Collecting the Uncollectable : complete transcript

November 22nd, 2011 | Posted by Elaine in art | discussion | event | slideshow

From left: Market Project's David Kefford, Henry Little from the CAS, artist Michael Pinsky and Bob Lee from The Collective

Collecting the Uncollectable Panel discussion hosted by Market Project at Aid & Abet, Cambridge on the 30th of June 2011. Chair: David Kefford. Speakers: Bob Lee from The Collective, visual artist Michael Pinsky, and Henry Little from the Contemporary Art Society. Download PDF of this transcript.

David Kefford
Just before we start I just need to send an apology on behalf of Paul Hobson, who unfortunately is unable to join us this evening. However, we do have Henry Little here from the Contemporary Art Society who is going to be filling his shoes. Tonight’s discussion really focuses on the challenges and opportunities for both artist and collectors, who make and buy work that doesn’t necessarily fit the traditional view of art works as unique and self-contained objects. For those that don’t know me my name is David Kefford, I am a visual artist, I am a member of Market Project and also one of the co-founders of Aid and Abet, along with C J Mahony and Sarah Evans.

I am delighted to be joined this evening by a panel of invited guest speakers. We’ve got Bob Lee from The Collective in London a group of people who purchase and share contemporary art work together. We’ve got Michael Pinsky, a visual artist, mainly making work to commission through residencies in the public realm and Henry Little from the Contemporary Art Society, a membership organisation which exists to develop public collections of contemporary art in the UK.

I just wanted to kind of contextualize this event by giving a bit of a back ground to both Market Project and Aid and Abet and I have down loaded information off our web site. I’ll sort of paraphrase what we’ve written.

Market Project is a collaborative initiative by eight artists and a curator who are all based in the east of England. We are researching and shearing new method or opportunities for artistic professional and economic development. We have a specific focus on constructive engagement with economic and revenue making aspects of the art world. A large part of our work will be a series of public forum events such as tonight and we are exploring the ways in which artist can make a more sustainable living through their practice. Market Project members are: Annabel Dover, Laura Earley, Julie Freeman, Alistair Gentry, Helen Judge, myself, Annabelle Shelton, Elaine Tribley and Martha Winter. We are supported through a grant from the arts from the Arts Council England.

Aid and Abet is an artist run contemporary art space, as I said it has been co-founded by myself, Sarah and CJ. We are a peer organisation supporting regional, national and international artists, in the production and presentation of contemporary art across all art forms. Aid and Abet functions with supportive organisation to provide a creative platform and out-let for artistic practise, with a particular interest in, cross disciplinary, self-initiated and DIY approaches and the utilization of, diverse methods of distribution. In a complimentary edition to our activities Aid and Abet also aims to develop the appreciation of contemporary art by making a range of works available for sale, on an on-going base. And I think most of you have probably seen a collection of those tonight, which is a precursor to our next project Art is a Full time Hobby, which opens tomorrow at mid-day, so back to tonight’s proceedings.

In terms of format each of our guest speakers will now introduce themselves and their roll within the art world and their personal experience of working with collectors, collections and artists. And then we are going to open this up to more of a Q and A, style session, where we invite you to ask questions to the panel, and any issues you might have in relation to some of the topics we’ve been talking about this evening. Does that sound reasonable? OK, I will hand over now to Michael.

Michael Pinsky
Ok, well we only have fifteen minutes each so I thought I would just focus on one project. My practice has evolved in such a way, that my practice is more closely aligned to service industries, than the sales industry and it’s not because I never wanted sell anything, it’s just no one’s ever wanted to buy anything. About twenty years ago I had a photography exhibition, where my old school teacher bought photographs about that size and then after that I sold a couple of other things, maybe for about four, or five hundred pounds each and that was about it. That being said, I do completely live off my practice as an artist, so there is obviously other ways than selling actual objects and its interesting how you don’t necessarily make a choice in these things, it’s just you gravitate to one sphere or another.

The trouble I have with making things, is making things is great, if you sell them. If you don’t sell them then you’ve got a big bill paying for a garage, or a lockup to store them all in. I don’t know if your all from around here that’s not such a big issue possibly, but I tell you, in the middle of London that is an enormous issue.   When I have had grants to do exhibitions and I thought, great, this is a fantastic opportunity to make an enormous sculpture. And it tours for two or three years, and you’re dreading the day it’s going to come home. And you’re phoning up galleries, please, please, take this, I don’t care, I’ll pay you to take this because I don’t want it to come home, and then it comes home and you’re working out what to do with a four point six meter long sculpture. It’s a big problem and I don’t know how many of you have the same problem. As long as you sell your stuff its fine, you make it, you sell it and then some sort of rich collector, or not rich collector, possibly in your case, poor collector, has it and stores it for you, rather than you storing your own works. So I think that’s quite key. So I have gravitated to work that is more performative, more ephemeral, more commission based, well not exactly commission based but where people kind of commission me to think about doing things, I suppose.

This is one example of a project I did in this town called Torres Vedras, which is slightly North of Lisbon and if any of you speak Portuguese. Do any of you speak Portuguese? No, because you will pronounce it better than me, I mean, after two or three years working in Torres Vedras, I still can’t pronounce it but anyway. So the town looks like that, it’s kind of set in the hill side and the place that commissioned these is called Transforma. I bumped into them because I was in a book. And I was giving a talk, a bit like to night, and a guy came up to me. And he was from here and he said I would really like to work with you some time. And then two years later he phoned up and said come out to Torres Vedras. And that’s kind of my perfect scenario, when people say come to where we are and do something, that a perfect brief. You know it takes a long time to write that out, two lines, those kind a briefs, there kind of this thick, you know, I don’t like those kind of briefs. I like a phone call saying just come out, we’ve got a bit of money, what do you feel like doing? So that’s the arts centre called Transforma and you’ll see a little post box out there. And I was kind of interested in this post box and the tiles behind it. And in fact, my first visit there, I just took a photograph of  it and stuck it above the post box. And I went back nine months later, on my next visit and it’s still there, above there. So I thought, that’s an amazing piece of work in the public realm, we didn’t do any health and safety audits,  or anything, no vandalism reports, just put it there and it was still there. So from that point I started to think about what else I would do. And like most towns in Portugal external tiles are very, very prominent and I got quite obsessed by the tiles on all the buildings on Torres Vedras. So I photographed every single building that had tiles. (Michael points to a slide show of projected images)  So that’s your kind of typical Portuguese tile. These are kind of old tiles, from the sixteenth, seventeenth century but then these are kind very contemporary tiles, from the seventh. I love this tile, it’s a shame we can’t switch the sun off at the moment because the colours, but that tile is the same as, that tile. And I think the best tile designs are the ones, when you reconfigure them, they completely change in the way they look. This tile was on the outside of a bank and every façade of the bank, all four sides had the same four tiles but in a different configuration. I just thought that was really fantastic but you can’t see it very well, can you?(unfortunately there was too much light to fully see the projected images)

