Interview with Genevieve Phelan for Fashion Journal on collecting art
It’s always felt like that ‘special’ art is out of reach, and something that we’ll have when we’re much older. Potentially it’s down to cost, expert sourcing and understanding what you like. I can admit that while I feel deeply moved by art and swoon at local galleries, I’m stumped when looking for something affordable and cool that I feel a connection with right now. And I don’t know what my personal art style really is yet. I live part-time at my partner’s home and I’m helping him with adorning his (mostly blank) walls but never really know where to start, or I can’t afford the pieces I really like. I’m curious to know how to get more ‘into’ art, where to sniff out local emerging talent and how to be a more mindful shopper.
I have a vision of one day being that fabulous lady who can tell her guests all about the posters and paintings she has curated over the years, and how they came into her life. To kickstart my journey (and maybe yours, too), I’ve asked friend and talented art consultant, Amalia Mitsopoulos, to guide us through how to start collecting artwork in your 20s.
What does your job as an art consultant entail?
I connect people with art through two avenues, guiding people through the art collecting process and opening up access to the art world.
To guide people through the art collecting journey, I design a bespoke collecting strategy that provides art recommendations or navigates the process for a commissioned work of art.
To open access to the art world, I explore and discuss insights I absorb on art. This is essential for me because art is for everyone. I have held online talks, written thought pieces, interviewed artists, and taken people to see art in the myriad of ways it exists. Art connects to contemporary life in the most unexpected and innovative ways. Perceptions of these connections are too beautiful not to share.
Why do you do what you do?
I've only been interested in communicating people's sensations and feelings, which is the crux of art. I want to make art more open to people because this is how art can help us better our lives.
Something compelling about the art world is the community that it's brought, being made up of some of the most eclectic, disruptive, and brilliant thinkers. Growing up, I didn't know anyone who collected art and wasn't around a huge art community or that this was an actual job for a long time. Of course, many people have barriers to entry, like money, skin color, and education, and the misconceptions about art deter people from engaging with it. Sometimes traditional art spaces don't feel hospitable, and people can be intimidated by this.
Having that exposure of not being born into an art world life but having naturally carved one by default has made me see a growing number of art lovers who need help knowing how or where to start experiencing art.
People need the slightest understanding for the most enormous appreciation. Art is my lifestyle; sometimes, it's nice to share things I'm into.
I've always had an innate love for art, which evolved as I became more engaged and studied art. My first art history lesson in my first year at university changed my life forever. I realized that art so easily connects to all the disciplines of what it means to be human, philosophically and psychologically. Art is transgenerational- the origins can be traced back to the prehistoric era and will outlive us all.
When it comes to collecting art in your 20s, where should you start to look?
Initiating conversations in the creative community is your most powerful tool. We live in a time where we can easily navigate our involvement with the arts beyond the gallery sector. Social media - which we love and hate - has its perks, one being that it proliferates information. You can directly reach out to an artist if you see art you like. If I'm looking for art from a particular artist, I often message them telling them what I love about them and asking if they have a catalog of available works or any shows coming up. This pathway is much richer because when you directly engage with whom you buy the art, you learn the narrative and become a part of that story.
Galleries, curators, and advisors are great people to talk to. They can provide recommendations even if the art they support differs from your style or is out of your budget. Melbourne has an annual affordable art fair, art student shows - RMIT and Monash Uni are musts - see are also good places to look for whats around.
There are a billion online galleries which can be overwhelming. To help you break down what you want to look for, start a Pinterest board of what you like to show people the aesthetic you gravitate towards. You never know what someone has in the back room....
What are some important things to consider when you're potentially purchasing a new piece of art?
Firstly, buy what you love! Buy what is authentic to you, whether that be conceptually or aesthetically. Art can have an enduring artistic value or represent an idea that transcends art being made before it. The price of art is arbitrary and contrived in its own way, and what is dictated and exhibited in galleries now doesn't necessarily collide with what will be in art history textbooks in 30 or 40 years. If you buy what you love, you will always have a meaningful connection to that art despite all the other noise.
Secondly, see as much art as you can. You must develop a mental vocabulary to decide what you feel is good. Go to gallery openings, go to exhibitions, go to museums, go to student exhibitions. This will help you understand what's around and what trends there are before you decide what you like. You will refine your vocabulary of what you think is cool, and what you think is good until you develop your own personal criteria. It's essential to see a range of art in a range of spaces, including art outside your budget.
Thirdly, find a community to talk about art with. Talking about art with others is incredibly gratifying and valuable - there is never an unvalidated thought or opinion. For a lot of art, you need context and an understanding greater than what you can come up with on your own, greater than your frame of thinking. Don't hesitate to ask questions and understand as much context as possible because this will lead you to community.
What are some great spaces in Naarm to find cool art?
Sometimes art is experienced best when not in a white cube.
