A Contemporary Art Story: Artists and Collectors by Pamela Beck

Mothers and teens, artists and collectors, this is their story: inextricably connected, eternally annoyed.

Norman Rockwell

by Pamela Beck

I’ve known of friendships between collectors and the artists they collect, where everything is simpatico. There’s a meeting of the minds whenever they talk and the collectors get first dibs on the artists’ new work.

But that’s not the tale of this reporter, no. More often what I’ve seen resembles the ongoing turf war between mothers and teenage daughters. Here’s a peek into these rich and often adversarial-by-nature territories.

It starts out:
“I’m interested in your new work and can’t wait to see it, “ says the collector to the artist. (”I’m excited that you found a college you like and hope you get accepted,” says the mother to the daughter.)
That turns into: “When are you finally going to finish that new work?” (“When did you say that admission application deadline is?”)
And ends up: “I can’t believe it’s taking you so long; how hard can it be to complete? (“I can’t believe it’s taking you so long; how hard can it be to complete?”)

In any relationship where somebody wants something from you, you’re probably going to resent being told how quickly to do it. And whether it’s an artist or teenager pressed into service, the response is likely to be a major eye roll coupled with colorful unprintable responses that signal “don’t push me.”

Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell, "The Connoisseur", 1962 The Saturday Evening Post, January 13, 1962 (cover) Oil on canvas mounted on board 37 3/4 x 31 1/2 in. Private collection

In the case of an artwork, a personal, complicated act of unique invention has occurred that can’t be punched out on a time sheet for an impatient collector. (The teenager parallel stops here, however. If you’re reading this high school seniors, punch the damn timesheet; the admissions office could care less about your aversion to deadlines.)

When the artwork is finally done, the artist and collector meet again. They exchange pleasantries, but their true heated feelings float above their heads like visible thought bubbles. The collector expects the artist to miraculously distill the abstract process of creation into explanations that will enlighten the collector and rationalize the purchase of this long awaited work of art.

But by this time, the artist, protective of the art and irritated by the collector, would rather donate the work to an overseas children’s orphanage or at least, find a more sophisticated collector. The collector, at this point, often feels the artist is acting entitled or suffers from delusions of grandeur. And what’s more, the collector thinks, the artist should take less money. After all, the artist gets to paint all day, and in comfortable clothes too. What’s to complain about?

But then, they both eye the artwork. The artist sees that the collector really does like it and can buy it on the spot. The collector sees the artist may have a Napoleon complex but the work is really good, so who cares? The artwork wins. It gets sold and all is good until the next round begins again.

Mothers and teens, artists and collectors, this is their story: inextricably connected, eternally annoyed.

For more information on Pamela, visit http://srxq.blogspot.com

8 thoughts on “A Contemporary Art Story: Artists and Collectors by Pamela Beck”

  1. Dear Pamela, I just wanted to let you know that I am enjoying your articles. Very insightful, different and interesting. All good things, Deborah Martin

  2. The above article shows a nice transition which takes place in all forms which often starts with opposing agendas even though the objective is the same. Once we focus on our similarities rather than differences it all vanishes. It would be great if we can remember the above which Pam writes so eloquently and succinctly.

  3. This article reveals the social give and take that occurs in all relationships–business and personal.
    Maybe it is these conversations that are the ” real” work of art. Also, enjoyed the comparison of the mother/daughter duo interaction with the artist/collector.

  4. Fascinating connection– practical, candid, cleverly observed.
    Enjoyed this read and this writer.

  5. I’m enjoying this writer’s series of articles that emphasize the relational push and pull between artist and collector. Getting, or owning a work of art doesn’t mean the owner “gets” it and that must be an uncomfortable feeling for a collector to live with a work and be uncertain of its meaning.

  6. What an intersting analogy!! I enjoy the humorous thread in Pamela’s articles. Look forward to reading more articles by this writer.

  7. I’m enjoying Pamela’s viewpoint on the artist/collector dynamic. She’s telling a part of the story that we don’t usually consider — the eternal push-pull between the one who makes art and the one who has the desire and the means to purchase it.

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