So I had this idea to photograph every single tile and then combine them into a single image. And it wasn’t just a question of fade them in, I Iooked at the components that made up the design and then broke down those components until they merged into the next design. So you can get an idea there. So each colour component, each design component, breaks down until it joins the next design, then I split this design up into a hundred sections. So that’s my initial piece of work, were these tile designs in hundred sections, seven meters by seven meters. I got the gallery then, because I was interested in how it functioned as a network, this is a gallery that is in quite a rich but small town in Portugal but it’s very well connected internationally. Very much a gallery that didn’t look locally, it looked completely globally, so it had a local audience and a global audience but not really a national audience. And they were holding a big conference, so I asked them to print out these tiles, which were, you know, well there’s seven hundred, that’s more like a meter isn’t it? So there are about seven hundred, by seven hundred and they posted them to these people around the world. So people in Australia, the States and Germany, they were phoned in advance and they had to agree to bring this tile with them to Torres Vedras. And it’s kind of awkward bloody thing. So they were all sent them. And the whole thing was about their commitment to this piece of work. If they thought they might not be able to bring it, then they weren’t sent it.  And the piece is called; Horror Vacui, which means in Greek, fear of empty spaces. But it is also the reason why the Portuguese and the Spanish, or the Moors have tile design because they absolutely hate the white wall. They need to occupy every part of space with some sort of design, so that’s the bases of this work. For my kind of horror vacui was that someone might not turn up and therefore there would be a gap in this. In this case everyone did turn up. So they all turned up, in the central square of Torres Vedras and we drank some quite nice Portuguese wine that they had there. And then I’d marked out just the corners and I said put this design together. And it only could go together in one configuration and I filmed this from a beam so you had a birds eye view of it. And I thought this might take two or three hours, or something like that but in fact they got up to it really fast. And there was a hell of a lot of communication and we configured the whole thing in twenty-two minutes with no instructions what so ever, a part from this one here. And someone had realized that, that was the tile that the Mayor of the town had and he was presently giving a talk in the town hall. And hence he wasn’t there, so someone had to run and get him. And he put the last one in  to a massive cheer of every one there. So it looked very orchestrated, so that’s it, the kind of finishing touches ( Michael is pointing to a projected image of the work)

David Kefford
Michael, how long did it last for, was it a kind of temporary work?

Michael Pinsky
Its temporary, we put it together in the main square and then we moved it to a kind of old barn, kind of like this but much, much, much darker and more mysterious. And I presented that, with a video of it being configured and that was there for a month or so. The idea with this piece of work is that, then it gets sent from one gallery to another, through the network of galleries Transforma’s part of. And each time will probably lose one of these parts of the jigsaw, in which case we’ll put the excuse of why it’s not there instead of the jigsaw, so it will be; I was ill, or the flight was cancelled, or something like that, so eventually the piece of work want exist at all

David Kefford
These people have come globally?

Michael Pinsky
Yeah, you will hear them talking all sorts of different languages but the idea is eventually this piece, eventually just disappears, just becomes a hundred excuses. And these hundred tile forms will be somewhere in the world but we won’t know, maybe in an airport departure lounge, or stuck in the back of some ones cupboard and not being valued.

Audience member
So there are empty spaces.

Michael Pinsky
Yeah, yeah, it’s embracing the fear of empty space, this piece.

Audience member



So this idea of horror vacui could you tell us more about that?

Michael Pinsky
Horror vacui, its Greek and I think it’s something that Plato talks about. It’s actually something that, you know if you talk to someone who is Portuguese, I wouldn’t actually say its common parlance but they are very aware of that as a concept. Whereas here we don’t really have that as a concept at all, in fact, I think we have a fear of cluttered space. It’s more the opposite, which goes back to my garage, which is full of crates of big sculptures and not quite knowing what to do. So if anyone wants to buy them, I’ll show a list.

David Kefford
So that’s more like a storage space, do you have a studio?

Michael Pinsky
Yeah I’ve got a studio as well which I luckily had given to me at the moment. So I don’t need to pay for that but before I was paying for a studio and storage space. And now I am trying to get all my work in the attic but the hatch is only about eight hundred by eight hundred ml, so I don’t really know what to do. The only other idea is to build a big shed in the back garden. I think that kind of finishes my fifteen minutes, I’ve probably over run or ready.

David Kefford
Yes.

Michael Pinsky
OK, thank you.

David Kefford



We now move on to Bob Lee

Bob Lee
My name’s Bob Lee and I am a member of an art buying collective. I want to focus on the word collective, collector because having thought about tonight’s subject of discussion I wondered, to what extent, did the group I belong to, break the conventional wisdom of the typical collector. Now as member of a The Contemporary Arts Society, I have seen many collections in London and elsewhere. Generally, I think our notion of an art collection, or the art collector, is a collection of finished products, so you know, when you go to some of these fabulous homes, you will see all this fabulous art throughout the home. So I think what my colleagues and I do, is somewhat rather different and I tried to think why and in telling our story, I hope it will emerge why we are somewhat different from the conventional notion of the collector, or collecting.

First and foremost the marked difference between what we do and what is traditionally considered to be ordinary methods of art collecting, is that we share art. I suppose one may have an image of the collector amassing things, you know, a very proprietorial kind of world that collectors might live in. First and foremost from the very out set when our group was set up the whole concept was to share art but we had other ideas as well. It took a couple years to get the group formed. Why were we doing it? What were our central aims and objectives? Over a couple of years meeting in the pub we thought about what were we trying to do. There were a number of principles never properly written down, I vaguely remember what they were. One was, we wanted to support emerging artist, two, we wanted to continue doing what we were doing, at the time, I’m going back to the nineties now, which was to engage with artist, with art critics, curators. In a sense engage with the art world. Long before we bought any pieces we had been to many art performances, exhibitions shows and so on, just continued that engagement.

Another principle was to acquire work, not so much the idea of possessing work but a specific idea of acquiring work to experience it with in the domestic space and that meant we had a particular focus on acquiring challenging work. Like everybody here, we all go to galleries, public museums and so forth but we were interested in the idea of living with challenging contemporary art that we shared. And so with some of those principles we were already somewhat different from the traditional notion of a collector but there were some other things that perhaps shaped what we were doing as well. When we go back to the nineties and may be bit before, we were probably at a very productive period in art production and artistic practice. My memories a bit hazy but I do remember going to absolutely astonishing degree and post grad shows Places like Gold Smiths. My sense is, I’m not an expert in the arts and certainly not an academic but my sense was, that there was a period of great flourishing in experimentation and new practice in the art schools in London, which were the ones I had become familiar with. It was a great period, it was certainly a period when you didn’t see just traditional art products, there was video, performance, ephemeral art forms. So from the very start, I suppose when we thought about investing in art, we were doing so at a time when art, or art practice was going through a great deal of experimentation.

When the schools were very well funded, the ethos was very liberal and fantastic diversity in art production was the result of that. So one was in that context, so in a sense the group of friends that we set the group up with, we were never going round looking at classic art products. It was always a process of engagement and going to art performances that were fabulous, memorable experiences that you had with you for a long time. So that was the context in which our group was formed and emerged. And as a result of that some of the pieces that we have acquired and I hate those terms acquiring things, owning things and so on, but none the less for functionality I use those terms, some of the pieces we have acquired do raise questions about the collectability of those pieces. Now we haven’t really had much controversy in our group about the things that we collect but certainly some of the pieces that we collect will not stand the test of time, for one reason or another, as I shall illustrate but our members would be absolutely delighted with those pieces. So if I can show you the first one (Bob now refers to a projected image).  This is a work we bought last year by an artist called Bobby Dowler,

http://www.flickr.com/photos/-paul-/sets/72157623620982184/

and what is interesting about the piece is that it is quite a large work, on a found canvas, and he just set to work on this, it’s this chewing gum, bits and pieces he’s found in the street and stuck on to it. Again I am not an expert but he what he was very careful to explain to us when we purchased the piece was that it won’t last because he didn’t prime the canvas and do whatever you have to do. And already bits are peeling off, in certain conditions bits of chewing gum harden and fall off and so on but it’s  absolutely fabulous work. I dare say there might be expensive processes to make it last but that’s never been the issue for us. It was partly engaging with some new gallerist in the Peckham area of London. Historically quite a surprise for me in London but like many places it’s had some gentrification. But that’s an example, where one of our major consideration, wasn’t the longevity of that work. And in a way you can translate that into ultimate sale value, or resale value because this work will probably deteriorate progressively. Somebody said; give it twenty to fifteen years and it will be unrecognisable, it will disintegrate and fall to pieces.

