We speak to Nick Terra and Julia Mullié, two young collectors with backgrounds in Art History, about why the size of an artwork doesn’t matter, why keeping up-to-date is vital for any keen collector, and what tips do they have for fellow young collectors out there.
The two of you have only been collecting for a couple of years. What got you into collecting to begin with?
JULIA MULLIÉ: I started buying art when I was 13, with my first work being an edition of Joep van Lieshout. I was brought up with art surrounding me, visiting studios of all sorts of artists when I was younger.
NICK TERRA: I bought my first works in early 2013 by the recently graduated Bob Eikelboom and Juliaan Andeweg. I had gotten to know them via a mutual friend who attended the same academy as they did and I got to talk and hang out with them whilst they were in their last year at the art academy and I was studying art history. It was fascinating to be around young artists developing themselves. I wanted to be part of that development and got to acquire pieces by both artists. Ever since then Julia and I have been following them, buying pieces, visiting shows , having dinner and studio visits.
JM: We have been buying art together since 2014, just after we met. We both were already buying art, and this came together when we met. It has made it possible that we are able to buy more often and also some larger pieces, and due to each other’s enthusiasm we were pushing ourselves to buy more frequently. This eventually turned into something that could be called a collection.
Do you think both being art historians has influenced your private collection?
NT: Yes, I think so. I am really interested in collecting “policies”. I read the year reports from museums just to see who bought what and what was donated. I also read a lot of books on this theme – ‘Expressie en Ordening” being a great example of how former Stedelijk Museum directeur Willem Sandberg formed his collection. I tend to think that we also need a collecting policy of some sort, but this is really hard to develop. You do not want to exempt things, and I think with a policy a collector is more able to bring works together in a more coherent structure, not only because s/he likes them. So yes, I think my art historical background has a large influence on buying work.
JM: In early 2015 we decided to not just buy artworks that can fit in our house. We live in a small studio, 30 sqm, and having large works is not always possible. But when you buy a work which is 60x40cm, this quickly looks big in a small house, and then when you move in a couple of years, the work could also become really small. Of course, it is not only about the scale of works, but we decided that we would not let us be held back due to size constraints. For example, the sculpture by Olga Balema that we recently bought is 1,20 x 2,20 m and in our current house, we have no place to display it. So when we get the work, we will keep it in a crate next to the dining table until we move. Of course during this storage, it’s possible to give it on loan for an exhibition for example.
Next to not only buying for your house or place above the couch, we also try to collect in depth. Multiple works by one artist, so we can show certain developments in an oeuvre. Following artists and trying to buy works in key moments of their career goes hand-in-hand with developing a relationship with the artists and their work and I think this is quite art historical.
What artists are interesting for you at the moment?
N.T.: There is quite a long list and it’s hard to name a few but I think Adriano Amaral, Juliaan Andeweg, Olga Balema, Micheal Dean, Bob Eikelboom, Magali Reus, Cheng Ran are definitely artists we are following. Some of them we already have work from and others we hope to buy works from in the near future.
Does money play a factor in what art you buy?
JM: Of course! We both started buying art as students, with not a lot of money to spend. This results in having to make decisions. Do you want to go out every weekend, or do you want that work of art.
NT: Yes, money always plays a role. But no matter how little or much we would have we’d still buy art. At the moment it is more about managing food and travel expenses to make sure we can buy art! I hope this in the future will turn around, but if our incomes rise, the works we will buy will certainly follow that path.
We believe that the stereotype of being a “collector” is changing, with a fresh young generation hitting the art market. Do you see yourself in this new role of a collector?
NT: I am not sure how the role of those new collectors is seen by you, but we definitely see that we are younger than most people buying art. Some galleries you step into tend not to take you as seriously as perhaps you take the gallery. So I do not see myself in the role of the new collector. I think a fresh generation is always coming to the art market, and I think that the generation is getting younger and younger. A small group of young high-educated people are already earning a large income and with that get in touch with cultural institutions, giving back to the community. This results in younger people being able to get in touch with art, but also to collect earlier. I think Julia and I are different from that group. We both studied art history (with Julia still studying), work in the arts sector, travel to biennales and shows abroad. It keeps us busy twenty-four hours a day. I don’t think all young collectors are this way, but I do like that there is a new generation. We need them. We need young people to become the next Stefan Edlis and Geal Neeson, the next Guggenheims and so on.
Where do you see the future of your collection headed?
JM: I hope our collection can add something to exhibitions and museum collections. In the Netherlands, and also abroad, museums are struggling to get enough money to build a collection, so gifts and loans are very important. When we could help to fill a gap in a museum collection, or to give a work on loan for an exhibition, it would be really nice. Besides that I hope I can keep surrounding myself and friends by all the great works we have at home.
What are your tips to give other emerging collectors out there?
NT: Visit as many shows as you can. Enroll to the newsletters of institutions and galleries you like. Visit a couple of art fairs (not too many) to see which galleries attract your attention and then start following the program of that gallery and who they represent. It is then that you start to get an idea of what is going on, what artists are making and what institutions are showing. This also gives you an idea when certain artists are working in the same theme or in the same direction and gives the opportunity to pick the best. Try to read some art criticism to get a hold of what others are saying about shows you see, this often gives you an extra layer (both positive and negative). Then if you start to like the work from a particular artist, try to get as much information that is available. Email the artist directly and ask for text about their work which they like themselves. Ask for portfolios, available work from all the galleries s/he is represented by and then pick a work you want to buy. If the work you want is too expensive, ask if you can pay in installments, we do this all the time. If you are still not able to buy the work, either wait for a more affordable, maybe smaller work you also like, becomes available or continue the search again.
And don’t let others hold you back when they say you are crazy because you buy expensive artworks.