BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

To Buy or Not to Buy

Collectors on their experiences of letting an artwork slip away

Takashi Murakami, Miss ko2, 1997
Takashi Murakami, Miss ko2, 1997

Collecting art is a highly emotional matter. Fascination and passion but also doubt and regret are common feelings that can turn art purchases into an emotional rollercoaster. The joy of finally buying a longtime wanted piece of art as well as the disappointment of letting a work pass into other hands are shared experiences amongst collectors, no matter how established they are. But it is another issue how they individually deal with it.

In a recent article published in Blouin Artinfo, collectors talk about how they let a much wanted artwork slip away and the consequence this had for them. An insightful read, not only for those who can relate.

Of course the decision to let an artwork "get away" varies in its reasons. In the case of Yvonne Force Villareal her decision was based on a nylon string. In 1997 the collector fell in love with Takashi Murakami’s life-size sculpture "Miss ko2" that was exhibited in the Feature Gallery in New York City. She was about to buy her new discovery for $25,000, when she spotted a thin nylon string that attached the sculpture to the ceiling of the gallery. This string changed her whole perception of the piece and finally led her to let "Miss ko2" go. A few years later, Murakami experienced an extensive hype, which ended in a strong increase in the value of his works. Looking back, Yvonne Force Villareal questions her decision of not buying the sculpture due to a nylon string, but doesn’t want to let the regret get to her. Instead, she is focusing on new opportunities that will surely come along.

For Peter Hort, another New York based collector, it was the price and the misestimation of competing collectors that made him let the sculpture "Free Speech" by Tom Otterness go. Although he was deeply fascinated by the bronze figure, the price it was sold for exceeded what he was willing to pay for it. Also he had to realize that he had more competitors than he initially thought.

Or Eli Broad: the well-known collector let a work by artist Jeff Wall get away in an auction. But instead of remaining regretful, he immediately took action. He asked his chief curator Joanne Heyler to contact Wall’s New York dealer and after a few days it was fixed that Broad would be able to get another piece of the same edition.

As the article shows, every collectors’ career is marked by those specific moments of "the ones that got away", which can lead to regret, but also to new insights, unforeseen happenings or sudden actions.

Image by happyfamousartists via Flickr (CC Licence Info)

Insiders (67)

Wilhelmina Jewell Strong - Sparks

Founder of BiTHOUSE Projects - BAAR Art Journey


Collector behind the ARNDT Collection

Sandra Guimarães

Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Helga de Alvear

Grazyna Kulczyk

Founder of Muzeum Susch


Interview with Georgie Pope and Eleonora Sutter, Co-founders

Kamiar Maleki

Director at VOLTA

Gallery Weekend Berlin 2022

Tokini Peterside

Founder and Director, ART X Lagos


Founding Director of the Athens Biennale

Boris Ondreička

Artistic Director of viennacontemporary

Maribel Lopez

Director of ARCO

David Gryn

Founder and Director of Daata

Fondation Beyeler Audiovisual Broadcast

Fondation Beyeler and Nordstern Basel present Dixon x Transmoderna

Gary Yeh

Founder of ArtDrunk and Young Collector

WATCH: The Best of the BMW Art Guide

Where will you travel next to explore art?

Maike Cruse

2020 Gallery Weekend Berlin

Touria El Glaoui

Founding Director of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

Johann König

Messe in St. Agnes

PArt - Producers Art Platform

A crisis initiative to help artists directly affected by the pandemic

Barbara Moore

CEO of Biennale of Sydney

Unique Collector’s Item

by Independent Collectors

Alix Dana

Fair Director at Independent

When Collectors are Able to Commission

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Juliet Kothe and Julia Rust

Initiators of Collection Night, Berlin

Marie-Anne McQuay

Curator of Wales in Venice, 58th Venice Biennale 2019

Dorothy and Herb Vogel

Two extraordinary art collectors

Heather Hubbs

Director at NADA

Every Art Collection Needs Space

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Collecting Art with François Pinault

Rudolf Stingel at Palazzo Grassi

A Common Ground

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Caroline Vos

Director at Amsterdam Art Weekend

Hidden Collections

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Nicole Berry

Executive Director of The Armory Show

Daniel Hug

Fair Director at Art Cologne

The Role of the Art Fair

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Peter Bläuer

Director at LISTE

A Brush Against Nature

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Ilaria Bonacossa

Director of Artissima

Excessiveness, the Latent Danger of Collecting Art

by Independent Collectors

Jo Stella-Sawicka

Artistic Director at Frieze

Florence Bourgeois

Director at Paris Photo

Where Artists Can Work More Playfully

by Christiane Meixner

Specifically Commissioned

by Silvia Anna Barrilà

Manuela Mozo

Executive Director of UNTITLED, ART Miami and San Francisco

Important Museums and Private Collections

by Christiane Meixner

Susanna Corchia

Director of the Barcelona Gallery Weekend

Emilia van Lynden

Artistic Director at Unseen, Amsterdam

Carlos Urroz

Director at ARCOmadrid

Shoe Smudges Streaked Across the White Walls

by Christiane Meixner

Amanda Coulson

Director at VOLTA Basel

Douwe Cramer

Director at Singapore Contemporary

Art and Architecture – Attractive Allies

by Nicole Büsing and Heiko Klaas

Jo Baring

Curator of Sculpture Series, Masterpiece London

Bidders and Buyers

by Christiane Meixner

Anne Vierstraete

Managing Director at Art Brussels

Nanna Hjortenberg

Director at CHART

The Crucial Role of the New

by Independent Collectors

Makers and Believers

On Art History’s Most Famous Patrons

The Past is Back

And collectors are buying it up

Are Artists the Better Curators?

On the diminishing boundary between professions in the art world

The Digital Museum

On the importance of the museum’s web presence

The Man in the Middle

On the curator’s private and public engagements

A Private Matter?

On the importance of physical space for the value of art

Off the Wall

How museums contribute to the worth of artworks

Where to Go Next?

The fragmentation of Manhattan’s gallery scene

How to Pass On a Passion

On long-term challenges for new private museums