It has always been a part of art collecting that the collector who wants to enlarge their ego will always purchase the most expensive art, or the most obscure, or the largest, or the oldest, or the rarest, or the best examples by artists that everyone else wants to collect. But with the top 10 most expensive paintings at auction currently starting at $172.5 million USD and going all the way up to $450 million USD, getting in at the true top end of the market is now the sole preserve of Russian oligarchs, Gulf state princes or faceless corporations. So, what’s left for the run-of-the-mill everyday collector with a few lazy million to invest in art?
There are some options to gratify the ego. One could collect in depth, buying all the best work of a single artist, until you are the collector known for having the work of that certain artist. You can go so far as to rearrange the house so to feature all the artist’s signature works where hapless visitors to the foyer of your suburban ranch will literally run into your taste. Imagine – early examples of the adolescent style, those one or two works that won big prizes, half of the last exhibition and the entirety of the one be- fore. Your name will become synonymous with that artist, and for good or ill, like they say in Texas hold ‘em, you’re ALL IN.
Another way to build your art ego is have all the work on a particular subject, theme or movement. No one ever dreamed that Australian art would have its own notable examples of Un-exceptionalism, yet you’re the collector who has them all, from the lesser known fringe artists to prime examples of the three or four best known artists who dabbled in the style before moving on to their mature work. Your name will be synonymous with the unexceptional.
The key to true collector ego boosting is to be recognised for whatever it is you collect. You could pay for the publication of a fine book on your collection, or you could arrange an exhibition of your collection in an obliging regional gallery, art school or lesser museum, or even better, if you’re on the board of a major museum, you could get your collection shown there, boost its potential resale value and then have a sweet tax write off when you donate the whole thing [see The Quest for Immortality].
Or you could collect art in a way that has not be done before, such as becoming a pioneer of collecting the new art of Internalism, where the art that you commission from leading Internalist artists is literally installed inside your chest cavity. You’d carry it around inside you, and although no one would really know it’s there, the door in your chest could swing open so passers-by could look inside at your beating innards and the decorative baubles that hang there like a mad woman’s Xmas tree. No such thing actually exists, obviously. Well, not yet anyway, but imagine being the first!