Meet the Frankfurt-based collector with a healthy scepticism for the art market and an insatiable passion for unearthing hidden works of art.
Tyrown Vincent is a collector who likes to do things his way. Taking influence from real-life encounters and meaningful experiences that shape him, the fashion-show producer, model and dancer’s collection is an exact representation of all the things close to his heart. With no obvious theme or apparent theme to the collection, Vincent’s passion lies in the research behind the artist, discovering forgotten artist estates and forming deep-rooted, genuine, connections.
In this exclusive interview, IC’s Editor in Chief Amy Binding sat down with Tyrown to talk about the framework of the collection, the life-changing impact living with artworks has had on him, and why there’s no room for ego in his world.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you buy your first piece, and do you remember what it was?TYROWN VINCENT
The funny thing is that you can only work out when you exactly started collecting when you look back to the when you bought the first piece, which for me was an amazing print by Salvador Dali that I bought when I was seventeen years old. I went to a local record store, and back in the day you could by CD’s, records and this and that, as well as posters, and it was there that I found a poster that I fell in love with. Today it’s not in the collection because I let my mum keep it when I moved out, but I want to say “officially” that was the first piece that I ever bought.
When was the moment you became aware that you were developing a collection?TYROWN VINCENT
I don’t even think today I am aware this is a collection! It’s just things that I have grown close to, which of course have become more and more as time goes on. I don’t see it so much as “collecting”, but rather I just surround myself with things that I really, really appreciate.
Is it only art that you surround yourself with?TYROWN VINCENT
I surround myself with people. I meet a lot of people when I work, and you know, you get a lot of different experiences, and through those experiences you get an appreciation for life and that contains so much more than just art pieces. I consider the collection more of a collection of craftsmanship through the centuries because some of the pieces are dated as early as the 1500’s and some pieces are very contemporary.
The artworks in your collection varied and span many mediums. How do you go about hanging the works and selecting a space that compliments the diversity?TYROWN VINCENT
Being a collector, I want to say there isn’t a process because you just have to let the piece “sink in”. That’s how I see it.
Does this approach also apply when finding new artworks to buy?TYROWN VINCENT
It doesn’t really matter if you find it in an art gallery or a flea market, or if an artist is going to give it to you or if you buy it at a fair, it really doesn’t matter. The second that you look at a piece and it won’t leave your brain, it’s attached. What I usually do when I see a piece is to sleep on it. That’s been the process ever since the beginning for me. What normally happens is that I fall in love with a piece and then I wait and see if the affection goes away and if it doesn’t go away then I normally go and get the piece.
What’s it like to live with the artworks every day? Can it be a bit overwhelming at times?TYROWN VINCENT
The most unusual experience that I have is that I get very sad when I am away from home for a long time. I consider it to be very geeky and crazy, but I do have photographs of the pieces on my cellphone so when I travel something is missing, I miss them. It’s in a different sense to how I miss my friends, because obviously they’re people that you thrive off and give you energy, but the artworks are little energizers, they recharge me.
The biggest benefit of being a collector is that you live with the pieces. You get up in the morning and they’re there and you discover different things, you might take some down and you hang some other pieces up: you get to play with them, and that’s the fun part.
How frequently do you rotate the pieces?TYROWN VINCENT
Seeing as it’s so much work I don’t do it as much as I should do or used to do. With time you become a little more relaxed. Of course, you have favorite pieces and then you have to force yourself to sometimes let go and give other pieces in the collection a chance to shine. I don’t physically have enough wall space, so I do have to do rotations. I have a work by Markus Lüpertz that I’ve had for fifteen years and I’ve only hung it the last three years because before I moved it in and out of storage and then I tried something else with the hanging and it didn’t work. Eventually I had an idea what the wall was going to look like and how this particular piece was going to look like on it and what it needed to be surrounded with to make it work, and that really takes time.
Let’s talk about what you’re looking for in an artwork or an artist. Is it a feeling that you’re searching for or is it a particular medium that interests you?TYROWN VINCENT
I am not searching. If you’re a human being and you’re easy with yourself, then you allow things to sink into your brain. I could literally walk down the streets of Brazil or in Marrakech or in Tokyo and I am open and willing to see everything there is. It doesn’t matter if its comic art, calligraphy, oil painting, sculpture, installations – there is not filter for me. I am just trying to take in as much as I can.
