Interview with Vera Bertran, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Contemporary Art Collectors

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Vera Bertran

How did you fall into the art world?

My parents collected antiques, so from a young age I was surrounded by a variety of art. I also enjoyed going to museums and studying art books (we were fortunate enough to have an extensive library in our house). After finishing school, I went to London to study Art History and Fine Arts, and then, after that, Art Business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

You have created Contemporary Art Collectors which is a platform dedicated to art professionals. Could you tell us the story of this platform from its origin?

At the beginning of 2017, I created an Instagram account where I would share the art I liked. As my account started to grow and the number of followers I gained rapidly increased, I decided to make a website that would focus on opinions and interviews. I think it is more interesting to get an insight into the art world from the people involved, rather than just read an ordinary run-of-the- mill article.

You probably meet a lot of art collectors. In your opinion, how is the art market today?

One of the most notable changes is the increasing interest around Blockchain, which is being introduced to broaden the market’s transparency, track ownership and provenance, and provide an infrastructure for the tokenization of fractional artwork sales.

2018 was also the year in which Christie’s, one of the world’s leading auction houses, held its first-ever Art & Tech Summit, dedicated to ‘Exploring Blockchain’. Going forward, using Blockchain and tokenization in this way could allow easier access to the market, diversification of investment, reduce transaction costs and increase liquidity.

In November, Christie’s New York made history when it partnered with blockchain-secured registry Artory. The auction house’s $318 million sale of the Barney A. Ebsworth collection, one of the most important sales of the year, saw its transactions recorded entirely via blockchain.

Based on your extensive travels around the world, which art fair is “the place to be” for artists and collectors?

I personally like Art Basel HK. During the fair there are many incredible exhibitions and events around the city. The gallery scene in Hong Kong has seen a huge boom with major galleries opening up there. China has grown to become the world’s second-largest art market, accounting for 21% of sales globally and the art market in Hong Kong is now the third-largest in the world. Last year, the Asian market accounted for 23 percent of global sales and Asian buyers accounted for 15 percent of dealer sales, according to annual reports.

What do you think of the new dynamic brought by emerging artists who share their works on social media?

Social media has made it possible for a lot of artists to access a wider audience, but I also think the quality of the art and the threshold for calling yourself an artist has, as a result, diminished. Nevertheless, Instagram is an amazing way to learn about an artist’s process, and to see when they are hosting events and exhibitions and to find out about new works. Buyers and collectors can now contact artists directly, whereas before it was only possible through an art gallery or dealer.

Do you think social media has influenced the evolution of the art market?

The online world has without question broadened art’s appeal, by making it accessible to a wider audience and therefore helping interest to grow and evolve to a wider audience. Social media has altered the circulation and distribution of art, creating a global forum and market.

Today it’s possible to visit the biggest art fairs and museums on social media. Can we say that art has become democratized?

Of course, before a lot of works that were housed in a museums or displayed at art fairs could only be seen physically by visiting the museum or an art fair.

Now, however, you can see pictures from Art Basel’s private view by scrolling through Instagram during your breakfast. But of course seeing work on social media is not the same as seeing it in real life 🙂

At KINGZ we speak to a lot of emerging artists and they tell us their main problem is not knowing how to enter the art market. What advice would you give to an emerging artist in this sense?

Truthfully, and I’m being blunt here, not every artist is able to enter the market. To suggest otherwise is like saying that every person who can sing can become a professional singer. It’s just not the case. My advice to artists, and this is something they need to consider before thinking about art market: is to view their own art objectively and to ask themselves how their work differs from other artists. Am I painting something new, that has a different or original message or concept? Or is it simply a rehashed, unoriginal and repetitious subject that has been painted many times before?

Is the mere fact of exhibiting one’s work on social networks enough for an artist to develop? In other words, can an artist expose their work today without galleries and art fairs ?

Absolutely, nowadays an artist can expose and sell their works without galleries. Many artists, in fact, have become famous due to their exposure on social media. Buyers, collectors and people who love art use Instagram to find out which artists are making compelling work, and follow and keep track of what kinds of art they post in order to see how consistent and productive they are.

One thing that is key, it is very important to properly represent yourself on social media. You need to be professional, make a separate Instagram account exclusively for your art, as your social media account is the equivalent to a modern day business card.

I often like to look for new artists on Instagram, but what I don’t want to have to do, especially when I have been asked by the artist to check their work out, is search for it by scrolling between pictures of kids and cats. I am simply not interested in seeing such images, and believe me when I say that no art collector or buyer is.

Also if you want to make a business from your art, you often need to invest in the beginning. Buy a decent camera/phone and use the correct lighting in order to take quality pictures. Too many times I have seen photos with such bad quality, either blurred or poor quality lighting, that has had a negative effect or changed the colours.

I would also suggest not just posting pictures of your art, as it looks repetitive. Add images of the work in process, videos and pictures of you making art, your studio, sketches, etc. Drawing people into your world could potentially increase your chances of giving you access to a wider audience and thereby increase sales. Remember, the work you post is reflective of you as an artist, so never post something that you yourself don’t believe to be of the highest quality.

Are today’s collectors fond of emerging artists?

I can’t say yes or no to that. In my opinion, it depends on the collector. Young collectors can be interested in buying works from emerging artists, because it’s more affordable or simply because they like it. Some collectors, on the other hand, can look at the work of emerging artists as an investment.

What did « Contemporary Art Collectors » reveal to you that you did not previously know?

That some big changes in the art world are coming 🙂

What is your favourite city, museum or gallery in the world?

For exploring art, my favourite city has to be London.
My favourite museums are the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London. And my favourite galleries are the White Cube, Victoria Miro, Almine Rech, and the Gagosian.

What are your future projects?

Generally I prefer not to speak about future projects, until they become present. All I will say is that it will be related to cinema. 🙂

Thank you !

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All images © Vera Bertran

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