Public art brings enormous value to society and is the most inclusive - in a public space, it exists for everyone. Seeing art integrated into natural and urban environments brings a whole new lens to it. ACCA has a public art trail map that you can access online. Melbourne's major universities have galleries and public art integrated into the campus. Point Leo Estate and Heidi Museum of Modern Art are my top sculpture parks to make a day out of.
If you're looking to buy art, auction houses can be really insightful, especially when learning about the value of art and the secondary art market. It is exhilarating - there is such a thrill in experiencing art move through the market in real-time. You would also be surprised at what you can find, what sells and how much it may or may not go for. Leonard Joel has contemporary art, fine art, and aboriginal art auctions I attend twice a year. The collector in Murrumbeena also has had some pretty epic auctions to date.
Art Houses are an intimate way to experience art. The Lyons Housemuseum and Justin Art House Museum run private tours of their homes to the public to exhibit art. These are the people with the best insights too.
At The Above is at the top of my list of local galleries. It's a dreamlike space with an artist-in-residence program, providing local creatives with great opportunities.
How about online?
The online art world is thriving. It is easy to make connections, ask questions, and journey through time and place to access an unimaginable range of art.
Artsy is a great place to look for art because you can follow artists you love, and they exhibit a vast range of artists - emerging to dead! Avante Art is another platform I frequent. They collaborate with artists and release limited editions.
I've also bought a limited edition book of prints of Ester Gundez from Etsy.
Consider art books. Anyone can pick these up and enjoy them. JRP Editions and Tachem are international publishing houses I highly recommend.
When in New South Wales, you can't miss HAKE House of Art in Sydney's northern beaches. HAKE is a utopia. Run by Ash Holmes and Jake Elliot, this is an incredibly charming space that's creating a culture change in the Australian art world. The program is designed to forward the expression and practice of emerging and established artists in a flexible space that provides an inclusive and collaborative platform for the community to discover contemporary art, make collecting more accessible, and amplify under-represented voices. It's impossible to visit this space and not enter a state of mindfulness where you are fully engaged in a personal moment of pleasure.
HAKE is bringing back the community to art. The range of art is vast across various mediums and exhibits established and emerging artists with payment plans available. Events are fun, frequent, and welcoming.
What galleries/shows do you recommend going to? How can someone get involved in these interactive, immersive events?
A cheat sheet on building a lifestyle around art.
Read the news - almost every day starts with me reading Art Net and The Art Newspaper. Artists are consistently at the forefront of progress as they're society's most politically progressive thinkers and makers. Artists are the first to move into neighborhoods that later have an economic boom and are the most innovative people in the world when it comes to combating issues with a social agenda. Everything that happens in life can be connected to art. Seeing how these people think and stitch real-world situations into creative practices is astonishing.
See more art. Aim for two new galleries a month, including one opening! Care less about what you see. Just be there.
Say hello. Say hi to gallerists, reach out to artists you love, and ask curators and advisors for their recommendations on what is around.
Scout it out. If you already have that urge to know more, or if a creative topic, artist, or artwork spikes your interest, do your research. Search Google for a podcast or an article. This will only lead you to more engagement.
Have a laugh. Don't worry about taking art so seriously. Jerry Gagosian is someone you must follow on Instagram. She is constantly laughing at the art world.
What would you suggest to do if you grow tired of the art you have?
Hold onto it. I don't suggest turning over art with haste. Like fashion, our style changes, and so will your art style. But it will always tell a story about that time in your life. Art has an afterlife and can affect people's lives differently at different stages. You might have something because you fell in love with it when you first saw it, and as you grow, you realize that you will take something completely different from it.
If you need space from it, think about a potential swap with a friend, hanging it somewhere else, or putting it away for a rainy day. Someone else may love to hang it in their home.
What should artwork in the home/your personal collection evoke, or may you feel?
All feelings are a gift because they make you see clearly, especially in hindsight. It's important to avoid pressuring yourself to feel a certain way when viewing art. Sometimes, we think through art, and sometimes, we feel through art. All knowledge is in the body. The body reacts to everything. Next time you look at art, notice how your body reacts to it - that will reveal how you feel about art. Art doesn't ask to be understood. It asks to be experienced. You need to let go of caring deeply about trying to feel something in particular and trust your instincts. That is when you make your best decisions and when your art will reflect who you are.
What are your all-time favourite artworks (in your possession) and why?
The Veil in the Dessert by Alexandra Plim! I've always been fascinated by the inherent blissfulness of deserts. I had butterflies in my stomach as soon as I saw it.
Some all-time favorite artists (not in my possession), I definitely have a thing for Julie Rrap and Timur Si-Qin. Qin and Rrap are incredibly talented, witty, and funny living artists pushing boundaries in clever ways. They create art that seduces me every single time.
Link to original article: An art consultant shares her best advice on collecting art (fashionjournal.com.au)