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收藏藝術的藝術 | The Art of Art Collecting
by 約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 12:21pm on 22nd May 2018


圖片說明 Caption:
2017年參觀香港Art Basel展覽的觀眾,檢視台灣藝術家石晉華的《行路一公里》,這是一次概念的行為表演,畫作並附設解說的視頻短片。/ Visitors to Art Basel Hong Kong in 2017 inspecting Taiwanese artist Shi Jin-Hua's A 100km Walk; a conceptual performance and drawing with an explanatory video.  


(Please scroll down for English version)

這個周末,數以千計的藝術家、藝術策展人、博物館人員和藝術行政人員從世界各地飛抵香港出席Art Basel,是全球其中一個最大型的藝術展銷會。香港的Art Basel與在瑞士巴塞爾和美國邁亞美舉行的展銷會焦點一致,為參與畫廊向主要受眾––藝術收藏家––出售藝術提供有利環境。

根據藝術畫廊、拍賣行和藝術展銷會推廣部門的簡明解釋,藝術市場所指的「藝術收藏家」,被視為想法相近的同質群體。畫廊會以「我們的藝術收藏家」來稱呼買家,並會把這個匿名社群作為參照,用來解釋藝術市場趨勢等現象。藝術家可能會把他們稱為「我的藝術收藏家」,就好像他們是由個人組成的支援社群,與藝術家建立持久而友好的關係––在某些情況下,事實確是如此。然而,一般而言,畫廊和拍賣行均會把藝術買家的姓名保密,而藝術家不會知道誰是藝術收藏家。

報章和媒體對高價藝術作品成交的報導,鮮有提及藝術作品買家的名字。不令人意外的,是高端市場的買家都希望保持低調。在這些銷售中,買家雖然沒被指名道姓,但仍然因為交易價格高昂而備受尊崇。為在口頭上守護秘密,需要言之鑿鑿的媒體推測可以稍作潤飾,用字上卻仍然不採用肯定的字眼,只會說成:「相信買家是……」 

但藝術買家的非凡地位,卻是來自扭曲了的簡化歸類,不僅僅是藝術買家,而是被稱為藝術收藏家。藝術收藏家擁有社會地位,更被視為對某地文化健康有所貢獻。

在為時不短的近代藝術史中,藝術主要透過贊助支持系統來產生和建立藝術藏品系列。在中國的朝廷藝坊裡,藝匠按照皇室、諸侯和達官貴人的命令製作藝術品、畫作和精美的瓷器作品。同樣地,十五、十六世紀時,歐洲各國的貴族、當朝者和宗教組織也以合約形式聘用藝術家和贊助他們工作。十七世紀後在世界各地開通的專屬航線,加上更精密的銀行體制,讓眾多同業工會和商界領袖成為多代藝術家的贊助人,他們的作品至今可在各國博物館中看到。 

在這些贊助系統下,藝術家的作品主題主要圍繞宗教、紀念重要事件(例如軍事勝利)和人物(社群、個人和先人肖像畫)。然而,中國的文人階級對藝術品的單純審美欣賞歷史卻顯著較長。歐洲方面對美和風景的欣賞(以至其後的藝術實驗)隨著十九世紀的工業革命演進,同時間更多元化的自由市場也促成了更流動和更無拘無束的關係,而不只是藝術家和藝術贊助人之間的從屬關係。 

據我們所知,藝術市場正是始於此時:主要市場透過藝術畫廊和商人辦展覽,出售在世藝術家的作品;拍賣行則處理二手買賣。收藏藝術被視為尊貴的特權活動––但資本主義的自由市場,讓任何喜歡和希望購買藝術的人,可以從不同種類、不同價位的藝術品中選購,藝術品也不再限於貴族、皇室和宗教指令下的產物。

這與現時的情況大致相同。人人都可以成為藝術收藏家,但並不是人人都是藝術家。簡而言之,每個人對於如何花費或如何不花費金錢,都有自己的興趣、優次和選擇。

購買藝術是一項休閒活動,與出席音樂劇、音樂會、體育運動或步行健身相似。參與收藏藝術的強度,並不是由財富而是根據興趣來決定。其它決定因素,還包括堅持參觀藝術展覽、閱讀與藝術有關的資料,和以個人、智慧的方式來評估所見所聞。藝術藏品系列需要經過時間慢慢(千萬不能太快)累積,藏品系列才可做出最佳效果,而且成要以某一課題為焦點,又或集中於某段時期、某個藝術運動或某位特定藝術家。這套方法可以成就有重大意義的藝術藏品系列。

「投資」是藝術和收藏藝術其中一個引發不少爭論的因素。雖然有不少藝術投資顧問會努力不懈地撥打直銷電話(請他們永遠不要再來電是他們應該得到的肯定回應),但是藝術並非投資。藝術是一種反覆無常、流動極低的資產,而且沒有內在價值。 

藝術,包括它的美麗、憤怒,一瞬之間或普世情感的表達,以及它所表達的意念,應該是收藏藝術的動機。藝術收藏家應該不受時尚影響,並會無視藝術市場關於「熱選」或「人氣」藝術家的鬧哄哄聲音。有名藝術家的藏品系列意味收藏藝術的懶人方法。它只是在已廣為人知的藝術藏品系列裡追逐錦上添花。 

