Martin Gayford on artists, dealers, museum curators and collectors

Lisa Moravec: What do you think about the relationship between artists, writers and investors?

Martin Gayford: Visual artists and writers had a slightly symbiotic relationship going back for centuries in the history for example back to the 16th century.  In a way collaborated writers can explain what artists are doing. In another way helping them because many of some of them are unwilling to explain their work. It is an established sort of partnership.
I don’t have the impression that writing about arts does not affect the value of it. I think that collectors, dealers and auctions set the value but I don’t think writing would have very much effect on the auction price.

LM: Why do people read newspapers articles by art critics to form their opinions about whether they shall by an artwork? It seems to be similar to the financial world, investors only read the FT to know what is going on in the stock market. 

MG: I do know that the newspapers would have a lot of direct affect on collectors. I think that newspapers might affect people who are deciding whether to go to an exhibition but is sort of different.

A well-known critic who is dead now, used to say that the art world requires five different sort of players: the artist, the dealer, the collector, the museum curator and the art critic. But I think museum curators have a lot more to do with making up the collector’s mind as they are putting work together into an important exhibition or deciding to show an exhibition in a museum. I don’t think that a critic attacking or praising is going to have nearly such an effect on collectors.


LM: Who do you think is the most important of these five in the art industry? 

MG: The artist is the most powerful figure in the art world because everything is generated by their ideas.


LM: But if he does not know that people are supporting him and if he has not got any money how would he get in touch with people who are interested in buying his art so that he can continue to produce art? 

MG: Well, I think these five people I have mentioned have power. The writer is the least important to establish the artist’s reputation. First at all, the artist requires a dealer. A partnership with a talented dealer is crucial to establish an artist’s reputation. Let’s take a notorious example, which was very important for the public: Picasso formed a relationship with Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler during his career.

The dealer is the next one to take up an artist, to promote his work and to publicize his work and to get museums interested. After that the collector and the museum go hand in hand. The artist also needs to be accepted by public institutions such as by museums, which need to give approval to his work. The writer, I always feel, has more to do with explaining and interpreting the artist work to a wide public his artwork. So the writer helps to make the artist understand and appreciated by the whole culture. But that does not necessarily have a direct effect in the first place on value and status.


LM: Do investors and artist have to know each other personally?

MG: No, I don’t think so. The collectors often like to meet the artist but I don’t think he needs to talk to him. While it is very helpful for a writer to talk to the artist before he writes about his art.
For example, in my David Hockney and Lucian Freud book I am really in conversation with the artists.


LM: If the collector knows the artist personally to such an extend that he can recognize the artist’s personality in his picture, does this change the value of the artist’s work for the collector? It would seem to be similar to what Lucian Freud tried “to depict the interior and the exterior” in his portraits.

MG: It certainly could help the collector to deepen their understanding to get to know the artist.


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