Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Collectors or patrons?

2009 . 05 . 13 - Comments / Commentaires (5)

It’s the art collectors who make headlines and who have dealers and artists falling all over themselves to make a good impression, but it’s the art patrons who actually fuel art-making.

Art collectors come in every wallet-shape and account-size, but, big or small, their impact on the front lines of art-making is minimal.  Sure, they can set trends and lend the weight of their entire collection to an artist’s oeuvre, but, in the end, they don’t keep the art world making. Rather, it’s those unsung heros, the art patrons, who deserve the credit.

Art patrons don’t have extensive collections. They’re not buying art that will disappear into a mass of half-loved and relatively forgotten works. Instead they’re buying a few select pieces that mean the world to them—and not just for the sake of owning the work, but to enjoy it. Whether or not these patrons could afford to buy more art isn’t the point. They’re not hunting for the next piece that will build their collection in a certain direction: they are looking for special in the one or few pieces they do buy. And, despite the fact that, as individuals, patrons may not be the biggest spenders in the art world, their sheer numbers make them more important to the ongoing creation of art than collectors of any ilk.

portrait painting

Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on canvas
21 x 17 inches
(detail below)

detail image of a painting

Though I’ve made my living as a working artist for six years now, just one of my works belongs to an art collector. Bud, like most of the people who own my work, is a patron, not a collector. He’s simply someone who saw something he liked in what I do. And there are lots of people like him—people who love art but who haven’t found anything they want to spend their money on yet. The middle class art market, like the patrons who often belong to it, is just aching for artists to value it.

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(5) Comments / Commentaires: Collectors or patrons?

-- Lisa Plemmons Harrison Caddel -- 2013 . 12 . 15 --

What an interesting distinction.  I had always thought of anyone who bought artwork as a collector, but this article sent me to the dictionary. Fascinating. Thank you for writing this and the half dozen or so others I’ve been linking to and from in the past hour!!

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-- Gwenn -- 2013 . 12 . 17 --

Thanks for reading and commenting, Lisa!

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-- Kadira -- 2016 . 01 . 28 --

Hi Gwen,

What a great post. Thank you for a different way of thinking about those who buy our art. Often a change in perspective is all we need to attract new energy (and buyers) into our lives.

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-- Gwenn -- 2016 . 02 . 01 --

So true, Kadira! A little paradigm shift and EVERYTHING really does change. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

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-- Kadira -- 2016 . 02 . 01 --

Thank you Gwen for your input.  I was just reading your middle class art market piece, which I also found fascinating and as you say, a point of view that gallerists seem to miss.  Have you heard of something called ArtMoney - here is the link if you want to check it out. https://www.artmoney.com/what-is-art-money# I only came across this concept recently, however it supports the market you are speaking about, to be able to afford the art they might like to buy. I’m spreading the word about it wherever I can as it supports both the artists and the gallerists.

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