what of collecting today? Are significant collections still being formed by ‘great collectors’? The pace of contemporary art, and the vast prices commanded in even unfashionable disciplines has transformed some art buying into a type of investment that can seem far more financial than cultural. The logic of collecting in well-defined fields has in many places given way to the gathering of artworks and objects from many different periods and in a range of media. This might be said to hark back to a Wunderkammer aesthetic or could be seen as untutored accumulation.
‘Why Collect? Motivation and Meaning’ is the subject of the panel discussion that Apollo will be hosting at this year’s Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair. Please join us at 4pm on Friday 6 June, when I’ll be chairing a discussion between experts Heike Zech, curator of the Gilbert Collection, Charlotte Gere, author and collector, and Jo Baring, curator of the Ingram Collection of modern British art.
Our discussion will touch on the formation of major collections, how today’s collecting habits differ from or continue historical traditions, the changing relation of private collections to the public sphere, and the legacy of private collections in the 21st century. Will this be remembered as an age of great collectors, or one of wealthy art buyers?
‘Why Collect? Motivation and Meaning’ is at the Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair, Friday 6 June, 4pm.