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Artissima Stories: Nienke van der Wal in conversation with Frédéric de Goldschmidt

20 September 2019 Artissima Stories

Artissima Stories | Issue n. 1
Nienke van der Wal (collector and founder Young Collectors Circle) in conversation with Frédéric de Goldschmidt (collector)

Nienke van der Wal: I started buying art six or so years ago. I had worked in the arts all my life and at a certain point something clicked: as I was getting interested in collecting myself, I also started to realize how important the role of the collector is. I ended up purchasing works by a lot of female artists—it makes a lot of sense to me to collect artists from my own generation, who are concerned with the same topics that concern me. At first this wasn’t a conscious choice, but after a few years I could see this was the case for almost all of the works I’ve acquired. Frédéric, how did you start collecting? Can you tell us if there were someone in particular who got you into it?

Frédéric de Goldschmidt: I started in 2008. My father collected contemporary art when I was a teenager, and I think that his taste probably influenced me as well. But it was my grandmother who first introduced me to art and collecting. She had a nice collection of Impressionist painters, and when she passed away she bequeathed me a work from her collection. I didn’t want to keep such a valuable artwork, so I decided to “recycle” the proceeds from the sale and I began collecting more reasonably priced contemporary artists, which I found to be more exciting. I do not focus on specific themes but most of my collection consists of works made in the twenty-first century, and very often I acquire works in the year they are created. Nienke, what inspired you to found Young Collectors Circle? Is collecting contagious?

NvdW: Almost all my friends and work colleagues were art lovers, but hardly any of them were buying or collecting. So a few years ago I founded Young Collectors Circle, a nonprofit platform for emerging collectors: the art scene needs a new generation of collectors in order to remain vital. Young Collectors Circle teaches, coaches and encourages its members to collect; we share the joy of owning art and remove the barriers that are holding potential collectors back and making them feel unwelcome or unqualified. We don’t advise our members on specific works to buy, but we do offer guidance so they can make a sound decision for themselves. We work with artists, academies, galleries, art fairs, experienced collectors and other professionals to provide a diverse and interesting program for our members. This fall, we’ll also visit Artissima with a group of our members! Collecting is definitely contagious. As you start to buy more, you start to want more. It takes a while to really get into it, but once you start to see connections, understand the timeline, and recognize originality and innovation, you’re a lost cause. What do you want to do with your collection?

FdG: I am planning to have a permanent place to keep and show my collection next year. I don’t know what effect it will have on me. I want people to enjoy the works I enjoy. Collectors somehow take artworks away from the rest of the art lovers when they have them shipped from a gallery or a fair to their house or storage. Somehow, showing works from a private collection is a way to give back to the public what had been taken away from them. The act of collecting, that egoistic gesture of securing beauty for oneself, can thus be transformed into an altruistic offering. Showing works by young emerging artists is the best way to help their careers. In the end, this can actually benefit the collector, as other collectors get to know the young artist, and so on…

NvdW: I completely agree: it’s a special kind of greed that makes you want to own an artwork, but luckily most collectors are also eager to share those works, whether it’s by posting them online, loaning them to museums, or opening their homes.

FdG: How much has your art fair experience changed over the past few years. Do you “study” beforehand? Is Instagram an integral part of the game, or just some extracurricular activity?

NvdW: I do make a plan, because art fairs can be quite overwhelming. Beforehand, I go online to see what galleries and artists I don’t want to miss. At the same time, I like being surprised, so I do try and see as much as I can while following my route. I like spreading out my visit over two days, because it can be a lot to take in. I take photos of artworks I am interested in and save them on my Instagram. My personal account is a visual archive for art that I love: whether it’s something I’ve bought or something I’ve seen but could never afford. I always recommend using Instagram this way: it’s interesting to see your taste evolve over the years. It also allows me to keep track of artists’ names I like, otherwise I would probably forget half! How about you?

FdG: When I started collecting I was very logical and meticulous, carrying the floor plan and crossing out booth after booth where I had been, and taking notes. I don’t do that anymore, I don’t study anymore, due to lack of time mostly, but also because what I like in fairs is being surprised. Sometimes, on the plane or train on my way to a fair, I look at the previews sent by the galleries but I don’t like the PDFs much and don’t want to spend too much time on them. At Artissima, I usually start in the central section, then I do one half the first day and the other half the second day. Either I am fully convinced and I buy the piece on the spot, or I take photos and come back on Saturday. This is something that is easier to do at Artissima than in the larger fairs, where the pressure is stronger. I also take pictures of the works I like, with the name of the artist and gallery for future reference. I use Instagram as a tool and I find Instastories are even more appropriate for art fairs, as one doesn’t need to be as specific with captions and details. You can just share the experience, and experience is everything these days.

NvdW: Being at an art fair can be a real trigger to act fast, as you feel the pressure of competition, of other collectors snapping up the piece before you decide. I’ve learned over the years to not get overwhelmed by that feeling anymore; if a work is not there after a night’s sleep, it’s not meant to be. How do you rate a fair? What do you factor in?

FdG: What I look for in art fairs is the opportunity to discover artists and galleries I did not necessarily know before, in only a few days. But there must also be some coherence in the overall atmosphere and quality of the fair. This probably resides in the capacity of its team and of the selection committee. Fairs are also places where you see people you already know, and others that you meet for the first time. It is nice to have something in common. This is why I tend to prefer smaller fairs that can allow for some kind of focus—younger artists, a particular geographical zone, or specific practices—rather than multipurpose mega-events where one can lose focus.

NvdW: Size does matter, and while the big fairs worldwide are interesting to experience, just like you I prefer a smaller fair with high quality, an interesting mix of galleries and, as you said, the opportunity to discover new talent. Also important for me is to have a great side program, with interesting openings and shows at institutions and collections, so you can get a full scope of the local art scene. Artissima is outstanding in that respect. What’s most special about Artissima for you?

FdG: I think that Artissima, and my hometown fair Art Brussels, are doing better than some of the other bigger fairs in attracting a range of artists and galleries of good standing who have not necessarily had a big exposure previously. The biggest fairs manage to show work by more established artists, and sales are easier, but there is less to discover for the curious visitor and the expert. Besides the fair, the Castello di Rivoli is among my favorite art places in the world. The Sandretto Foundation a very important place for emerging artists, and Patrizia is such a wonderful and elegant lady… How do you like Turin? Do you have any favorite spots? Have you built any traditions there?

NvdW: Castello di Rivoli is definitely at the top of my list every year! I also take time to wander about the city and discover tiny family restaurants or local hotspots.

FdG: Yes, I love the small family restaurants too. Every year, I go to dinner once at Pizzeria Da Michele on Piazza Vittorio Veneto, with its relaxed family environment and the same couple running the place since my first visit. I also make the trip to Collezione La Gaia in Busca each time they change their presentation. Bruna Girodengo and Matteo Viglietta are such generous hosts and happy to share their treasures. And should I mention the truffles or is that a cliché?

Photo Credits: Nienke van der Wal (© Saffron Pape) / Frédéric de Goldschmidt (© Albin Mathew)

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