Starting a Filipino Contemporary Art Collection
Published March 19, 2021
Whether it’s to decorate a living and working space, to make an investment, or to stoke a passion for the arts, building a great art collection of pieces by Filipino artists doesn’t happen overnight. It isn’t as simple as going to a gallery, picking what you like, and taking cash out your wallet.
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Philippine art is so diverse, has its own flavor in the global modern and contemporary art scene, and is full of brilliant and interesting thinkers and artists. It’s an enriching and rewarding experience that one can enjoy without breaking the bank.
We know that the art world can seem intimidating, one only for those with artistic talent or insider knowledge. Most of all when one thinks of art collections, one thinks of money. one may think of the super rich bidding at auction houses like Christie’s or Sotheby’s for works of art at soaring prices. It’s an assumption supported by the hype in the headlines of newspapers, magazines, and our social media.
But you really don’t need to be among the jet set, it really begins with curiosity and an open mind. It requires investing time to learn. Fortunately, Vintana is here to provide fundamentals on what, why, and how to collect contemporary and modern art from the Philippines. Read on to start building a collection that you will love and be proud of.
Why and How to Collect Art
There are a few reasons we’ve already mentioned. A few more may include collecting a piece of history, supporting the arts, the list goes on. The point is art collecting is a subjective experience and for many cases it becomes a joy and passion, beyond price tags.
An exceptional reason for collecting is the love of art and the interesting people that artists are. One often cited example are Herb and Dorothy Vogels, a New York couple whose small budget from ordinary jobs didn’t stop them from amassing one the most important collections of post-1960’s American art. This isn’t to say that they started off with that goal. They just loved the art and the artists, mostly Minimal and Conceptual art of the 1960s and onwards. Their collection of nearly 5,000 pieces, once kept in their modest apartment, has gone on to become part of American heritage and art history, now housed in several museums across the US for future generations.
Like the Vogels, today’s new art collectors are smart. They start on a small budget, as they learn and navigate the art world.
Set Your Budget
Naturally this will be your very first step, even before you purchase your first work of art. Determining your budget will give you a clearer idea of what to buy. Start small then gradually increase your budget as your collection and understanding of art grows. A budget as low as 10,000 to 20,000 pesos (roughly 200 to 400 US dollars) is a good start, allowing you to purchase small to mid-sized paintings and drawings of emerging artists, even established ones. If you’re like the Vogels and you can devote one income of a two income household to art, you’ll be able to start with a higher budget.
Consider what purchasing pattern would be optimal for you. Would you buy an original artwork worth 30,000 pesos or multiple lesser-priced artworks each month? In any case, always aim for quality over quantity. Buy what you love and what you think is great. Afterall, your budget will not remain static. It should change as your appreciation, knowledge, and tastes grow. Know that your foray into the art world is only beginning.
Define Your Vision
There’s nothing like having a vision for your art collection or having an idea of the kind of collection you desire to build. Like your budget however, this will not be static. But even in the beginning, knowing your motivations and goals for buying art will help in defining this vision.
To be safe, don’t buy for the price or for investment. A more expensive artwork doesn’t mean it’s better. Along the same lines, don’t underestimate an artwork just because it’s priced below what you understand as the price of good art. In the light of collecting art for the long haul, wanting to collect what you love or what inspires you should be the important goal and motivator.
It’s not uncommon to come across new collectors who start for aesthetic goals, for instance, to enliven or complement a space. In time, however, collections outgrow these spaces. You will then have to realize that display, logistics, installation, insurance, storage, and conservation are important goals that all serious collectors have to consider. Wealthy or not, true art collectors cannot be casual about collecting.
Investment is another goal that some seem to think is a key indicator of great collection. New buyers, however, have to be wary. There are no guarantees when investing in art, unless it’s with expensive artworks of established artists. You have to understand that and that collecting has a wealth of returns, but not the monetary kind. You have to believe in a value beyond prices. Knowing the great minds of artists, being surrounded, stimulated, and inspired by great art, being immersed in that fascinating world, and even educating future generations is the reward itself.
Look and Learn
Immersion is the next step. A part of this means being excited and learning about the Philippine art scene. If you’re not immersing yourself fully into this art world by doing your research, then you’re going about collecting art in the wrong way.
