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Collecting art: finding a personal narrative

Franco Soldatini, better known as “Il Cangialli”, was a Tuscan self-taught painter who spent his life in poverty to pursue his art career. When his father tried to convince him to work with him as a coachbuilder, because according to him painting was not a real job, Franco answered: “Look at the banknotes and you’ll find there the faces of painters, and not the ones of coachbuilders!” (Italian liras banknotes had the faces of Caravaggio, Bernini and Raffaello portrayed on them). No matter how hard was the life of Soldatini, when I decided to become a professional painter I always kept in mind this sentence, which has more than a reason to be considered true.

The motivations behind an artistic career are quite obvious: we as artists want to express ourselves, but also deliver something that bring sense into the world, leaving our legacy once we are passed. But which are the reasons that drive art lovers to become collectors (and, in some cases, serial hoarders)?

Don’t listen to people who still believe that the art world (and especially the artists) are all sad and miserable. Religious and political leaders, not exactly the dullest tools of the box, rely on artists since centuries to deliver to masses their power and their messages in the most effective and astonishing way. And speaking about money, you would be surprised to know that art is the second investment market in the world, worth more than 50 billions dollars. Not exactly sad and miserable, is it? But let’s put aside power and money: what is the real reason that makes more and more art lovers to build their own art collection, following their tastes and ambitions? And how is the role of collectors evolving, now that millennials have entered into this fascinating world?

While the older generations of collectors prefer to invest in established artists and in ancient masters, millennials love to discover contemporary art made by artists of their same age, or even younger, and sometimes they go even further, becoming modern patrons through financing interesting art projects and grants. While galleries and art dealers remain the first source of art for collectors, we must also consider that internet and social medias allow art lovers to discover the work of artists from all over the world and to scout hidden talents by themselves. It’s worth to know that Italy is at the second place in the world (behind China mainland) for the median expenditure of the so called High Net Worth collectors (63.000 dollars in 2023), according to The Art Market Report. And reading the report, we also discover that the very first reason for collectors to buy art is related to self esteem and self identity.

An art collection can become an interesting way to affirm one’s own personality, a visual grammar to be integrated, evolved and revolutioned as time passes, a dynamic autobiography that transmit a message that is way broader that the sum of messages delivered from the single artworks of which it is composed. This is maybe the mosty interesting part of such a peculiar universe, intimate and exuberant at the same time, where the relationship between the artwork and the spectator becomes an interactive process of sense exchange.

Worth reading:


A report published by Art Basel & UBSPrepared by Dr. Clare McAndrew, Arts Economics

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