After I have that initial trigger to an artwork I am trying to figure out if I can fall in love with the piece. Sometimes it’s an immediate “I’ve got to have this”, and then sometimes you have some works that pop up, you do something else for a little while, and then they pop up again somewhere else down the line and then your brain starts working. This was the case with the work by Zuzanna Krajewska. I discovered the work online when I was doing an upload with a file sharing site and one of the photographs in the background was one of Zuzanna’s. It captivated me so immensely I had to look up who she was, and it was an image that didn’t leave me for a long time.
How important is it to you have a relationship with the artists that you collect?TYROWN VINCENT
Sometimes I find that it can be hindering. I am befriended with artists, but it is a very plutonic friendship, it’s a greeting, a checking-in, but it’s not a discussion of their work. When I discuss something with an artist it’s more to understand what the inspiration was, but I hold back on giving an artist my feedback on what I think because I think it’s manipulating and artists need to be free in what they do, otherwise it has no value for us as mankind.
Isn’t by buying their artworks surely giving them validation?TYROWN VINCENT
Yes, but it is a validation without a suggestive course of future. If you buy a work now but don’t buy a work later the artist simply knows that you liked the artwork so much that you bought it at that time, but you’re not going back to the artist and specifying exactly what you want. It’s important to understand that there are phases in an artist’s career that you may like or may not like – they have to experiment and not every experiment is going to be something that they, or the collector, are happy with.
Is following the career of an artist important to you?TYROWN VINCENT
Well sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I follow some artists that are in my collection simply because I’m curious and then sometimes you need to let them go and then come back at a later point. Sometimes you need to reconnect later on in life and sometimes the artist needs to reach out to other collectors to build a successful career and to be known. To occupy an artist is not a correct practice.
Do you have a particular artwork that when you look back on, you wished you hadn’t purchased, be it due to size, cost, or another factor?TYROWN VINCENT
That’s an interesting question. There are pieces in the collection that are not on display because I feel uncertain about them, but when you look back with a different state of mind, you are able to understand why you bought it at that point in time, even though it doesn’t serve a purpose in the collection today. You develop and to buy a piece that you are not satisfied with is probably the most important decision you’ll ever make because it will elevate you. You’ve got to make mistakes to know where you need to go. They will teach you to understand why to not buy a piece like that again.
So, in a way, the “mistakes” are some of the most important works in the collection?TYROWN VINCENT
I have never been asked that question. I want to say that the mistakes you make are more important because they help you sharpen your senses and your vision – and that’s priceless.
As a collector do you feel a sense of educational responsibility?TYROWN VINCENT
I am not on any boards or a patron…yet. I have been asked to contribute artworks and have hosted tours and things like that, and if people ask me then I am happy to jump on board. But then again, time is really limited. If someone had told me before how much work, it is to really host your own collection I would have probably been absolutely shocked! You are faced with so many challenges that I didn’t know about. It’s really surprising. It’s really a second full-time job. But for now, my role in education is when my friends come by and ask, “what is this” and I say, “what do you see?” and if that’s what I can do to help people discover art, then that is what I will do.
In a way, you appear to be shunning the art market and just collecting with passion.TYROWN VINCENT
The art market is a market where people sell you a product and you have to make a decision if this is the way you want to go. As a small collector I have been ignored and not appreciated because I simply didn’t say “I have a cheque and I want to spend it.”
And this negative attitude doesn’t deter you from collecting?TYROWN VINCENT
I’m not the kind of person to stop and I hope other younger collectors, not just young in terms of age but in experience, are not discouraged by it. You simply have to find another way. I live in the center of Frankfurt and close by is the main gallery street, and when you see the art come and go, you see that what they sell has a value for the market, but it might not have a value for you. It’s really, really hard to determine which route you want to go down, but I think there is more art that is not part of the market that you might want to take a look at it. Personally, I found it a challenge when I go to these art fairs and see art from the last few years – I wonder if it’s just made for the market or if it’s made because of someone’s determination. And that’s the difference: I believe you can tell if the market has manipulated an artist. It feels compromised: a compromise to be liked, a compromise to be sold, it’s a compromise to be bought, and this is something I am very careful about. The decision for buying art for me depends on if I believe the story the artist is trying to tell me.
