At a recent interactive session, curator Amit Jain stressed the need to understand art, visit galleries and go on art walks
Art curator Amit Jain, who was in town recently, presented an informal lecture on the secrets of collecting. The first slide of his presentation read — “There are no secrets”. That set the tone for his tongue-in-cheek, hour-long interactive session about collecting art and his professional experiences of curating art. His stint at the Devi Art Foundation and the Savara Foundation for the Arts shaped Amit’s eye for the craft. To the gathering at Apparao Galleries, surrounded by Devdutt Pattanaik’s sketches of mythological characters, Amit said, “The first thing you need to know before buying a piece of art is ‘are you a collector or an investor?’.” An investor looks at the kind of returns a piece will fetch at some point in the future, perhaps five, 10 or 20 years later. A collector, on the other hand, will want to wake up to his art acquisitions and look at them and be surrounded by them.
“It is also important to budget your investments,” Amit explained, narrating the inspiring tale of Dorothy and Herb Vogel, civil servants living frugally in a one bedroom apartment, who managed to put together what is considered the greatest collection of art of their time in the U.S. “Not only did they donate their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art so it could go to the public at no cost, they also started a programme and donated 2,500 works of art — 50 works to 50 States across the U.S.,” he said. Amit stressed that “if you are collecting art, knowing your legacy and making a plan to ensure that the pieces you buy will, at some point, come back to society and will serve some purpose, are important”.
“Never assume art is about money and never write off a gallery,” he added. What stood out at the lecture, though, were his unconventional ideas. “A lot of people think buying art means only a canvas or an installation, but I would say that if you are just starting out and are young, there’s nothing wrong with buying digital prints. So what if there are a hundred prints?”
If you are a new collector, one way to give your interest direction is to add depth to your collections. “Have themes, and collect accordingly — people, landscape, erotica… This way, your collection will gain value. The most important thing, though, is to educate oneself. Visit galleries, lectures and go on art walks, train your eye to understand art. Buy things that you have an emotional reaction to — always,” Amit said.
What is it that drives people to collect, particularly if they aren’t rich — such as the Vogels? “You can never say why someone collects. It might have started slowly or with one piece that they may have reacted to, but they continue going back to it because art changes your life forever, for the better,” he said and recounted his own experience of picking up a piece that suddenly became available when he wasn’t so financially sound, having just quit his job. “I saw it and I had to buy it. I wake up in the morning and I look at it hanging on my wall; something I have wanted ever since I was a kid, it charges me up. It makes me want to go out there and do something. That’s what art does to you,” he concluded.