Strategy: Collecting Today


Loïc Millot

Whether working in the banking sector or in technology, one doesn't need to be an expert to start a contemporary art collection. A little curiosity, audacity, and generosity are all that's required. However, there are still too many prejudices surrounding this practice: collecting would be reserved for a circle of enlightened people, a few privileged holders of "good taste"... Thus sanctified, the world of contemporary art prohibits, intimidates, distances us, instead of bringing us together. We then hesitate to take the step of acquisition, an act that is nevertheless easy to accomplish and presents many advantages.

Stimulate artistic production

Like the patron of the arts in the past, the collector is an essential player in the market, alongside the gallerist and the artist. By acquiring an artwork, the collector supports current production, encouraging the artist’s efforts and valuing their creation, thus contributing in the long term to the advancement of their professional career. The collector operates within an economic model that assigns commercial value to an aesthetic object, allowing the artist to be remunerated and to continue their work under good material conditions. In the era of the Internet, the proliferation of forms and mediums in contemporary art - such as painting, video installations, collages, weavings, neons, photography, virtual reality, NFTs, a.o. - reflects a diversity of sensibilities without hierarchy. There is no artwork that cannot find its audience, nor is there an audience that cannot find a work of art that speaks to them.

Claudine Arendt 3
Private Collection

Display one's sensitivity

Collecting art means showcasing an aesthetic object that resonates with one's own sensibility for all to see. The acquisition process is inherently subjective and deeply personal for the collector. Through the selected artwork, the collector assumes a certain viewpoint, takes a stand in the world, and affirms their identity as a sensible and rational individual. The purchase represents the pleasure the collector derives from experiencing the aesthetic object, an emotion that they can share daily with their social circle, other collectors or artists. Furthermore, the collector can participate in the institutional life of museums and art fairs by contributing, if they wish, to the loan or deposit of artwork in their name.

Cultural Capital as an Inheritance

Collecting art allows one to build a material and spiritual heritage to be passed down to future generations. It is a way to fully participate in one's time, seeking out the art of today that will become tomorrow's collective memory of a nation. Would we remember Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) without the collection he started with a few coins? His name is now forever associated with Lisbon and its cultural life. A loan, a donation, or a bequest are all ways to enhance a cultural capital accumulated over a lifetime and share it with a broad audience. The collector is thus an active participant in history, with their activity situated at the crossroads of the past, present, and future.

Private Collection
Private Collection © Louise Schockmel

Well-being in the workplace

Many innovative initiatives have emerged recently in the entrepreneurial field in the Grand Duchy. Whether to shape a company's image or to establish a benevolent environment, a collection can very well serve professional purposes. Arendt & Medernach, for instance, has specialised in contemporary photography and promotes the emergence of young talents through it. Its acquisitions, imbued with the humanist values dear to the company, are exhibited at its headquarters in Kirchberg. The workplace has transformed into a permanent museum dedicated to the sensitivities of our time, while providing employees with a pleasant and meaningful working environment. New coworking spaces have also recently emerged in Brussels, such as Cloud Seven imagined by collector Frédéric de Goldschmidt.

A network of professionals

Within the contemporary art scene, the collector is not alone in facing their choices. On the contrary, they are part of a dynamic and enriching ecosystem on both a personal and social level. Firstly, they can consider the attentive expertise of the gallerist, who accompanies them throughout the acquisition process. But not only that: the gallerist informs, guides, and awakens the collector's curiosity to new artistic proposals through the temporary exhibitions they organize. While relying on their own taste, the collector can refer to the gallerist if needed – a professional whose function is precisely to promote the work of artists. This is also an opportunity to join a community of artists and maintain a privileged and long-term relationship with them. Studio visits are part of the rituals that punctuate the collector's life, allowing them to access behind the scenes and become a complicit witness to the creative process. Another essential aspect of networking is participating in vernissages, as these convivial moments open each show's inauguration, providing an opportunity for market players to come together and share their passion.

Places to be

In addition to the regularly held exhibitions in galleries, there are unmissable events throughout the year. The fairs of Basel (Art Basel), Cologne (Art Cologne), Maastricht (TEFAF), and Paris (FIAC which recently turn into Paris+) are among the most renowned in Europe. Since 2015, the Grand Duchy has had its own international contemporary art fair, which has experienced an irresistible ascent. Founded by Alex Reding, one of Luxembourg's most influential gallerists, the Luxembourg Art Week has made a name for itself in the contemporary scene. Every year in November, a prestigious selection of galleries, institutions, and artist-run spaces come together to represent the best in the world of creativity. The greatest artists gather there, with their latest works in hand. There is something for every format. Every investment. Every sensitivity. Luxembourg Art Week hosted more than 20,000 visitors last year. As Alex Reding himself states, "There are different profiles of collectors. There is the one who makes an impulsive purchase after feeling the emotion of an artwork. Or the one who places their collection at the center of a long-term reflection. It also depends on each one's economic potential or the strategy the collector decides to adopt. In terms of frequency, do you want to acquire a few pieces during the year or do you prefer to bet on an important work? It is essential to know what you want to do with this acquisition and for what purpose it is intended: personal, social, professional? Consider these parameters to start a collection that reflects who you are."