In this series about issues surrounding inexperienced art enthusiasts, I want to explore another problematic aspect of art collecting. Namely, many new collectors and aspiring art professionals have a great deal of insecurity when entering into the world of art.
The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist by Peter Paul Rubens
Like many other prestigious and exclusive arenas, new entrants find themselves overwhelmed and, ultimately, insecure about their knowledge, their ability to find their niche, and their own personal tastes and judgment. How many of us can relate to being the neophyte with a differing opinion that is promptly “put in place” by the resident expert? The more elite the group, the more devastating these interactions can be to the novice.
The point of this discussion isn’t to blast the experts that offer a different perspective to newcomers. Every subject needs experts that are willing to share their knowledge and guide their predecessors. This guidance can help new entrants avoid making costly mistakes on their journeys.
A Forest at Dawn with a Deer Hunt
This also isn’t a criticism of the new entrants that will ultimately need to grow their confidence in their own tastes and knowledge in the art arena. There’s something to be said for discerning when to take the advice of someone else and when to stick with your stance, however unpopular. There are many experts that had to go against the grain at different points in order to establish themselves.
Ultimately, this is a consideration of what can be done to reduce insecurity when entering the art world. Knowledge, on its own, isn’t enough. The art world is the intersection of business and aesthetic tastes. The business portion can be taught and modeled for new entrants. To some degree, even the aesthetic part of art collecting can be “taught”, via exposure to many works in different media, from different periods of time and movements, and from various countries and global regions.
So what does reduce insecurity? In a word, experience. The novices have to embrace the experiences that they must have, and they have to be ready to have MANY experiences outside of their comfort zones. Experience will teach a novice who to listen to and who to disregard; it will also help a novice learn when to listen to “gut nudges” and when those “nudges” are more fear-based (and generally inaccurate) than intuitive knowledge (which is usually spot-on).
To all of the newcomers to the art world: gain all of the experience that you can, remember that you BELONG wherever you’re going, and take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to know everything to be skilled, competent and worthy of your space in the art world.
(all art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, photos from Archive.org and )