Artspace – Collecting with a Conscience: How to Benefit Others While Building the Collection of Your Dreams

Artspace — November 6, 2018

As consumers, every time we pull out our wallet, we vote for or against something. As some brands become more transparent about where they source their products, how they’re made, and how safe they are for the environment and the people who make them, it’s not hard to understand that what matters isn’t just what we buy, but how our purchases both shape and reflect the social, economic, environmental and political aspects of the industry they’re a part of. Art is no different.

While we hope that you build your collection, first and foremost, around the artists and artworks you love the most, we also hope that you consider where your art is coming from and who it benefits. Especially since, unlike a cup of coffee, the sale of an artwork can involve a substantial chunk of change – how far the money goes, and how it’s used, is impactful.

Avoid the Secondary Market – Support Living Artists 

Money in the art market often exchanges hands without ever touching an artist. After an artist sells a work, whether through a gallery or directly from the studio, they very rarely are able to profit off it again, even if it skyrockets in value. (We say “rarely” because in some cases, or in some places like the U.K., “resale rights” guarantee that the artist receives a – rather small – percentage of secondary sales of their work.) If there is a living artist who you’re interested in, consider supporting their new work, rather than buying work from auction or a secondary market dealer. Find out who represents them and see if they have any available work. And be adventurous in searching for lesser-known artists worth supporting.

Bid on Benefit Auctions 

While many collectors flock to benefit auctions because they can offer the opportunity to buy sought-after works below market value, they can also be great ways to give your money to worthy causes while also getting a great artwork in return – killing two birds with one stone. Just remember, not all benefit auctions are created equal; it is important to closely look at who or what the auction is benefiting, of course. While supporting museums is always nice, you might want to look into how funds raised from a museum benefit will be used. Are there community outreach or educational programs that the museum offers? And if so, will those programs see any of the fundraised money?

A safer bet is bidding on auctions that raise money for a specific cause or non-profit organization doing humanitarian work that you believe in. in September, Phillips held a benefit auction that donated all proceeds to One Drop, an organization that helps provide access to safe water and sanitation to more than 200,000 Latin Americans in dire need. Earlier this month, Sean Kelly gallery in New York hosted an auction to benefit The Human Rights Campaign, the nations’s largest LGTBQ civil rights organization. Artspace also hosts benefit auctions regularly. In the past, we’ve helped raise money for the International Animal Rescue, The LGBTQ Center of New York, CUE Art Foundation, the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America (ACRIA) and many others.

Looking for some upcoming benefit auctions? Here are two: On Thursday (November 8) RxArt is hosting an art auction and party to raise funds for their organization, which commissions artist to produce site-specific works in children’s hospitals, helping sick children heal through the power of visual art. And on November 14th, Tyler Loftis, a New York-based painter, will hold Portraits for Purpose at the Bowery Hotel, where the artist paints portraits of celebrities, auctions them, and donates all proceeds to a charity of the depicted celebrity’s choice.

Collect Charitable Editions 

Like benefit auctions, charitable editions are often affordable ways to collect some of your favorite artists while also supporting good causes. Artspace has produced and/or promoted a number of charitable editions with artists like Mickalene Thomas to support her scholarship fund for the New York Academy of Arts, Massimo Vitali to support the Fresh Air Fund, Kobi Benezri to benefit the New York City Aids Memorial; April Gornik to support Planned Parenthood and Clifford Ross to support Charity: Water. among many others.

Do Your Homework – Make Sure You Agree with Your Seller’s Politics 

In the book 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics written by Andrea Fraser, one of the art world’s most important artists engaging in institutional critique, the artist looks at the relationship between electoral politics and private nonprofit art institutions in the U.S. In it, she published the reported political contributions in the 2016 election cycle made by trustees of over 125 art museums. (Of the $6.4 billion raised for presidential and congressional races, more than half came from just a few hundred people – many of whom are board members and supporters of cultural institutions.) According to the book’s publicist, “supporting the arts must involve more than giving donations to museums; it must also include defending the values, social structures, and political institutions of an open, tolerant, just and equitable society.”