The contemporary art world can seem an exclusive and inscrutable domain that's shrouded in mystery for those who don't operate directly within it. As simple as it is to appreciate wonderful works of art, the task of taking your passion to the next level and becoming an art collector is a whole other ball game that comes with a host of questions and challenges.
However, as Tappan is proving, it need not be so daunting. The Los Angeles-based art collective is shaking up the contemporary art world and revolutionising the practice of art collecting. It was founded in 2012 by Chelsea Neman Nassib upon the premise of connecting emerging artists and collectors around the world, while supporting artists to further evolve their practice.
By bringing the incredible possibilities of art collecting and investing within reach of a new generation of art lovers, Tappan is demonstrating that buying art doesn't have to be an intimidating experience. In fact, it can be effortless and enjoyable.
Take it from the experts: Keith Pollock, Khalid Jones and Sara Decou are three art lovers and collectors who work with Tappan to discover new artists and artworks through its e-commerce platform and advisory services. They hail from diverse career backgrounds: Keith is digital director of Architectural Digest, Sara is the co-founder of a tech start-up called Brud and Khalid is an attorney-turned-investment firm partner. We picked their brains about their experiences in the industry and their advice for budding art collectors:
KJ: I began collecting in earnest in around 2015. I spent probably the two years prior to that learning as much as possible. I spoke with gallery directors and went to fairs, and joined young collectors groups with the Guggenheim in NY and LACMA. I even took an art business course from Christies in New York to understand more. I read a book called “Collecting Contemporary” that was given to me by a gallery director. Whenever I had the chance to travel I made sure to visit galleries and museums.
SD: I'm not sure exactly when, but it started with gifts from friends followed by estate sales and online auctions.
KP: I studied painting and printmaking at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Collecting art, I suppose, started with trading work with other students I admired. Now, I have to pay for it!
KP: It’s hard to identify just one. For as long as I can remember, I was looking at Art Forum and Architectural Digest and taking trips into the Met... I remember loving abstract expressionists like Hans Hofmann, Motherwell, and Frankenthaler a lot as a child. And I had a moment where I was really into the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I would draw pictures of his chairs when I was like 6 years old.
SD: I went to a small art school 4-6th grade. I still have drawings from my classmates. I love them.
KJ: The first piece I fell in love with is “Elegy to the Spanish Republic 100” by Robert Motherwell, which is in the permanent collection of LACMA. It takes up the entire space on the wall and the scale is just enormous. If you stand right in front of it you are almost completely enveloped in it in the same kind of way that you feel if you stand in the middle of a large Richard Serra sculpture. I first saw it many years ago when I didn’t know nearly as much about art, and I often wish I could look at work in that same way as I did then.
KJ: I’ve had my eyes on a set of prints by Josef Albers called “Formulation:Articulation” but I think the next piece that I collect will be from an emerging artist that I’ve yet to even hear of. I’ll let you know as soon as I find the piece!
KP: I guess the hope is that I continue collecting work that inspires me. And that my budget grows a bit!
KJ: I have a mantra. “Like what you want. Buy what you love. Collect to keep.” I think the art world sometimes tells people what to like and mandates the brilliance of what is being presented to the audience. I like to tell people to look at the work first and not the name first... I know too many people who have started collecting and acquire works by some popular names, but when I ask them why they like the work, they don’t really know.
My other piece of advice is never feel embarrassed about asking questions and never feel intimidated by a gallery or fair environment.
Lastly, I tell new collectors that the barrier to entry is not as high as they think. If you think that you have to spend five or six figures on a piece of art can halt someone right in their tracks you’re doing a disservice to the industry as a whole... I have works in my collection that I have purchased for less than $500, and some in my collection that are many great magnitudes higher than that.
KP: Engage with emerging artists: I sometimes discover artists on Instagram or through friends, or in the homes we are shooting for AD. I go to a lot of fairs. If I see someone’s work that really excites me I will often contact them and ask to do a studio visit. I need to speak with the artist and see how they work. I go to a lot of fairs.
SD: Do what feels good.
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