‘You have to train your eye before you start collecting art’

Do you want and money to start an art collection, but have no idea how to start? So Benedicte Goesaert knows what to do. As an artistic liaison, she helps art lovers develop her collection. ‘The more money you have available, the bigger the playing field. But that doesn’t change the basic principles: buy the art that suits you best.’

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‘Wealth’ will be available as a free supplement from De Tijd on Friday 10th June.

Benedicte Goesaert left Antwerp’s Zeno X Gallery in 2019 after eight years to work as an artistic liaison. ‘I learned a lot in the gallery, but I felt it was time to broaden my horizons. In a gallery you represent artists. You try to sell their artwork. As an art liaison, I bridge the gap between art and collectors. Now I work much more independently. That is liberating. I’m not really in sales anymore.’ ‘No pressure’, she says, as the title of the exhibition that she has curated at CASTTL in Antwerp, with works from the collections of artists Carla Arocha, Stéphane Schraenen and Luc Tuymans. ‘Very interesting to see what the artists themselves collect,’ she says during the tour of the exhibition.

Goesaert wanted to be an archaeologist, but became an expert in contemporary art. ‘When I was a child I found bones of an animal in a meadow. I thought of a dinosaur, but it was just a cow. But she was aroused interest in something new and unknown. From there it is only a short step to contemporary art.’

Now she is an art link. “I chose that name to distinguish it from art consultant or art adviser, which suggests a more investment-oriented approach. I don’t shy away from questions about money and value, I also know all the valuation tools of the art, but I’m not an investment advisor. If you ask me: what work of art should I buy now to sell it for a big profit in three years, I have to try it on. I don’t think of art that way. Also, I don’t have a crystal ball.

Benedicte Goesaert Organic

  • 1988.
  • He studied art sciences at the University of Ghent.
  • From 2011 to 2019 he worked for Zeno X Gallery. A year later she established herself as artistic liaison.
  • She connects collectors with art. She oversees and advises art legacies, including the Philippe Van Snick Estate, and was previously involved with the Philippe Vandenberg Foundation.
  • In 2021 she curated the Watou art festival together with Chantal Pattyn and Peter Verhelst.

Suppose I want to start an art collection and I knock on your door. What do you want to know about me?

Benito Goesaert: “Why did you contact me?” (laughter)

I need someone to guide me through contemporary art. There is too much.

Goesaert: ‘I understand that. I especially want to know why you want to collect art and what is your knowledge. Suppose I offer you a glass of expensive wine. It’s your first glass of wine. So it is impossible to place the taste of wine in a context. Is the wine good? It is bad? Is it worth its price? You don’t have a frame of reference with your first glass. It is the same with art. If you want to start collecting, the first thing you have to do is train your eye. Do it a few years before you start buying. An art fair is very interesting. I gave tours to potential collectors at the latest edition of Art Brussels. I can’t explain a work of art to you, but I can give you the keys to enter into a relationship with a work of art.’

I like it?

Goesaert: ‘Art doesn’t always have to please, for example. If you’re shocked by a job, that might be enough. Much also depends on your personality and your living conditions. If you work in the tech sector, you may have been fired up by tech-related art. By that I don’t necessarily mean art about and with technology. But maybe you like artists who push the limits, who think outside the box. Sometimes art acts as a catharsis. In the case of a great emotional loss, art can be a means to make room for that loss. There are many reasons to connect with art. I remember a conversation with a manager who told me: ‘When I get home, I want to see art that I don’t understand.’ As a kind of antidote to his analysis work.

© Wouter Van Vooren

‘There are some basic parameters to start an art collection. Do you only want Belgian art and/or its contemporaries? Are you open to non-Western art? Everyone should think about that. The responses are a filter that I can use to avoid overloading. You also have collectors who buy art very impulsively and obsessively. They don’t need me. Either way, it’s always an exciting world. What did the German cultural philosopher Walter Benjamin say again? Collecting is gathering elements from a world of chaos and making sense of them. I agree.’

