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)