COLLECTING VIDEO ART: A PERSONAL UTOPIA

Art Madrid'19 focuses its activities program on a discipline that arouses both fascination and curiosity: video art. Although the adjective "innovator" does not sit well with a path of evolution and creative growth of something more than half a century, the truth is that this artistic branch still poses numerous challenges for art lovers, and is far from being something usual and common in the main exhibition circuits.

In spite of this, the moving image has true devotees who have focused on knowing the artists and understanding a language that can be both close and complex at the same time. The world of media offers infinite possibilities and is gradually gaining supporters, this mission is passionately entrusted to the video art platform PROYECTOR, which has been organizing a festival dedicated exclusively to this discipline for more than a decade.

Frame from "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This", by Carlos Aires, 2016

To contribute to this work and make this art field known to the public, Art Madrid's program of activities includes three excellent projection cycles curated by PROYECTOR, with works by the leading video art artists of our time, including the exceptional Teresa Sapey collection. Thus, on Thursday 21, Friday 22 and Saturday of 23 February, the auditorium of the Sala Alcalá 31 becomes a mandatory date to enter this addictive and vibrant field with three selected proposals titled "Woman as subject of the video art","From the present body to the performance body’’ and ‘’Cities". These cycles are an opportunity to get to know the work of Candice Breitz, Hussein Chalayan, Paula Lafuente, Carlos Llavata, Francesca Fini, Gianluca Abbate, Márcia Beatriz Granero, Daniel Lo Iacono, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou or Katherinne Fiedler, these being only some of them.

Cristina Garrido, "#JWIITMTESDSA? (Just what is it that makes today's exhibitions so different, so appealing?)" screening, 2015.

The Art Madrid-PROJECTOR'19 program also hosts conversations with professionals and artists in which, from different perspectives, a very particular approach will be presented to the international video art scene. These days of debate and reflection are the ideal framework to address some major issues that this discipline poses, starting with the collection of audiovisual pieces, which we can discuss with the famous collector specialized in video art Teresa Sapey.

Indeed, the fact of collecting is a human attitude that hides emotions, feelings and passions that reveal much about who is behind. Usually, when visiting a collection we ask ourselves questions such as why or when, a search for reasons and references that ease our understanding. With video art, this curiosity is, if possible, even more profound, because this field is not understood by the naked eye, it requires attention and time and it reveals, possibly with greater precision, the possessor’ intimacies, the contrasts of his personality. But what leads us to collect video art and what can it offer us?

Eugenio Ampudia, "Dónde dormir 5 (Palau)", 2015, "Dónde Dormir" series, 2008-15.

In the quest of getting closer to understanding video art collecting we have had the opportunity to interview Teresa Sapey, who revealed to us her experience as a collector of "art in movement".

To what point do life and collection merge? What is a collection to you?

In theory, the word "collection" can be used when possessing beyond five elements of the same family. I would prefer not to define myself as a collector because there are collectors who have hundreds of pieces, so I prefer to define myself as an art lover that occasionally, and when the budget allows it, buys a piece. I buy mostly for personal and hedonistic reasons more than to show-off or social reasons.

The pieces of video art that we have, at first were going to be a fundamental part of the architecture studio. I have always dreamed of having a studio with a room where the client arrived and before meeting us as a studio, saw a very white and minimal table with the projection of a key piece by Marina Abramovic: herself with a skeleton on top. This image must have been the first contact between life and death, between dressed and nude, very metaphorical just as our work, full and empty, project and not project. Things have not happened this way, but a big part of the studio is decorated with video art pieces.

Marina Abramovic, "Nude with Skeleton", Teresa Sapey collection (4/5 edition), 2002-05.

Appealing to the transformative ability of art, could you mention any work in the collection that has changed your way of being and collecting?

Without a doubt, I have to say when I discovered Charles Sandison, his way of dealing with art and using the bible in real time, his osmosis to communicate with the observer, a work of art is always designed to be looked at and admired. In Charles Sandison I noticed a penetration between artist and observer. It completely changed my way of living art and seeing it. From that moment I understood that for me in our 21st century, art had gained the fourth dimension that did not exist before, the artist always sought to represent the fourth dimension and now he has finally achieved it.

Collecting video art may seem unusual and minority, however, it is a practice that is slowly reaffirmed; and it could not be otherwise, if we think about the age of information in which we are immersed, a time where everything could be reduced to the spectrum of images and appearances that video art tries to account for.

Bill Viola, image of "Mery", video installation at St Paul’s Cathedral, 2016.

After these words by Sapey, we can reflect that collecting responds to "this avid and ambitious desire of possessing the object for the benefit of the owner, or even the viewer, is one of the most original features of the art of Western civilization" (Mythological, 1971). These words from the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss reveal one of the most complex and interesting aspects of the contemporary individual: the way in which he lives and looks at images, and the passionate impulse that he feels almost immediately by possessing them and owning them forever.

This property ostentation goes back especially to the Renaissance when artistic images were not only an instrument of knowledge but also of possession, wealth and political propaganda. Likewise, this obsession for the artistic object continues to be inherent in the society of our time and, in spite of being aware of the many possibilities that can drive the contemporary collector, we will focus on that attentive and enthusiastic vision of art, abandoning any investor and traditionalist view, we will focus in definitive, on the perspective of the passionate collector.

Isidro Varcárcel Medina, "Programación variada" video installation, 2016.

