Artists Collecting Art

23, March 2012 · Events / Exhibitions

March 15, the exhibition “Artists Collecting Art” was opened at the Zemack Contemporary Art Gallery in Tel Aviv. Curator: Jan Rauchwerger.

Five artists, five collections/ The exhibition sheds light on a slightly different kind of a collector: the artist/ collector. How does an artist establish a collection? This exhibition enables an introduction with parts of private collections, by five Israeli artists.

Lior Yahel Ohad, in a conversation with Jan Rauchwerger, regarding the role of an artist as an art collector. Love, as the highest value for collecting and the collection as moral repair.

L.Y.O: Art collecting among artists is an intriguing concept by itself, because it provides a different outlook on the complicated relationship between fellow artists.

J.R: You can compare it to people who know how to cook, even experts in cooking- it’s always interesting to know what they eat at home. I once asked Israel Aharoni: “what is your favorite food?” He answered: “my favorite? Just plain, fried eggs.” I think it’s fascinating, what people who live and understand art choose to exhibit at their own homes.

L.Y.O: In fact, how does an artist establish a collection? Is it a matter of a decision or an outcome of a slow, gradual process?

J.R: I don’t believe that artists define themselves as collectors, in advance. Artists collect the art they love and appreciate; what can somehow assist and relate to their own working process. They search for a dialogue, not necessarily a similarity. I presume that subconsciously, artists prefer to collect the art further from their own work, content- wise.

L.Y.O: One can detect a type of competition, arising between known, fellow collectors. Does this competitive aspect exist amongst the artists/collectors? I can imagine that the concept of ‘competition’ is not foreign to them.

J.R: I haven’t stumbled across it, at least not Israel. I recall however, the story about August Rodin and the author Anatole François. They both loved Greek & Roman ancient art, especially the small ‘Tanagra’ figurines. When there was a rumor of merchandise arriving to Paris, Rodin would hurry and buy a whole container, without even opening it. He was afraid that Francois would arrive and buy better quality statues, while he himself will have nothing left to choose from. That, however, was a competition of completely different scale.

L.Y.O: And in the local, contemporary arena?

J.R: Here, I believe, higher value is placed upon discovering an artist; who is yet to succeed, who is yet to be noticed.

L.Y.O: Therefore, your claim is that artists obtain certain discernment?

J.R: Discernment and comprehension. Usually, art collectors gamble based upon the financial value of a piece and perhaps incidentally also like it. Artists, it seems, choose to collect in need of a beneficial energy; they search for ‘soul food’, conversation, company, a kind of security that will allow them to maintain a dialogue. Also, I believe an artist has a natural knack for collecting, which is reflected in ones work.

L.Y.O: Meaning?

J.R: Collecting might substantially affect ones working process; the moment of exposure to another artist’s work.

L.Y.O: Does an artist actually purchase the artwork in the traditional sense, or is it usually a case of work exchange between the artists?

J.R: When it comes to a young artist, it is customary to “give a hand”, to buy work as a gesture of goodwill. Another aspect of purchasing artwork is the artist’s/collector’s ability to shed light on forgotten or unnoticed art; “fringe art”. Eventually, I believe the artists are the ones to determine who ‘real’ artists are. Of course, there are art critics, art dealers and curators. However, I believe that in most cases, artists arbitrate who a fellow artist is.

L.Y.O: Sometimes, it seems that the artists are the “weakest link” for it is almost impossible to ignore the financial aspect in art. I feel that the great collectors eventually control the public opinion; they are the ones providing grants and museum prizes, the ones who discover young emerging artists and bring them forward. From there onwards, it evolves in the hands of galleries, curators, etc.. However, you hold a different opinion- you claim that it all begins with a group of artists.

J.R: What must be realized, regarding an artist’s taste and choice, is that it’s not determined by a fleeting trend or fashion. During the 70’s, when I arrived in Israel, I told Joseph Zaritsky that I have seen his latest artwork- beautiful water colors. When I discovered their price was much lower than his earlier, very expensive pieces, I asked him: why is there such a big difference? In my opinion, his later work was better. He was very surprised to hear that. It was also a case of a certain trend; the collectors have persuaded him that his earlier work was better. Only after I explained elaborately why I think his later artwork excelled his previous work, he agreed with me. However, it was too late to change it.

L.Y.O: How does this work, in the commercial sense? In most cases, big collections are donated to museums or sold at public auctions, at the end of an art collector’s life. I wonder, how does it work for artists/ collectors?

J.R: Naturally, the question of who you leave it to, arises: to the children? And what will they do with it? Will they appreciate it? I mean, they are not obliged to like it. Then, there’s the idea of parting with the collection, finding another person who shares a similar taste and is willing to invest in it. It is reassuring to know, the collection will remain in the hands of someone who loves and appreciates it; who will know what to do with it.

L.Y.O: Certainly, there is utmost importance placed on the sentimental value, rather than the financial one.

J.R: Yes, sentimentality and continuity; also, knowing how to technically take care of an important collection and to continue raising public awareness of relatively unknown artists. During my conversations with Lea Nickel we spoke of Aharon Giladi and Chaim Gliksberg, who have been forgotten, it pained us tremendously, as artists, people and friends whom we really loved. There’s even an unpleasant feeling while receiving feedback and public appreciation, because you wish to share it with the ones who also deserve it.

L.Y.O: For this exhibition, five known artists with diverse art collections were selected. How, in fact, was the choice made? What is the connecting thread between all the collections?

J.R: The only thing they all share in common is their sentimental value, the great difficulty to part with the artwork, even for a temporary show. You can see the deep connection each artist shares with his own collection. Additionally, I go back to the theme of non appreciated artists by the Israeli audience. This is my most important goal, to continue protecting the ones who are no longer with us; I feel this theme exists on a subconscious level.

L.Y.O: Can you point out one or several important & extraordinary artwork, out of all the chosen collections?

J.R: From the collection of Ofer Lellouche- work by Jim Dine; from the collection of Lea Nikel- work by Avraham Naton and Chaim Gliksberk; artwork by Henri Shelesnyak from Dorchin’s collection. From my collection, I exhibit artwork by Vladimir Weisberg, my teacher; twenty years have passed since his last show in Israel. Also, there are marvelous work by Giladi and a work by Michael Sgan Cohen from the Tartakover collection.

Artists – collectors:

Jacob Dorchin/ David Tartakover/ Lea Nikel/ Ofer Lellouche / Jan Rauchwerger

Works by artists:

Orna Tumarkin
Ori Reisman
Avigdor Arikha
Avraham Naton
Chaim Gliksberg
Menashe Kadishman
Herzl Emanuel
Mordechai Rauchwerger
Naomi Smilansky
Arthur Fonvizin
Vladimir Weisberg
Aharon Giladi
Jennifer Bar Lev
David Reeb
Michael Sgan- Cohen
David Zundelovich
Pini Zinovich
Leo Ray
Uri Lifshitz
Yair Garbuz
Henri Shelesnyak
Moshe Kupferman
Jim Dine
Georg Hecht
Nancy Spero
Raffi Lavie
And more….

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