Next slide (Bob is referring to slide show projection) is a sculpture by an artist called Michael Dean http://www.contemporaryartsociety.org   it’s a technique, it’s little hard to describe actually but its cement. I think it’s called black cement, it doesn’t really have title. It’s a block of cement with a particular history, there’s a lot text that he wrote which we now have but just in a textual form that is buried into the cement, then the surface is treated in a very interesting colours. So it’s not an object that you then put on a plinth and gaze at it. The whole purpose of this particular sculpture is to handle it, and carry it around and in so doing as we have discovered it get damaged. It’s a quite heavy thing you know, you take it to the dinner table or take it to the bath with you, or whatever, it’s quite a nice thing to carry around actually.  And part of the way its displayed is to encourage people to handle it and see what they make of it but in the process it gets dropped and gets damaged. And so again we don’t have the view that it has to be pristine, perfect. It’s an interesting piece, with a very interesting history and narrative that goes with it, that I don’t have enough time to go into but that’s another example of something uncompleted. This is another group actually and I’ve used it because I have been involved with this group.

Another collective, a London collective called the Crawford collective http://www.the-collective.info/london1/content/view/13/2/ and this is by and artist collaborative called; With, where two artist create a virtual experience. I’m not eloquent enough to describe what they do but basically the idea is, this artist collective will undertake an experience on your behalf. If you want to do something really wild and really bad they’ll do it for you and you will end up with a product. So this particular collective group, the Crawford collective, they were called the Crawford collective because they were formed, or their first meeting was in Crawford St, a flat in Crawford St in London. However the member who lived in the flat at the time, she was going to sell up and they had this idea to have a real wild party and trash the flat. However as she was selling the flat, she wasn’t really that keen on actually really trashing the flat, so the With collective did it for them and they had this virtual experience. So they were in the flat for a day and when she got back the flat was back to its pristine condition but they had a virtual wild party and trashed the flat. If you go to their web site, http://www.withyou.co.uk/traumaformat.html . Actually people do all kinds of things, daring things, have affairs, virtual affairs by proxy, we will do it for you, or whatever, or do some sky diving, or whatever and they do it for you. A really very interesting concept and  in the process of commissioning a work like that, the experience of engagement with these artists and kind of having a virtual reality, it’s so  interesting actually. The first talk I went to, you sometimes get confused, what’s real and what’s not real, and none of its real. And this is the document that produced at the end of the event, so this is primarily the end of event in Crawford St. An example again, I suspect a work like that, the value of the work is in the experience and in the commission, rather than in the finished product. It’s just a record of the trashed flat and the virtual experience that was to have been in the first place, obviously. So that’s another example.

And I think that’s why the art collective, my collective I belong to, will commission some kind of virtual experience from the With collective, at some point in the future. They are represented by Rokeby Gallery in London. Next one, (Bob is referring to projected image) Now this one is interesting, it isn’t a piece it’s a product. Its hanging on one of our members wall, um somewhere in London but I didn’t explain, that as well as sharing the art in our group, there are even households who are members of our group and we take it in turns to buy work. Now this work has a curious history, it’s by an artist called Mel Brimfield, who’s essentially a performance, a live artist, a performance artist. And some members have seen some of her performances and are really kind of fascinated by her work. Quite the complex narrative she performs. So this is a still from a video from one of her performances that some of our members saw, part of a series of, so it already had the start of a narrative. And when the buying panel at the time came across this piece they were delighted to reconnect with, not exactly a document, it connected with the performance. And another reason they were really were interested in it, some years ago, our group commissioned a performance actually and never had a document of it, We didn’t actually seek a document, well some record. I think most of our members say it’s actually the best they have ever purchased. And it was a performance by an artist called Katherine Fry. It was looking at the course of a kind of a married couple, set in the fifties, from the first flush of romance and it’s from the woman’s perspective. Actually from the first flush of romance to when the relationship drove her bonkers . So it was performed over seven weeks, in different days of the week, in each of our households. And the narrative then took its course in that way but absolutely fascinating thing. And I shall show you a clip from some video (Bob plays video), so this is happening all around the household with seven actor all identically dressed. Time Out does a review of it actually. I think about in the middle of the performance, I think on a Wednesday when  they start to become a bit cynical about their roles in life. So it’s about a housewife really and her experiences. In the first performance we are waiting for the acting husband to come home and as the performance progressed over the week, it then became quite delinquent in some ways and then the last performance furniture starts to fly. What we particularly liked about commissioning a performance in our homes, we were able to involve a lot of people in the performance. The performance, it took place in every room in the house, where these actors were going in and out of different rooms, doing different things. They had recorded all the different sounds of the house hold and this sound wasn’t, the sound you hear there, wasn’t quite the sound, the of the house its self was being played back as the performance was being acted out.

To sum up, and I think my theories are, and I might be completely wrong, I do know that a lot of wealthy of collectors’ would very generously support performance art. I mean I know lots of commissions of the kind Michael described to you really that relies on the funding of generous and wealthy supports. In the past certainly when we were starting out lots of performances received public funding. I remember when the national lottery came about, that lead to a lot of experimentation because funding was available to support diversity in artistic practice. My fear I suppose is that with the recession, with public funding for the arts drying up and perhaps with the more middle range collector, or even the poorer collectors like us, probably being a little reticent about collecting work which isn’t durable everlasting and re-saleable. That’s a certain worry and concern, that I would  have because then it would be a great tragedy if artist like Michael and some of the ones I’ve shown today are restricted to producing products that sell  or being only tied up with that. So that’s just my fear and I think it’s absolutely,  um its excellent to be able to support artist in the way we do in a small way, to practice in the way they want to practice, so I hope some of these examples have illustrated that. Thanks.

David Kefford
Thanks Bob I think that really touches on lot of discussion we will probably have later on, thanks. And now we will have Henry.

Henry Little
First another apology on behalf of my director, he’s a lot more calming and a lot more intelligent than I am and you probably all came here to hear him and not me, so I am sorry about that. I hope however that I can elaborate on our relationship on collectable work but also on the art market in general and how possibly uncollectable work, may actually become collectable. First, just to give you our back ground, do people know of us at all? Yes, some yes and some no’s, we are actually quite elusive, although we have an extremely long history and do incredibly important work.