The more you look at Philippine art, the more your appreciation and understanding will grow. Learn about artworks and artists, visit museums and commercial galleries, attend exhibit openings, and find artworks on social media. Just like artists, looking at and learning about art in these different ways will train your mind and eye about the art you love and enjoy. Going through this process will elevate yourself from the casuals. As mentioned, it is a passion. It will shape your vision for your collection. It’s similar to knowing yourself. Over time, you learn to gravitate towards certain kinds of artworks more than others.
Where to immerse
Apart from reading artist bios, books, articles on the internet, there is no substitute to looking at actual artworks at places and events designed to showcase them. These are places and events where one can talk to Filipino artists, get into enlightening and fun conversations about art, and learn more about collecting.
Art Fairs and galleries are among the top traditional ways to see the best art aside from museums and artist’s studios. In Metro Manila alone, there are a handful of annual art fairs that are worth going. Among the most popular are Art Fair Philippines and Art in the Park.
While there are dozens of exhibition openings yearly. Some of the top galleries in Metro Manila are Finale Art File, Art Informal, Blanc, The Drawing Room, Silverlens, West Gallery, Mo-space, and Vinyl on Vinyl. Each of these galleries has at least one exhibition opening a month. Attend these events and don’t miss your chance to see artworks up close, ask questions, and make connections. It is the best way to get to know artists, gain access to insider tips, and find like-minded collectors to grow from.
Browsing online has never been better when it comes to art. On Instagram alone, you’ll find thousands of top influencers such as galleries and artists in the Philippine and abroad to keep you amazed with art you’ve never seen before. You may even get an art history lesson or two. Instagram, alone, has so many hashtags devoted to art, some with millions of posts. It will be impossible to go through it all, so it would be best to find an authoritative account to trust. Vintana’s IG, for instance, has built up a following as most of its posts are insightful features on the best Filipino contemporary artists.
You’ll find reputable online art galleries and auction sites that categorize artworks in several convenient ways, such as by artist, medium, size, or theme. These sites also conveniently feature artworks from galleries around the world. When it comes to Philippine art, however, Vintana goes one step further by putting together online exhibitions from a wide variety of Filipino contemporary artists. Visitors to Vintana get a richer experience from exhibitions of carefully selected and curated artworks, accompanied by videos, artist bios, and exhibition notes. Meanwhile, the buying experience is optimized with transparent pricing, an easy-to-use shopping interface, and artworks shipped directly to the buyer’s doorstep.
Before Buying an Artwork
Every first time buyer of an artwork also looking forward to collecting more should know a couple of essential tips about purchasing artworks. Here are a few decisive factors when buying an artwork.
Certificates of authenticity are an absolute must. These documents are crucial to proving the authenticity and even provenance of an artwork. They not only prove if an artwork is authentic, they are also required to insure the artwork. A transfer of ownership or resale of the artwork will most likely require this document. The essential information to look for in a certificate of authenticity include the name of the artwork, its photo, its medium, its date of completion, its description, and the signature of its artist.
Losing certificates of authenticity can curtail a resale, if you needed one, or cause all kinds of other problems. We recommend that even early art collectors keep these important documents in a safe and secure place.
Take your time. Buying art can be thrilling. It is best, however, not to get too caught up. Don’t be over-zealous in building your art collection. Give yourself and the works you’ve bought time to breathe. Don’t be in a rush to buy another one so soon. In other words, take your time between purchases. You may find that your appreciation of an artwork you wanted changed in a matter of months or less.
Don’t just go with the hype and follow the herd. Even worse, collectors have been known to buy the work of young emerging artists to resell them later for a quick profit. At Vintana, we strongly recommend that art not be purchased solely for the prospect of investment returns and a hot name. You need to believe in an artist’s career, ideas, and vision. You need to be willing to live with the artwork.
This guide is created with the hopes of providing tips and key information about starting an art collection. If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you. Just like exploring the art scene, it could also be fun to connect with the people in it. Don’t be shy! Chances are, we will learn a thing or two from you.
Remember, it takes time to build an art collection. All things considered, don’t forget to have fun and be proud of your first precious pieces.