Alain Servais: The Iconoclastic Collector Art World Needs
This article is about art collecting by Alain Servais, an art collector based in Brussels. I’m drawn by Alain’s rare perspective and criticism of the art system - of how big-name galleries oiled by moneyed folks who buy brands in the name of investment, are in fact killing the diversity in the art system. Here, Alain describes the current sick state of the art system so incisively. 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏
“Right now, we are going through a massive period of brand-building, and it’s perfect for those new buyers, because they might not know much about art, but they do know about one thing: brands,” Servais told Artnet a few years ago. “‘I want to buy from Zwirner.’ ‘I want to buy from White Cube.’ ‘I want to buy whatever Gagosian will bring me.’ What this does is that it allows the galleries to sell anything.” Since this comment, the closing of smaller galleries has only hastened, which has led to a further dulling of the art world, Servais said, in which a select, almost entirely Western set of artwork is privileged.
It is with this shift that Servais takes particular issue. To try to distill art to its financial value — to buy, sell, and trade art like stocks — is to fundamentally miss what it means to collect.
These people don’t have particularly cultural backgrounds so very often they’re applying the same rules and ways of acquiring things that they’re used to, which means investments and branding,” Servais said. In his opinion, therefore, any fault one may find with the contemporary art world ultimately lies with collectors. “We’re in a capitalist system where we command the offers,” he said. “The galleries that are showing more disruptive art, quality art are closing because of us — and that is what is killing me and that’s why I’m raising my voice.”
But is it only in the Western world that this is happening?