We have been around a hundred years our centenary was last year and the core of  work, the ethos that kind of underlies everything is bringing contemporary art to the widest possible audience. That translates to buying challenging works of contemporary art  long before they become accepted into the main stream.  Historically, over our past, we have purchased work by artist long before any one has taken them seriously  in the mainstream, long before museum professionals have taken them seriously. For instance we bought Francis Bacons, back in 1957 and practically had to give them a way to the museum collections that now have them and these Bacon pieces now form the centre piece of their collections in many cases and have astronomical market value. We have also bought works of Picasso long before he was recognised, Hurst whatever your opinion of him back in ninety one  about five years before he won he Turner prize. So in a way we have always tried to be a head of the curve and buy work, though always physical objects, buy work that at the time it seemed unfashionable, or unwanted, or not quite uncollectable, or ephemeral but always tried to be working with difficult and challenging work.

More importantly, sorry I forgot to say this at the beginning, I think this is an excellent initiative. And I think artist, like art history students which is my back ground, can be thrust out into the world from studying, with absolutely no financial or professional development.  And your different perspective, to find out how we all operate financially in this very mercenary world at times, so trying to specially support artist who have the courage to work with ephemeral work such as moving image performance and instillation I think is a wonderful thing.

Right back to the Contemporary Art Society, the focus of our work is to have close relationships with public collections and to support them we have to do a lot of fund raising. I will go into that very briefly and then talk more specifically how this relates to collectors more specifically.  We have a lot of fund raising, we have a consultancy team, who work with big corporate bodies and we build huge collections for them. We have also membership which is my department and one of the real focuses of that is working with collectors. We take them on a wonderful step by step journey and it is actually, it sounds a bit trite but one of the best things about the job is taking collectors from buying what you might see as boudoir perk, through to works that well, Bob Lee and his collective might be buying work, you know taking on a real trajectory from something that is very easy to appreciate and there’s nothing  against that kind of work but taking people on this journey, to engaging with artist, to engaging with other collectors, engaging with curators, to take a risk, take a chance basically and to support an artist whose work might not otherwise have an obvious financial  and commercial appeal. Conceptually what grounds a lot of the work we do and is always in the background, is really is the link between, private collections and public collections and those kind of endless feedback loop between the two. Apologies if

I am about to teach grandmothers to suck eggs but one of the core ideas of what we try and look at is subscription, and apologies if you know all this but subscription is the process whereby works of art accrue a financial value. It starts by low level recognition, endorsement, such as working in artist run spaces and being invited in group shows. Hopefully a critic takes notices, somebody gives an opinion of their work, hopefully favourable, someone else notices, a commercial gallery notices, you get a solo show, more critics write about your work, a few more solo shows, a few more commercial gallery shows, an institution begins to take notice, more critics write about your work, there are some academics writing about your work. Then final the real goal, the real prestigious end to all this is a work entering a public collection and the real goal of that is so an artist work can enter the history of art. That’s the important thing for us because in many ways, it means that work and that narrative, and that concept, and everything around that is available to audience in perpetuity, so that people can continue to take from it. The main problem then lies in how do you try and codify, and historicise, and immortalize pieces of work like performances and like film, moving image work is also a unique challenge. But performance, how do you try and codify and immortalize something by its very definition, is experiential, is unique happens in a moment. And which in many ways, especially in the sixties and seventies was devised, to be anti-market, anti-institution to be anti-everything that museums in a way try and do. The answers which I will try and get onto in a minute are very varied.

And then moving image as I say has its own unique problem which is, its technology in a nutshell.  Not only does it become out dated very quickly but also it take a huge amount of maintenance, not only to display but also to look after. Just something to think about, say a piece of film projection, if that’s on display for a year,  the actual film will need to be re printed up to a dozen times, if not more because it gets warn out. A lot of these materials are never designed to be played constantly on such constant display and also I’m sure everyone knows that manufacturers quickly, as soon as they are not making a profit, they put slide projectors for example, on the back, they stop producing the film and all these kinds of thing, so the technology is a major problem.

To go back to this idea of subscription and private collectors, and public collectors, now private collectors tend to follow public collection because a private collector spending money on a work of art is more comfortable doing that if the work is endorsed by someone who does not have a commercial interest, by someone who says this artist, this piece of work is valuable, valid, relevant and interesting. So therefore how do you encourage a private collector  to buy something that a public institution by definition can’t really buy  it’s a very difficult kind of feedback loop, where you don’t have pieces of ephemeral work entering the collection because of problems of display, of storage and then of performance it’s very difficult. How do you encourage private collectors to spend money on it? So that’s the key relationship really to think about kind of how you encourage private collectors to buy pieces of work.

A private collector has all these elements of how do you live with a piece of performance. Well I think your solution is an excellent solution. I think it’s marvellous that you’re doing something like that. And I hope it is an example that I really hope will be followed and replicated because I think it is a very neat solution, to essentially trying to support artist who do this work and enjoying this kind of work because you spread the cost and you enjoy it as a group. And in a way it reinforces the value of it because it is a community experience. It’s not just a piece of work that you have ferreted away on your wall and no one else gets to see it, so that in my eyes is a really elegant and a very like-minded solution to living on a domestic scale with performance and also film moving image I should say on a domestic scale. How do you live with it? This is something our members tend to ask us the whole time. One of our members actually asked us to run workshops on living with the moving image and collecting the moving image and I think actually that is an excellent idea. With moving image in particular, there’s a few kind of solutions on domestic scale. And there’s a few kind of encouraging signs which I think are kind of helping to develop the market for this kind of work. Umm, but first if you think just about the difficulty, just in purchasing a piece of moving image for a commercial gallery. Moving image is a very difficult thing to show, you need a dark room, you need a whole section marked off at an art fair,where you could live and die by the money you make on this quite literally. More often than not, financially, it is completely unviable and I think it’s completely fair for the gallerist to operate that way.

But there is a now a very interesting event that is coming over here, and it’s going to be on in London at the same time as freeze. It’s called moving image and it’s an art fair, organised by a Chelsea and when I say Chelsea I mean, New York Chelsea gallerist called Ed Winkleman  http://winkleman.com/ and its now in its second year.  This again I think is a very neat solution for a number of reasons but essentially what he’s proposing to do and this closely mimics what he did in New York, it’s going to happen in the barge house, which if you’re artist you should be quite familiar with, a lot of the London art schools tend to do there degree shows there. It’s essentially a space not too dissimilar to this. Galleries pay a very low fee, relatively speaking, two and a half thousand dollars for single screen, or single channel piece, or five thousand dollars for a larger, more complex instillation. They don’t have to invigilate it; they can come and go as they please. You have a sort of photograph of the event in New York, it’s sort of long banks of screens, it’s all in a line, you can sit, you listen, you move on. It’s essentially making the financial component a lot less on the galleries, making it specifically devoted to this kind of work, I think you really encourage people to think commercially and financially about moving image and I think events’ like that are going to be a real test, essentially. I think the sales were modest in the first instance, when it happened in New York but I really hope that it really picks up and that people really come around to buying editions of films.

From a personal point of view there was a piece I saw recently, by a young artist called, Super Chan, who’d produced a video portrait of London. It’s an a mazing piece of work and its got very, very high production value, it was produced with money she had worked very hard to get. Umm and that was a real turning point for me, although well out of my price range by the time you include all of the display materials it comes with, it was the first piece  of moving image I looked at and I thought actually, I could really get on board with wanting to collect that. If I was a collector myself, I could really want to collector that and that in  its self is a dangerous psychology because it shouldn’t really be about things with a high production value but I think it really is starting to come into collectors minds that you can buy moving image on a more domestic type scale. That you can buy this kind of work and that you can have it in your collection.

