Why Are We Proud of Our Local Collectors?
Jori Finkel (whom we adore, by way of a full disclosure) has reviewed for Art+Auction the new book Great Collectors of Our Time: Art Collecting Since 1945 by James Stourton. You can read her review on artinfo.com. In her review, however, she notes:
American connoisseurs get little play compared with their European counterparts.Fair enough, I thought; James Stourton is the chairman of Sotheby’s U.K.
Then, however, looking for other reviews of this book, I found one by John Martin Robinson, in which, reviewing the Stourton book with another on collecting, he noted:
Both these books are dominated by the American connection, over half of each being devoted to transatlantic collecting in the 20th century.Both reviewers see an imbalance here. The source of the stark difference of opinion as to which way the book is slanted, though, seems obvious. Finkel, you see, is writing for an American-based magazine, whereas Robinson's review appears on the UK's Spectator website.
Robinson's other subject (a book by John Harris that "paints a hilarious picture of the earlier 20th-century trade in historic interiors and architectural bric-a-brac when ‘period rooms’ were a must-have in American houses and art museums, though most of the latter have now been de-accessioned as fake") does suggest to me that perhaps his reading of the Stourton book was a bit more influenced by his choice to review the two titles together (i.e., his structural need for a parallel in the quoted sentence above perhaps led to an overstating of the balance in the Stourton book), but not having read the books, all I'm left to work with here is the fact that an American review and a UK review had virtually opposite takes on whether or not American collectors were equally represented. This suggests a regional bias to me, similar to the bias in buying art.
I mean I understand the associations that play part in feeling one should support one's local artists. We are a competitive species by nature, and we love our champions to be home grown. A local artist who rises through the ranks reflects well on his/her community. I get that. But it had truly never dawned on me that there was a similarly widespread association with great private collections. I mean, I get that New Yorkers are as proud of the Met as Parisians are of the Louvre, but those are open to the public and reflect on their cities.
What I'm getting at here is that as much as people love to grumble and gossip about the Broad or Rubell or Saatchi collections, the locals (who know about them) in Los Angeles, Miami, and London are likely more than a little proud that such collections were assembled by one of their own. Again, this seems obvious to me now, but it had not been something I realized before. Here again, though, the question becomes why?
I mean with artists it seems a bit clearer to me. Often a successful artist has a rags-to-riches or someone "beating the odds" sort of biography that warms our hearts, even if we're not particularly interested in the arts. Do we assume the same for great private collectors? Is there simply an appreciation for the work and achievement a great private collection represents? Or is there a genetic component to favoring anything superior that comes from where I come from? Help me here.