In the first edition of ART WORLD Q&A, NYC based art advisor, Sima Familant thoughtfully shares her extensive knowledge of the contemporary art world, her philosophy of collecting and how all it takes is “curiosity” to begin the journey.
What is the best advice you can offer to someone who is ready to start collecting contemporary art?
The best advice I offer to someone who is ready to start collecting contemporary art is…. education.
Art is a language – a way to discuss a myriad of things where language stops. Typically art is not one’s first ‘language’, which requires learning. And as with language, one of the beginnings is to establish vocabulary. With art, the vocabulary is describing what one likes. Think about how you choose your clothes, your car, your furniture, jewelry, china, etc –time period, pattern, structure, color, and forms.
I see art as that – it is a new vocabulary that dovetails already with the choices you are making in your everyday life, yet you most likely have not articulated what this is. This is your style. You learn the players, the tenses, the precedents and later the nuances. It explains why from the cave men to emerging countries, the art starts with figurative as the figure is what one understands first (it is what one sees) and then, as that is mastered, the collective creative consciousness moves towards abstraction, eventually culminating with artists such as Malevich, later Mondrian and still later Ryman. It does not mean that you the collector are only sophisticated if you like abstraction, yet it is an easy example of how one begins to articulate the language called art.
Learning art takes seeing art. This became the major instrumental idea that I learned in graduate school at Sotheby’s Institute in London. Not everyone has the time/luxury/ inclination to attend graduate school and dedicate their focus on the arts.
Yet I did. I spent two years in London where I was up early every day at the library and any extra time that I had, I was visiting and traveling to see art exhibitions.
I am not suggesting that one has to ‘study’ art, more it is a mater of having a idea of what is attracting you – ie is it Pollock or Rothko? Figurative or Abstraction ? Landscape or Portraiture? Or you discover that you love an artist’s work, say Calder. Which tells you that A, you love sculpture. B, you love playfulness. C you love movement. And D you love form and color. Best to start with generalities and from there, it is easier to focus and move forward.
Whether it is at a gallery, museums, other collectors’ homes, or auction houses, the idea is to see art. I am the advisor yet I can not tell you what you like. I can show you what is interesting, important, and a good value. Yet I also ask my clients to steer me.
In today’s art world, there is more information available as well as opportunities. This allows for ‘there is something for everyone’ adage to be true and I hope distills the belief that to begin collecting, one has to collect art that they don’t understand and / or like. So not true. It is a big art world. Which allows for much choice.
Collecting art is a privilege and a nexus to access one’s engagement with ideas, business, economics, beauty, politics, philosophies, and cultures. And is a fun, fascinating way to engage in the world, differently than one’s day job.
All it takes is curiosity ….