For performance artists there’s tends to be this ideological split but there are interesting solutions. Marina Abramovic, who is now represented by Lisson gallery, obviously a big commercial enterprise, unsurprisingly, now has realized, now has decided actually she can make quite a lot of money out of her practice. She has done this by photographs and by documentation. And actually the photographs themselves, I don’t want to say they’re a cop out but for me it seems she’s actually become in away photographer. She’s selling photography, essentially because the photographs aren’t really, I wouldn’t call them documentation, they are actually very neatly composed, very highly finished photographs. Also in a way, she is also using,” Marina Abramovic” the brand, the person, to sell photographs. And I think that is one solution. I think, I don’t know, I wouldn’t say, it kind of undermines her practice. I don’t know, I think that’s a personal decision but there is a shift there. I mean  That she is no longer a performance artist. But then performance then becomes a part of her practice and the photographs are the commercial thrust of it and I think, if that’s the solution to financing everything, then so be it. I think that’s a very good idea. The other one is, um and this is an idea raised by, stop me if I ramble, just tell me to shut up, is Logsdail, Nicholas Logsdael, Lisson director said something interesting. He thinks that performance works should start to be thought of  as musical scores. And this got me thinking, if you are going to have a script for a piece of work, like a musical score, then how does that enter the commercial realm? Could we possibly end up going down the line where by you can buy performance books like you can buy a piano music book? Or could you for example, film and moving image works, could you start to instead, of selling pieces in editions of five or ten and having the price in the thousands why could you not have open editions and sell it for five pounds?  If in the future those kinds of more mass media methods of dispersion and dissemination might ever catch on?

I wonder whether we will get performance books and they’re the kind of thing that you buy rather than the current situation where you can actually buy one of her performances. And there is a New York lawyer called Erin Levine who is very wealthy and so has been able to buy a lot of very expensive performance works by artists’. He owns a work of hers, called [?], the one of her and another participant, don’t know, they slap each other a lot and I’m not sure exactly how it works. Another approach is someone like; Tino Sehgal, who is at the forefront of a lot of discussions around performance at the moment. He is quite well known for being one of the first performance works that the Tate purchased. And interestingly his whole concept and practise is that you, is a real assertion of de-materiality. So he doesn’t want there to be any physical remnants, no physical remains. The contract he has with the curators is an oral contract. So he told the curators how to rehearse the dances, how to audition the dances, or the interpreters I should say. He tells the curators how to instruct the interpreters, how to make the performance. And this oral contract was written, not written sorry, was witnessed by a lawyer and that’s it. So it is an entirely de materialized piece of work which is never the less in the collection but is in the collection, in so much as it is in the curators mind, which I think is fascinating. Also he calls the method of communication of this, “body to body transmission” which I quite like.

But also made me think it’s a very old, it goes back to oral methods of knowledge transmission, in a very kind of pre civilization way of communicating things,  of civilisation in pre-physical methods of communicating everything. Civilization was just all contained in this kind of manner, umm buts that my own personal digression it’s probably not relevant. There is also a biannual called Performa which was set up by someone called Roselee Goldberg and that’s all about commissioning new pieces of performance. I think the more biannuals there are and the more art fairs there are, that try to establish healthy commissioning procedures and that also really try to get into, encourage collectors to buy work and see this kind of work inside of a financial forum it means it will go private collectors will buy it public institutions will buy and it will go into the history of art and be canonized. But then again some artist may think that’s completely against the whole point of it.

Finally I probably should stop but I just wanted to compare different ends of the market. I think at the top end it’s very easy for someone with a lot of wealth to be extremely philanthropic and be very generous. It becomes a form of support and it’s wonderful that they do that  but there needs to be a level below that, where there Its um, where it’s not about that, where we try and help collectors with limited means or means that don’t compare to these kind of people to acquire these kind of works. Finally one of the other things I wanted to just put out there is that umm generations being born now, so young children in there two, threes, fours, are raised almost from birth with screens. You know you have phones almost from the moment you can hold anything, you have a long relationship with a computer from the moment you can remember, with TV with all these kind of things. So for generations of ours and upwards we are still, these things still feel a bit alien to us in a way but to generations born now I think the screen and the moving image, is the most is there most important method of engaging with the world and therefore I don’t see why moving image could maybe replace paintings in the home. We will see that may be not true. Finally I think performance as we do enter an age of hyper reproduction of everything from films and books, where anything can be reproduced instantly,   performance will increase in value, maybe not financial but in spiritual or intellectual or however you want to phrase it I really think it will really enhance the value of experiences.

David Kefford:
Thanks very much Henry. Thanks to all three of you as well for giving us really an in site into your own experience and quite lot things to hopefully have a lively discussion now. So please feel free if you have got any questions or anything you would like to address the panel with, now is your opportunity. Does anyone have any questions for any of our guest speakers it must have raised quite a few areas of interest?

Audience Member:

Question to Michael Pinsky, I’m keen to meet someone who makes money from their practice. I’m intrigued not in asking you to talk about money as such, but I’m just finishing college, I’m a student tentatively looking for sources of funding, a lot of times the artist fee is negligible and often an afterthought, is there another layer of funding when you’re a proper artist or important and famous and attract another level of funding? when i look around its all very peace-mail. Another question if you go out and do something in the world does that mean your practice is primarily responding to different situations or do you have a theme that runs through and that you take from one engagement to another?

Michael Pinsky:

Two very different questions, first question, I graduated from my BA in 1991 and started working as an artist doing lots of exhibitions, I was green and thought the way to get known was to do lots and lots of exhibitions, I was doing 10 shows a year, and I was getting paid £200-250 exhibition fees, which was ridiculous and now it’s the same which is still ridiculous.

David Kefford:

Where were you exhibiting? what sort of space, artist run or commercial?

Michael Pinsky:

Public galleries, public funded galleries that pay you. So then i went to do my ma after doing god knows how many shows when my CV was nearly falling over, and one of my tutors was Helen Chadwick who was doing a show at the serpentine. I thought she’s a big artist so how much are they paying you, she said £250…. i just thought what can you do with that, and she said they had big ad campaign etc.,  i said how do you make your money, she said mostly through insurance claims… and teaching. Well that didn’t suit me as an idea, it wasn’t the most thrilling prospect so when i finished my MA I did quite a few fellowships which was a way of making money.

David Kefford:

Can you elaborate?

Michael Pinsky:
One was in Kingston straight from my MA show, another from an ad in the Guardian etc. There was a certain point maybe 1997 where a combination of my work had reached a certain level and that was when i was getting big grants from arts council £20/30,000 and bigger commissions in five figures and above. Then you enter a different strata where people don’t approach you unless they’ve got some real money to pay you, and i suppose if you look at a small business model and forget about art they key is you have a five year strand, the first three years you lose money, year four you break even, and year five you hopefully make a profit, and i suppose that’s similar, that you take a 5-10 year view then you do possibly start to make money to live off rather than these ridiculous exhibition payment right things.

David Kefford:

Could you see the notion of subscription tangibly happen with you as you moved with your careers, did they fall into place did they matter?

Michael Pinsky:

Not in that neat way no, its all a big family people get to know you and that you can do things, because they are investing a lot of money in you. one thing important to me is drawing, because i hardly ever produce a piece of work without the money being there whether its a gallery piece or a piece in the public realm, so that thing of convincing someone to give you some money for something you haven’t done is really important. and even when i left my BA i had some drawings of a photographic show i wanted to do, no photos just drawings, i got the gallery and princes trust to give me money to go to Thailand, and i thought its all a big confidence trick really cause you might not do it, but then of course if you do then they go this guy does do what he said and it gets easier, but the whole thing of a proposition is good and then they see your work.

