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The SuperCollectors and Other Stories.


Super Art Collector gazing on his conquests

In the late 1980s, Vincent Desiderio, an American realist painter, was gaining prominence alongside other notable artists like Eric Fischl, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, and Jenny Holzer.

During this period, a new type of art patron emerged—the SuperCollector. These collectors had a unique role: they sought out young, promising artists and wholeheartedly supported their work by acquiring their entire body of work and even investing in their future creations.


One such influential SuperCollector was Charles Saatchi, known for his role in the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. If Saatchi chose to acquire an artist’s entire oeuvre, it was considered a significant endorsement, virtually guaranteeing that the artist would achieve recognition and success in the art world. However, the reverse was also true: if Saatchi decided to remove an artist from his collection (a process known as deaccessioning), it could severely harm the artist’s reputation.


Unfortunately, Vincent Desiderio experienced the latter scenario. Saatchi deaccessioned Desiderio’s work, setting a precedent that highlighted the immense influence a SuperCollector could wield over an artist’s career. As a consequence, Desiderio’s artistic trajectory diverged from that of his peers, demonstrating how pivotal these collectors could be in shaping an artist’s destiny.

In summary, the tale of Vincent Desiderio underscores the delicate balance between artistic talent, collector patronage, and the power of influential figures within the art world.


In the mid-2000s, an emerging artist had their work purchased by the renowned SuperCollector, Charles Saatchi, at a London art fair. Saatchi, known for his influential role in the art world, then approached the gallery representing the artist with an offer: he wanted to acquire not only the existing painting but also the artist’s entire future production. This proposition was a significant opportunity, but the artist had a different vision.


The artist made a bold decision: rather than concentrating their artwork in one collector’s hands, they believed it was best to disperse their creations globally. Consequently, they politely declined Saatchi’s offer. However, this rejection did not sit well with the collector. In a vindictive move, Saatchi requested that the gallery take back the purchased painting and refund the money.


Fortunately, fate intervened. An encyclopedic museum in St. Louis, Missouri recognized the value of the artist’s work and acquired the painting for its permanent contemporary collection. Unfortunately, destiny played a cruel trick—the painting, carefully crated for its journey, fell victim to a forklift accident. The forklift driver inadvertently drove into the center of the crate, destroying the artwork.

 

In hindsight, the artist reflected on their decision. Despite the loss, they considered it a fair price to pay for avoiding a Faustian bargain with the powerful SuperCollector. Sometimes, the cost of artistic integrity outweighs financial gains.


The story of the artist’s dilemma and the unexpected twists of fate highlights the delicate dance between artistic vision, collector influence, and the unpredictable nature of the art world.


frustrated art collectors and the snobby art dealer

From the collector’s perspective, here’s a cautionary tale: A couple, passionate about

contemporary art, diligently collected works by both emerging and established artists from around the world. Their discerning eye and strategic acquisitions placed them at the forefront of galleries’ lists for highly sought-after artists. Over several years, they amassed a significant contemporary art collection, carefully housed in their primary residence, a climate-controlled warehouse, and a vacation home nestled on the beach in a charming Northwest community.


However, as time passed and the couple aged, their art-collecting habits shifted. They no longer frequented international art fairs or galleries as actively as before. Consequently, the galleries that once prioritized them for in-demand artists gradually shifted their attention elsewhere. When the couple decided to add another artwork to their collection, they were met with an unexpected twist—the gallery had already sold it to another collector. Their absence from the art scene had consequences.


This scenario highlights the finicky nature of the art world. Relationships, timing, and consistent engagement matter. Art collecting isn’t just about acquiring beautiful pieces; it’s a delicate dance of passion, strategy, and staying connected. As ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNW) diversify their investments into collectibles, the demand for high-quality art necessitates professional guidance, a deep understanding of the art market, and an unwavering passion for discovering the rare qualities that exceptional contemporary art presents.


In this ever-evolving landscape, collectors must navigate not only aesthetics but also the intricate dynamics of the art ecosystem.



Next time: Who are the original SuperCollectors and what is their lasting impact?


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