Collecting vs. Shopping

Wendy Cromwell Art LLC art advisor nyc

In a recent online article, Tech Crunch described Wydr, the newest in a long line of art buying apps, as “Tinder for buying art”. It’s a telling comparison. Tinder, the wildly popular social app, has gained a reputation for catering to those looking for their next fling. And sure, tech has made shopping for anything, even a hook up, quick and easy, so why should shopping for art be any different?

The key word here is shopping – not collecting. Shopping is a verb, full stop. Collecting is a lifestyle and a mind-set. It implies thoughtfulness, intellect, passion, and devotion, not a one night stand.

There is nothing wrong with democratizing the art world, in fact it’s inevitable. The majority of artists working today don’t have traditional gallery representation. Without it, it’s hard to get their work into the public sphere. An app is a great way to make finding and buying their work more likely to happen.

But collecting art is not just about spending money. Collecting implies an approach, a thought process that aims to understand the existing art sphere, the broader market, and one’s place in it as an art collector. My clients look to me to help define an approach based on their interests, as well as practical matters such as space requirements and budget. An art advisor has the broader knowledge of the market and the price-to-quality ratio overview that’s necessary to not only create a collection focus but also to execute it.

Collecting also implies life long stewardship of art. Many collectors expect that their holdings will one day go up in value. Maybe they will leave a financial legacy to their children through art, or donate their holdings through philanthropy. But value is not inherent in art; rather it’s created by a sophisticated network of dealers, curators, critics, and collectors. Together, these individuals are “first responders” who identify talent and promote the artist through a variety of respected channels. An app simply can’t duplicate this highly finessed and largely impenetrable system because it’s not quantifiable data.

It’s old news that the art market is eager to exploit technology platforms. Major auctions houses have migrated to online sales, and art has become a luxury good as accessible online as a high-end handbag. But no app can replace the art of collecting, which requires connoisseurship and a broad-based knowledge of the market. That’s where expert guidance from an advisor can make all the difference.

Wendy Cromwell Art LLC art advisor NYC

Cromwell in a client’s home in front of Aaron Young’s Lindsay as Marilyn, 2012.