更令人敬佩,而且難度也更高的做法,是透過判別藝術家能力和原創意識來建立被肯定為藝術藏品的系列。在這個幾乎所有事物均衍生自早年藝術意念的年代,這種做法確是一項挑戰,但是當一位收藏家思想開明,並透過對藝術史敏銳的觸覺來建立自己知識時,便不會太難於執行。透過這個流程,藝術收藏家便是藝術世界的一個層次(連同藝術家之友,以及和博物館和其他機構支持),他們也在金錢上回饋藝術家,以讓他們實現源源不絕的創意。 


原文刊於《明報周刊》,2018年3月31日



The Art of Art Collecting

By John Batten

Thousands of artists, art curators, museum staff and art administrators flew into Hong Kong this week to attend Art Basel, one of the world’s largest art fairs. The Hong Kong edition of Art Basel joins similar editions in Basel, Switzerland and in Miami, USA. Each fair has a focus to provide a conducive environment for participating galleries to sell art to their main audience: art collectors.

The art market, as explained by art galleries, auction houses and art fair marketing departments, breezily refer to ‘art collectors’ as if they are a homogenous, like-minded lot. Galleries will refer to “our collectors” and will reference this anonymous group to explain, for example, art market trends. Artists may refer to “my art collectors” as if they are a supportive group of individuals with whom they have a long-standing and friendly relationship – and in some cases they might. Usually, however, galleries and auctions houses keep the names of art buyers secret and collectors are unknown to artists. 

Newspaper and media reports of high-priced art sales rarely name the purchaser of an art piece. Not surprisingly, buyers at the high-end of the market wish discretion. In such sales, the buyer – despite being nameless – is still honoured by such a high-priced sale. Giving lip-service to secrecy, juicy media speculation can be embellished, but still not be confirmed, with the words: “it is believed that the buyer is….” 

But the esteem for art buyers is through the twisted simplicity of being referred, not simply as an art buyer, but as an art collector. An art collector has social status and is seen to be contributing to the cultural health of a place.

In art’s long recent history, art was predominantly produced and art collections were built through a patronage system of support. China’s imperial dynastic workshops produced art objects, paintings and beautiful ceramic pieces by artisans on order for the ruling Chinese court and their influential retainers and administrators. Likewise, aristocratic ruling houses and religious institutions across Europe contracted artists and patronized their work in the 15th and 16th-century. The opening of dedicated sailing trade routes around the world after the 17th-century and the rise of more sophisticated banking systems saw guilds and business leaders become the patrons of generations of artists whose work now fills museums around the world. 

Under these patronage systems, an artist’s work was predominantly religious, memorials of events (e.g. military victories) and of people (group, individual and ancestor portraiture). However, the Chinese literati class had a significantly longer history of pure aesthetic appreciation. A similar European appreciation for beauty and landscape (and later, art experimentation) evolved with the industrial revolution in the 19th-century and, in tandem, a diverse free market allowed a more fluid and freer relationship, rather than just tutelage, between artist and art patron. 

The beginnings of an art market, as we know it, began around this time: through primary market art galleries and dealers exhibiting and selling the work of living artists alongside auction houses dealing in secondary sales. Art collecting was still seen as a privileged activity – but a capitalist free market allowed variety and different price points for art to be bought by anyone that loved and wished to buy art, rather than just by the aristocracy, royalty and religious orders. 

That is generally the situation now. Anyone can be an art collector. But, not everyone is – simply, everyone has their own interests, priorities and choices on how and how not to spend their money. 

Buying art is a recreational activity, similar to attending a musical concert, a sporting event or just walking for exercise. The intensity of involvement in art collecting is not determined by wealth, but by interest. It is determined by a commitment to visiting art exhibitions, reading about art, and making an individual and intellectual assessment of what is seen. A collection of art is best built over time (never quickly) and focused in subject, or concentrated on a period of time, an art movement or a particular artist – this approach can lead to an art collection of significance. 

A factor that muddies much debate about art and art collecting is ‘investment’. Despite the persistent efforts of telephone cold-calling art investment consultants (who should be firmly told not to ring back), art is not an investment. Art is a fickle, illiquid asset with no intrinsic value. 

Art - its beauty, anger, and expression of a moment in time or of universal emotions and of ideas that it expresses - should be the motivation for collecting art. An art collector should be immune to fashion and ignore an art market’s noise about ‘hot’ or ‘name’ artists. A collection of name artists suggests a lazy approach to art collecting. It is merely trophy hunting for a trophy art collection. 

Much more admirable and challenging is to build a considered art collection by judging artists on their ability and sense of originality. This is a challenge (in an age when almost everything is derivative of an earlier art idea), but not so difficult when a collector has an open mind, and builds their knowledge through an astute sense of art history. Through this process, art collectors are a layer of the art world (alongside artists’ friends, and museums and other institutional support) that also contribute monetary backing for artists to achieve their continuing creativity. 


This article was originally published in Ming Pao Weekly on 31 March 2018.



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