Annabelle Shelton:

Did anything go wrong ever? did you get the money and it just goes wrong?

Yes i have signed some contracts that don’t allow me to speak about the project because they’ve gone so wrong. the worst one which isn’t mine, but put fear through the whole system, is the Thomas Heatherwick piece in Manchester, a 2.2 million pound commission where the spikes kept falling of and they sued him for 2.2 million pounds. It sent tremors through the system. one thing i used to get phoned up about was where do you get public liability insurance from and then thank god sue Jones at an magazine sorted out public liability. now I’m getting asked for professional indemnity all the time a whole other story – absolutely ridiculous. The real issue is a huge fear with big projects in the system in britain now due to the Heatherwick disaster.

Annabelle Shelton:

Being a public artist has so much responsibility in what you make with a wide audience, being a painter myself i don’t have to worry about that…..

Michael Pinsky:

I don’t feel it that way, it doesn’t overwhelm me, more fear in the system cause they don’t understand what’s going on, but this is a complete aside to collecting the uncollectable.

Julie Freeman:

Can i ask you to comment on the possibility of collecting a piece of internet artwork or collecting a piece of work so a) a piece of work done on the internet or b) buying something multiple produced on the internet like a print, or object a 3D printed object designed as an internet artwork, what you think about its endless way?

David Kefford:

So it can be freely distributed, downloaded?

Julie Freeman:

At least its out there in the public realm how would someone try and get that collected, an artist that’s made something that’s already out there for everyone to see.

Henry Little:

I’m trying to get my head around something that’s been fabricated on the internet itself but the concept of something that’s widely available to download, one example i thought was good i saw a piece a couple of months ago a film by Doug fishbone and he was experimenting with identity basically the film was a kind of thriller set in Ghana with major actors and actresses all of whom black except the artist, Doug who is American, and he placed himself in the middle of the film, he was funded to do it by a couple of wealthy collectors, and my understanding was that he made three very special limited edition DVDs, the box may have been special and signed etc, and these were for the funders and  the rest were downloaded and anyone could have it. and the very idea that it could go right across Ghana.  But the funding of it was around these special edition DVD’s which I thought was quite neat if that’s what the collectors wanted, but we could have one for free.

David Kefford:

For collecting is it important to have this numbered limited edition with the artist signature does this make it special?

Henri Little:

It isn’t for me, but i think it was important that he found a way of getting the work funded it as a really interesting work, a nice idea and available to all… that was the way it was done, maybe it was just a document or record for those, but the fact that he got it funded was the important thing.

Bob Lee:

I think with something like that it always becomes funny as soon as money is involved obviously but I think if the artist can live by funding, if there’s another source of funding, if the money doesn’t have to become in with some sort of transaction with the object then you get that massive dissemination of something that’s free and it goes to an enormous audience and something that’s kind of relevant is the music industry now and I think bands have realised that trying to sell CD’s is a lost cause and that this free dissemination is a way of kind of enhancing your reputation but the problem is always going to be how you make money, how you live, you know if might have an enormous artistic impact by being disseminated but the poor individual who is trying to make a living is kind of struggling but hopefully the more people who are out there seeing it the more people are going to give you money to make these things so it seems like a…

David Kefford:

Double edged isn’t it, ‘cause you want to kind of reach a wide audience and disseminate work but also you want to get money back in return so it’s kind of a promotional device but in doing that you might get this monetary thing in return

Michael Pinsky:

I mean I think there is a dichotomy there basically, if you look at the internet in the same way as printing worked as a mass dissemination tool it’s all about bringing the price down ,so the internet is at it’s strength as a sort of open source system the way that the book is at it’s strength in the paperback, and if you want to play against that then do so but you’re misunderstanding the whole system of the media itself and what you do is you have high volume, low price to make that work or you know you have a way of tracking hits and you have adverts on it or you use it as a branding message or whatever but you’re always fighting against a system and misunderstanding the system if you’re trying to rarify something that is inherently about mass production so that dichotomy will always exist and it’s a lost cause it’s just a completely miss thought system I think.

Julie Freeman:

There was an interesting, um, I think it was Simon Faithful talking and he’d made an app as a work and he wanted to sell it you know for 59p, low cost get it out there, but because he was funded, public funded to make the project in the first place he wasn’t allowed to sell it.

Michael Pinsky

He could have just done it commercially. But I mean, I have a book from Simon Faithful that cost a £1, you know it’s a really nice book as an object and it cost a £1

Audience member

The panel is talking about the collector and I just created an interactive sculpture but the starting point was collaboration, the point is people are coming back to me and wanting something to remember it by and I want it to continue, is it up to the artist to decide or do you listen to the collectors, what’s your experience. You know do you give it away?, I’m listening to the people who have collaborated and I want to thank them. What’s your experience?

David Kefford

So are you talking about selling documentation? or …?

Audience member

Well I’m talking about the value of documentation or does it go on the internet free, I know there’s no rules but …

Henry Little

I think it comes down to personal ideology and a personal inclination and I think on one end you’re going to have Tino Seagal who doesn’t want anything ever physically concrete then along the spectrum at the other end I think documentary is incredibly valuable and from my personal perspective when I’ve worked with artists and curated and I’d be absolutely forlorn if I didn’t have photographs of the performance. In fact the artist I commissioned to do a performance had four people filming it and a lot of artists responding to it so it did end up having lots of different effects and manifestations. Another solution is additions and that kind of thing and I think it’s a personal choice, from my own personal point of view I can see creating something physical out of something that’s designed to be you know ephemeral of the moment I can see the clash but then from a personal point of view i love having a document or a record or …..

Audience member

But surely a really good question is why ….. (loud cough cannot decipher) is not collectable and I think the beauty of the artwork is that it’s for a very short time and I think this desire to acquire is complicated and one that should be scrutinized particularly by artists and by institutions and where is that coming from, if it’s like an entirely commercial enterprise then I think it’s quite cynical and I think from museums there’s this obsession of trying to preserve something you know in it’s beauty lay in the fact that it lasts 20 minutes and I think that’s a question that needs to be bought into this discussion and like why try to collect a performance like I know I know for histories sake that it’s important like for performances in the seventies that we don’t have access to and that’s a shame, but I kind of think that’s why I like Tino Seagal, it’s playing with the idea that the artwork only exists in your imagination, because of how you saw it or how it was recorded, or it’s like Chinese whispers and that’s’ what’s so nice in that the curator will probably describe it in a different way….  Lets think about why we want to buy or acquire something that’s made to be temporary.

David Kefford:

Bob, you talked about commissioning that performance, um, but not being too bothered about there being an outcome or an end product, what were you commissioning, how did that work?