Would you say that was the theme of the collection?
Honestly, I don’t think there is one. The funny thing is that being a young collector I was grabbing at straws: I was reading books on how to collect, top ten mistakes everyone does, etc. but once you discard that idea and the pressures you realize that everything has its time. If you literally only buy artworks that you believe in, then there is nothing that you can do wrong. The only thing that the artwork has to do is to make you smile, it has to inspire you, it has to give you energy, and it has to be there for you. If it can’t do that then it can’t do anything for you.
Working in fashion, your life is full of trends and current aesthetics. However your collection seems to have gone the opposite direction with their being very few contemporary pieces included. Is that something you were aware of from the beginning?TYROWN VINCENT
I did notice it and it’s very interesting that you also picked up on it too. My line of work is based in the contemporary and the work I do is working with new materials and young people who have different ideas about art, communication, digitalization, mobility. All of these influences from work are so contemporary that for some reason my collection took a different turn: it’s more groundwork. By which I refer to craftsmanship, everything in my collection is timeless, and timelessness can be contemporary. For me, contemporary doesn’t just mean something that was made in the last twenty years but rather the approach of having a technique that will never go out of style. Often some techniques will be forgotten because in the modern world they do not have any use, and that makes it more contemporary because it becomes part of our heritage of how we got from A to B. This is what some of the works in my collection symbolize: a development in heritage.
You believe that everyone can be a collector, not only the rich and elite. Can you elaborate on this?TYROWN VINCENT
Collecting doesn’t need to be a trend and if you take art and make it your own, it has a completely different dynamic. It doesn’t depend on your budget, it doesn’t on your loft or the size of your house: if you have an idea of where you want to go on your personal journey then go! This is something you can even achieve with trading works – some of the most valuable pieces I have are ones that I traded with someone else, and this could be art collecting. Collecting is not about the items, it’s about being connected, it’s about speaking to somebody, and it’s about something that enlightens you. That is what art collecting is about.
Would you say that your opinions surrounding art and collecting have changed since you began?TYROWN VINCENT
No. The biggest change is that I know more about myself. It’s like you train your being for your own value.
And in terms of your personal journey, not that of the collection, how have you grown?TYROWN VINCENT
I became more confident. I feel it when I speak to people. Before I was quiet and when you’re at a gallery or museum openings or at your first art fair, you’re afraid to be in a booth too long in case someone walks up to you and you don’t know what to say! You just want to experience what everyone else is experiencing. It comes back down to the same I said about being an artist, don’t be manipulated: make your collection about you. Don’t be afraid to like what you like, to collect what you want to collect. Everyone is trying to be smart, everyone is trying to be educated and know so much – I just go out and I like the things I like.
What would you say is the key to having a successful collection?TYROWN VINCENT
What is a “successful” collection? If an artwork bores you after some time then maybe it wasn’t the right piece for you, but it doesn’t make it a wrong decision and it doesn’t make it a bad piece. If the “success” of my collection would be that these pieces are still here, then that’s the “success” – they were strong enough to support me for all this time.
How do you find out about artists? Where does most of your research take place?TYROWN VINCENT
I use Instagram extensively because of my job. It’s a consistent stream of what’s going on out there but if you had asked me if I found an artist on Instagram I would have said no until very recently. The other month I discovered a young Berlin-based artist on Instagram and she was able to trigger my excitement to a level that I wanted to go visit her studio, and this had never happened before.
What does the future have in store for your collection?TYROWN VINCENT
I could not tell you! It’s a collection of “now”, and “now” means where I’m mentally at, this is where the collection is going to be. I just recently bought more works by Rudolf Nicolai , which are completely different to the others in the collection, as otherwise if you only focus on one theme you leave out so much great stuff.
Finally, what is your advice for other young and emerging collectors?TYROWN VINCENT
Young collectors don’t really need tips, but I will say to not be afraid. Ever. There isn’t anybody that can tell what is good for you, only you can tell yourself what’s good for you.