Do you mind if I have 50,000 euros or 1 million to put together a collection?

Goesaert: ‘The more money you have available, the bigger the playing field. But that doesn’t change the basic principles: buy the art that suits you best. If you have more financial resources, you can more easily cross over into collecting, a trend among collectors. It is the collection of art from different eras. I recently spoke to a contemporary art collector who was thinking of buying an old master.’

Do you recognize the character and personality of the collector in the collection?

Goesaert: I dare not say that. You recognize the collector from the collection. Someone who mainly has famous names in his collection seems to be playing it safe. I find it exciting to discover a collection with artists I don’t know or don’t know very well. I am not a specialist in everything. In general, Belgians are daring collectors. This is why they are so popular at art fairs.

But they are usually very discreet. Is it for fear of theft?

Goesaert: That is one aspect. But collecting is something very personal and intimate. Not everyone wants to reveal that. Others do. Like former building contractor Walter Vanhaerents and his children. They converted a warehouse in the Dansaert district of Brussels into an art room. That’s fantastic isn’t it? That you collect art from generation to generation and share it with the public in a private museum in Brussels. By the way, you must not forget that many museums originated from private collections.’

Don’t collectors often chase each other for fear of missing out on a hype?

Goesaert: ‘That will happen at some point. We are all driven by algorithms. If we all look at the same Instagram accounts, you will get consistency. But of course you can also walk away and go against all the hype. Some time ago I spoke with a collector who years ago had bought the work of the American artist Robert Mangold. He had discovered it at an exhibition in Brussels. Nobody was interested in Mangold then. But that collector bought it anyway. He is still happy about it.

Cross collecting is popular: collecting art from various eras. I recently spoke with a contemporary art collector who was thinking of buying an old master.

Benedicte Goesaert, artistic link

Exaggerations often lead to mixed feelings. At the same time, they lead to flattening and overvaluation. In this way, perspective and nuance are in danger of being lost. African-American artist Jack Whitten, who can also be seen here in the exhibition, once testified to this. He was one of the artists whose work was shown in 2017, a year before his death, at the ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’ exhibition at London’s Tate Modern. The move was well-intentioned and important to understanding the history of African-American art, he said. ‘But really, with an exhibition like this, we are once again in a ghetto. That did not match reality. There was no division among the artists themselves. Why isn’t my work shown in an exhibition with white artists like Willem De Kooning and Franz Kline, whom I knew well?’ That would be the most integrated and artistically interesting because of the joint research in painting, he thought.’

You have worked at Zeno X Gallery for eight years. Don’t the big galleries condition the market too much?

Goesaert: ‘That’s said pretty quickly. But all great galleries once started out small. Almost always to support the artists. Collectors also have power. They can market works against the will of artists and galleries, because they believe there is money to be made. There is the hidden trade in works of art by non-professional dealers. Of course, the galleries try to go against that, in that sense they have power. If an artist offers ten new works and there are 50 potential buyers, a gallery makes decisions. Preference is given to collectors who are genuinely interested in the artist, whose long-term intentions are known. If you’re an art fanatic, someone who quickly resells art, you’re not in the front row of a gallery.

How do you see the digital art market with NFTs?

Goesaert: I am very curious to know how it will evolve. It will definitely change the art market. But how? I don’t think we’ll know for a few years. An NFT is double. It is a tool to buy art, at the same time it can also be a work of art itself. British artist Damien Hirst is conducting an interesting experiment with his project ‘The Currency’. It consists of 10,000 NFTs and 10,000 corresponding physical works of art. The intention is that you choose as a collector. Do you want the NFT? Then the physical artwork disappears. If you choose the physical artwork, the NFT will be destroyed. It’s very curious how that will end.

Belgians are daring collectors. This is why they are so popular at art fairs.

benedict goesaert,

art link

“I find it very fascinating how young people in the digital world deal with collecting. They buy Nikes and Adidas that don’t exist in real life. Are they less materialistic or are they simply extremely speculative? Thumbs up, thumbs down. Or like with Tinder, instant swipe left or right.

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