Bob Lee:

The experience of Catherine Fry can shed light on some of the issues in this in that most members of our collective were very happy to have had to experience and be done with it. A number of members said they enjoyed it so much they’d like a photograph, I remember one member saying that one of the startling events in her house was when one of the actors kind of had her head in the washing machine and it was an interesting image and someone took some photographs I think Catherine’s photographers. So some of us had the view that we could look at the photographs and choose which one but Catherine was quite adamant that that was not what she wanted from the performance and that would affect the integrity of what she was trying to do. I was bothered and some other members weren’t bothered so we could have paid cash for them to record the performance probably in written form i the way she wanted to which would protect the integrity of what she had done, what she wasn’t prepared to do was say here are some photographs and that’s it, that was never part of how she wanted the thing recorded and so we were quite content we had no more money at the time and no document in any elaborate form, and we accepted that’s not what she wanted to work to end up as, as another photograph, and I think the artist should have control of it. If an artists needs to make money and they decide that some product at the end of it is a way of generating some income, but I think that you need to keep control of it, if it’s taken away you can start to lose contact of what was meant in the first place.

Annabel Dover:

(voice obstructed by pouring glasses of water) …… as the artist frames it.  What I mean is that the integrity is up to the artist and they can choose if they want to eat then maybe… (laughter)

Bob Lee:

And just to say that some artists, ….. Mel Broomfield for example, he bought a work that started life as a performance but she continues her performance through different products but they’re not 5p or £5 even, you know new artworks emerge from it but these are carefully constructed artworks a continuation of work that she’s doing really. So it’s not a document as such but something she is continuing as part of her art practice.

Julie Freeman:

I think the point that you made about the desire to acquire – the best catchphrase, …….. (coughing obstructs voice) consumable art, edible like a dinner party where you eat the stuff and bio artists where they grow art it’s consumable and you don’t expect to keep it.

Alistair Gentry:

A consumable object is still ephemeral but by calling it consumable rather than ephemeral it changes the expectation.

Audience Member:

I think there’s something amazing though about being a patron, a long time patron who supports the arts, if you think of someone like the ………. family, not buying the product, you’re supporting the artist, you support the space so it’s sort of supporting R&D, your work is destined for a certain destination but that’s just a frame they’re giving you a thinking space, they’re giving you a wage. And the difference is now that artists are working in a space where we don’t have that security, I’m thinking of that future, um anyway, that’s um, loads of people waiting and you just um realise that that work can only be made because the person is able to make the end product and now we can um generate that space for ourselves so we can make work in our own way so that um we can be free to what we are going to put that object in or we kind of start um the other way round um and look at what’s there and how it fits and how can I intervene in this already complicated interweaving of, you know is it an action or is it an object.

David Kefford:

Yes, so is it still possible to value process, like the product the making of the artwork, I don’t know…..

Audience Member:

Yes I guess as I’m listening to you I’m musing on the difference, the different kinds of emotional space which work is made in now from the space it was made in 1,000 years ago , 200 years ago and what kind of interests me about that is the picture of what that emotional space in 20 years time might be like.

David Kefford:

So do you think this notion of having a private studio, some sort of garret like space, you do have a studio but a lot of your work is site related or out in the public realm so is it still possible to experiment with processes and techniques but do it outside of a studio environment.

Michael Pinsky:

The way I’m commissioned is almost like someone is buying a bit of my thinking time, in fact I’m working on a commission in France and it’s quite interesting they call it a L’etude and it’s a study period and the study period is very well financed before you even start on the piece and well deliberately thought through. It’s something that’s not valued in Britain where they kind of think you come up with an idea, 2 days and you come up with an idea, but you know in a way that space between thinking of something to possibly making something, that moment of change could be 50% or 70% way down the line and it is like buying a big block of your time really.  That kind of reflects what western Europe has become which is a service economy, the people who make things are in the east now and it’s the same with the artist that people are making art, making objects in the east, and I think the artistic practice has followed, there’s this huge value around the process, and thinking, I mean that’s what the whole market works on way beyond the art market, you know not around the product so that also might be the reason why it’s more difficult to sell a product that isn’t the way the western economy works anymore.

Annabelle Shelton:

My next question, is you’re saying that for instance, I was to sell a piece of work or a collector came to me and said that’s too expensive, your artwork. And in reality you know its not. It’s less than two thousand pounds and its a big aluminium piece. And they told me they were a serious collectors, you know, that told the truth. And i realized they weren’t serious collectors, but found the way I value my work, is it’s about you know, an artist only sells so much within a year. And you know, part of that money is about your continued practice. I don’t like to see my work I sell as an object, it’s the time that I put into it, its about what I do, and I think its really important you said that.

Audience Member [Dawn Giles from BCA Gallery]:

What a lot of what were looking at today is that there is many different kinds of artists in practice at the moment. I don’t think they are so responsive to the market but maybe we could form an argument that says they are.  I think all the artist we work with don’t have strategic practice you know they respond to specific contacts and situations and that’s how they want to work. And they want to be commissioned not purchased and maybe commissioning isn’t a form of purchasing.

David Kefford:

For those who don’t know you Dawn can you just tell us ……..

Dawn Giles

:

… [?] Arts, I mean we’re not unusual alongside other organisations like ourselves in the way that we work and the kinds of artists we work with and so. It is a kind of purchase but it’s one that happens through dialogue, you know, and acts as an exchange that happens and then yes a sort of contract in a way is formed. Eventually something happens that might be more than, you know, it might mean your taking part, use of your time, or whatever, but I’m not interested as much in your journey, I’m interested in   thinking of different ways we might enter a relationship with people that purchase us, and they invest it in us as an organization, and it is that journey that you look at the collective results of obviously being on a long journey before you’ve even purchased work and I think that it’s sort of taking people on a journey and kind of getting them involved and interested in contemporary art practice.  Something that contemporary artists have done for a hundred years and its quite difficult, but small arts organizations to go on that journey with individuals. And I suppose a sort of thing, that I can make a funding application that could take a few weeks or I could spend two years developing a relationship with someone who may never purchase anything from me, so you know it’s sort of, you know I’m interested in that journey and how it happened for you and the collective.

Bob Lee:

I think that journey happens in many different ways you know I think there are good galleries out there who take their clients through a journey, in fact I am amazed at how they over time, you know shape or expand their clients taste and expand the range and type of work their clients would collect. And I think they do take them through a journey, so they play a good role, I think some of the big collectors as well, going back to the point you made over there, that I think its very honourable that some of the wealthy collectors do buy time, and creative time, without restrictions almost, an artist will come with an idea, and may not end in something the collector particularly likes, but to have the confidence, and I am prepared to support artists like that. In our case it was just trundling along to shows really, but importantly I suppose go to artist run spaces that were in London at the time, thoroughly enjoying parties, artist parties, new work, I can remember performance many years ago which consisted of a meal, which is great, but the work was the decay of the meal over several weeks, the remains that were left, which is all quite interesting and quite a new concept and quite a new idea and quite an interesting aesthetic, you know the romance of it and the aesthetic, quite a new thing to be involved with, I made the point that we happened to be visiting shows, Tate modern came along, and some fantastic performances there, new experiences. So from the outset it was, we were semi immersed, by no means experts but taking a step to then try to find ways of engaging and ultimately collecting.

I mean the first artwork I bought individually was video work actually, it wasn’t a painting or anything like that, it was a video work, kind of linked to some work an artist was doing around investigating space and how we understand and use space and he produced a video of it. So the first piece I bought, I think, a lot of our members did that, but it was accident in a way that we found ourselves in the right places at the right times, but i think there is still a challenge in people at our level, and new groups come along all the time actually, we have a challenge in saying, well, we don’t just have to buy these products, go a bit further and investigate.  Take time to engage with difficult work, and we have to take people through journeys as well now, so some of the works that some connecting groups buy in the early stages, you know its not very, its not challenging, not that it’s not nice, but it takes time to go through that journey. Now i see there’s many journeys going on, but what I said in my opening remarks, I’m worried that there probably isn’t as much funding around and some of the public art i have seen recently, and I’m not an expert so I am not going name the places, last Friday, I went to a site where literally millions had been spent on public art, and it didn’t impress me at all.  I wondered what the briefs were actually, whether, instead of giving the artist freedom to do what they do, kind of, this is your brief. So a lot of public art…

David Kefford:

So can you sort of describe what kind of public art, was it like…(laughter) was it large sculptural objects like public art.