José María de Francisco and Luis Caballero, in the prologue of their exemplary text Conversations with contemporary art collectors (Madrid, 2018), define the collection of contemporary art as "a phenomenon in which three forces from three ancestral domains of human desires and needs embodied in Greek mythology by the three graces, daughters of Zeus: beauty (Algaea), social habit (Eufrosine) and material wealth (Talia). "These three virtues are the background decisions of conceiving a collection, which in many cases means a relationship of analogy with the process of life of each collector or lover of contemporary art. It would be therefore licit to speak of life and collection as a whole because what does the passionate collector look for in each new acquisition if not expanding the mental gaze of the reality that surrounds him. Thus, the passionate collector will be interested in those pieces that awaken in him a feeling or an emotion that remained dormant in his interior and that is suddenly activated, discovering a new corner of his essence that shapes his perception of the world and reaffirms his existence as an individual. And it is precisely in that encounter with the work when the phenomenon of desire occurs that leads to wanting possession of it and adding it to the rest of a collection of thoughts that end up weaving an intimate and organic story that describes its passage throw life.

In this sense it seems to evoke one of the most interesting aspects of the ontology of art in any of its stages: the meaning that the author projects in his work and the multiple interpretations and meanings that all those who look at experiences while looking at it, a cycle that seems to close completely with the figure of the collector, which in a certain way means a last glance.

 

Buying the first work of art always instils respect. A difficult feeling to define that mixes vertigo with adrenaline. But over uncertainty and caution, a pleasurable sense of connection, understanding, and desire prevails. That work that, once seen, stays in the mind, reappears in the memory several times a day and seems to tell you that it is willing to be part of your home, is the perfect candidate to make the decision.

In the first steps, many collectors do point out that one does not start from an established plan, but rather that one acquires pieces based on taste and the connection one feels with them until, after time, they realise that the volume of works that accumulates can be labelled as a "collection". For example, this is how Alicia Aza explains it:

“I was not aware that I was collecting until many years later when a third party named me as a collector and talked about my collection. In 2005, I became aware of what collecting means and decided to articulate a collection with an identity of criteria and formats”.

Marcos Martín Blanco, co-founder, with his wife Elena Rueda, of the MER Collection, shares this same opinion:

“Collecting has been a passion, driven by a visceral state that encourages you to do so. The collection, in terms of acquisitions, has not been particularly complicated because, let's face it: it is easy to buy because they are all beautiful things and you have some clear idea of where you want to go, but at first those preferences were not so clear. It is with the time that a criterion is being formed”.

It is not always this way, of course, but for the buyer who starts out on this path, the personal connection that entails the first piece is essential. There it is the germ of a lasting relationship that is not limited to a simple aesthetic question but is an open window to knowledge, to exploration, to a world that is often unknown to us and awakens our fascination. The seed of that connection is purely sentimental, and it is precisely this impulse that determines the first acquisitions. The first piece is never forgotten.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Ana Maqueda

Exceeding the usual recommendations made by advisers and agents, rare is the occasion when the art lover decides to buy by pure investment. These paths usually open later, when the volume of pieces is large enough. In addition, there are those who are a bit against this classic concept of the traditional collector, approached from an eccentric, elitist and little accessible vision. On the contrary, art buyers are, above all, art lovers, sentient beings and permeable to creative stimulus who, at a given moment, decide to deepen the relationship they already have with art to take a piece home.

It is not that hard to overcome that small psychological barrier that turns the visitor into a buyer if one approaches the matter from a more personal and intimate perspective than from social consideration. Small-format works, graphic work or serial photography are of great help for this, whose price range, generally more affordable, allows a closer comparison to the daily basis expenses. In this way, the purchase of art falls within the range of feasible activities and becomes something close and possible.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Marc Cisneros

At that moment, a different relationship with art begins, based on pure experience and coexistence with the acquired piece. Perhaps it can be seen as an act of daring, but on many occasions, it is more a matter of necessity and transformation. Collectors also agree that the acquisition of an artwork is an exercise on personal analysis and opening up to a new field of knowledge that was previously alien to us. Alicia Aza explains that the reason she acquired her first piece of video art, by Sergio Prego, is because she did not understand it and because she saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to self-improve. This open window to knowledge creates new connections and bonds with creators, as one of the most fascinating parts of the process. Candela Álvarez Soldevilla explains that

"I think the most interesting thing in the art world is talking to artists. They are people with a special sensitivity to listen and understand.”

And Alicia Aza also says:

"I can share the satisfaction of being able to count on many artists in my circle of close friends today, and that is a long way to go."

Thus, with works that seem acceptable within the horizon of expenses that each one considers affordable, it is easy to find a piece that catches us. Since then, our home also evolves into a space in which art has a permanent place and presence, and there is no doubt that this transforms us inside.

Art Madrid'20, photo by Henar Herguera

Jaime Sordo, owner of Los Bragales collection and founder of the 9915 Contemporary Art Collectors Association, has always defined his relationship with art as a true passion and a vital necessity. For buyers who start on this path, he has the following recommendation:

“It is an essential condition that they feel the need to live with their passion to enjoy the works. Another very important aspect is that before making decisions for purchases, they are informed, so it is necessary to read specialised newspapers and books, visit exhibitions and museums and a lot of contact with galleries, which is an important and very specific source of information of the artists they represent. Finally, the presence in national and international art fairs. All this generates information and training.”

Indeed, fairs have become a good place for discovery because they condense a wide offer and allow diverse and global contact in a concentrated way. For this reason, many new generation buyers start in the context of an event such as Art Madrid, whose closeness and quality constitute a unique opportunity to meet, soak up and feed the passion for art.

(*) quotes taken from various interviews published in public media between 2013 and 2019.