Bob Lee:

One object was such. No I just wondered that, were the artists constrained, and if they were, is that a good thing, necessarily, I think briefs should we as wide as possible.

Audience member:

Your version of collecting seems to be, that the equivalent to an artist, I think and you disclaim that same questioning that artists have, of materials and ideas and I don’t …. (unclear speech) from Henry’s perspective that ….. (unclear speech) a lot in the collective ‘cause I think that’s probably quite unusual.

David Kefford:

And you also talk a lot about engaging the artist and its not necessarily about, you know, having a painting on your wall or something, its much more about the experience or something about buying into the process of being an…

Bob Lee:

As well as producing interesting objects, personally what one was interested in was artists were saying new things. They got sort of a political activist background, and you know that’s been, saw kinds of metamorphosis, political ideology, the end of ideology in a way. And it struck me that a lot of fresh new ideas and new thinking comes from artists actually, and you have to engage and explore what they’re doing to see the range of ideas that artist are generating in all different forms.

Audience Member:
I’m interested in the question, do you ever sell art to purchase new art?

Bob Lee:

In principle yes, but we’ve never done so. In our group we don’t, we certainly don’t believe in storage, and it always irritates me when even the contemporary art society say and their big collectors come to panels like this and talk in so much of storage, I mean I don’t see the point in it really. I mean I can understand museums having limited space, but in principle I don’t see the point in personally en-massing a collection which is stored away somewhere, so we, our group learn to work to new groups, for one thing, to get it moving, and if in our rules, which were never written down or such, and if we did sell it would be to reinvest in new work, so it wouldn’t be that we made a big profit, you know, but to reinvest. But we do get the work out there, loan it to new groups as they emerge.

Annabelle Shelton:

So could anyone borrow artwork?

Bob Lee:

Not anyone no, no… (laughter) although we’ve got to a public loan system. So we started as one collective. I’ll give you an example, there is a collective, lots of them actually in other countries but one in Scotland that we were in touch with and the way they work is this; they collect work as a group, they have experts who buy the work for them and the explicit purpose is to buy work that will increase in value. And you know we’ve got some sister groups, we don’t have very much contact with, some lawyers who buy work internationally, similar model to ours, but the purpose is always investment, they operate in the secondary market, and that’s not what we’re about. The kind of sister groups that we loan work to rather than just to anybody, when a group of people come together and they’re going to set up, initially they need to accumulate funds, that’s the most frustrating thing is you start up a group and you don’t have many works to circulate so we’ll lend out some of our work to those groups to kind of share our ethos….

David Kefford:

A shameless plug here, Aid & Abet are about to set up a collective here so if you have a desire to join a collective such as they London collective then here’s your point of contact over there. Is there any trends in other countries of collecting the uncollectable or is it different, you know, do people in other countries take more risks in collecting things, is the UK quite conservative lets say in the way it collects?

Bob Lee:

I don’t know is the answer but I expect that in New York for example there’s quite a lot of support for new and challenging work, quite a big art market, wide and varied and when I’ve been to art fairs abroad, dealers have said that on the continent there’s quite a solid medium range collector on the demographic that will buy challenging work so these risks dealers make in taking challenging work in video work for example it finds a market, so I expect there are markets out there.

Henry Little:

Again, I don’t think that I can give any definitive answer but I expect that you need a very developed kind of visual arts ecology to develop this kind of thing and it does take a building up of all the different layers to first generate an art world but to then encourage people to expand their tastes and to buy challenging work and so I’d at a guess say that anywhere that has a developed visual arts ecology where there’s a lot of education and a lot of support around people buying and engaging in that sort of work on a sort of vibrant and personal level, that’s going to be where there’s a lot of work essentially I mean I think that wealth breeds philanthropy and generosity and the kind of patronage that art needs, that’s probably not a particularly insightful answer but..

Annabel Dover:

And also status, I mean, that’s what’s really interesting about what we were talking ….. I suppose talking to some gallery in New York recently there is a certain amount of status attached to being able to buy something that you can throw away and you know it seen as really quite exciting and new. And last time we were talking to Ed Greenacre and he mentioned Tina Buck’s work and it’s quite fragile and he was talking about sort of investing and supporting so richer people can keep her afloat and now she’s doing really well…… if you’re rich it’s a lot easier.

David Kefford:

We’ve got 5 minutes left so time for one more sort of burning question..

Bob Lee:

I wanted to say one thing, sometimes people approach us a sort of individuals because one by-product of what we do we have a constantly changing set of artworks, so people do come along and say I’d love to buy a piece of art, I’d love to buy something around £10,000, and so what I didn’t realise was people had so much money to spend, and so one thing it’s not quite so as difficult cause I’m not an expert, some members in our group are practitioners and professionals in the art world, for their jobs they gain that experience and know about work, so one of the things we do for …… for example, who don’t have the time to get to all the shows practically every night of the week, when it’s their turn to buy they’ll approach a curator or some expert and say we’ll meet in a pub and pay you £50, people are very generous with their times actually, it’s amazing how curators are very generous with their time, how artists actually, we’re thinking of buying a work point us in some direction so it’s about artists you’ve seen recently, and generally emerging artists so  we can tap into expert knowledge so you know cheaply even for free you know sometimes at shows just follow the curator around and sort of badger them ask them what they’re thinking what the trends are, so you can tap into it. So it might seem quite daunting initially when I talk about engaging and finding out about work, you know some people I know read all the art magazines, there’s so many of them, but if you don’t have time to do all that just tap into the knowledge that’s there. Artists in particular know a lot of work by artists, ask them, we like to pay a small fee because it’s their time that we take up but often we buy work by artists giving us recommendations and introducing us to other artists or curators.

Julie Freeman:

Has anyone called you up and said ‘Michael I really like that tile thing can I buy that?’

Michael Pinsky:

Um, no, I mean I have had people phone up and it’s almost happened things like that but not really, um for some reason my practice doesn’t lend itself to that or I just haven’t forced that particular avenue.

David Kefford:

Does that bother you in any way?

Michael Pinsky:

It bothers me that I have stuff in the garage  …. laughter ….

David Kefford:

Seriously do you think it’s limited an area an arena for your work to enter into by not having by not being represented by a gallery..

Michael Pinsky:

No I’m not represented because…

David Kefford:

Accessing that sort of art fair

Michael Pinsky:

Yeah and I hate art fairs, I just hate art fairs and galleries, well I don’t need a gallery particular because, um… and as far as museums and stuff well my work does get into museums, even though it’s not owned by museums we still do museum shows so that’s kind of OK, but yeah actually I have nothing against someone buying something but they just never have or they have in my old secondary school teacher, but that’s it so far.

David Kefford:

I think on that note we can close and end tonight’s discussion and thank you very much again to Henry to Michael and to Bob for coming this evening and doing a really fantastic and insightful talk on Collecting the Uncollectable. Thanks very much.

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