How are collections born?
alexandre ribenboim

ART GALLERIES are far from being warm places, the kind we lay back and feel comfortable in. Galleries, usually as silent as libraries, with their tall white walls that disappear into infinity and lighting carefully designed to make the art stand out, are cold places.

A gallery’s main clientele – art collectors – isn’t too worried about that, because they are addressed by name and surname by the gallerist and they know the pieces before they are exhibited. If they want to buy something, the gallery offers them a special room where a sofa, coffee table and whiskey bottle set the backdrop for negotiations.

Therefore, it is not in the gallery that a prospective client, a stranger, will find help to trail the route to discovery, elevation and growth contemplated by art. A gallery will not welcome those who do not collect. Neither will museums. Despite being excellent spaces to get closer to art and to refine one’s look, museums are made to serve large audiences, and collecting requires an individual, delicate, lasting and profound proximity – one that respects the new collector’s rhythm.

Gatherings like art fairs, vernissages, exhibitions and auctions are open spaces, but they are also hermetic, strange and even threatening to newcomers. However, it’s interesting to notice how the art-savvy community, especially in contemporary circles, digs anything that’s different. I would go as far as saying that a layman could do well at a vernissage if they were able to transform their ignorance into something curious and friendly, and avoided drinking too much. Generally speaking, though, attending art events is not really comfortable for market outsiders.

Besides all of that, collecting art is not cheap, which further scares newcomers away. Even if there were money to spare for acquiring art works, upon their first purchase, the layman would have to handle doubts like: “am I paying a fair price?”, “is the artist well-renowned?”, “is this piece truly good?”. These doubts occur even when buying purely for aesthetic reasons; that is, not taking its value as an investment into account.

Which leads us to our title question: How, then, is a collection born?

many art collectors begin their collections “acquiring a taste” for art from someone else. Someone helps them take their first steps: an artist friend, a boyfriend who has studied art history, a work colleague who collects. But this spark fades away too easily, as collecting demands effort and a disposition for attending, seeing, traveling, asking and studying.

A COLLECTOR CAN buy art according to their own taste, but they will be missing out on a very interesting part, which is the connection that art has with literature and philosophy, its connection to the lives of artists and their contemporaries, the beauty in alternative world views. Collecting art is also about collecting information, strolling across references in search of knowledge, and discovering meanings and connections.

The Calmon-Stock Collection, which can now be visited at Bodies, letters and some animals, marvelously exemplifies such promenade. It is a collection compiled through several tasks – a search for information here, a connection there, a hint elsewhere – undertaken by collectors relying solely on their love for art and the undying disposition of lovers. You will not find, in this collection, the specialized touch of a curator, consultant or any other specialist. You will, however, find plenty of curiosity and attentive ears, as well as a great deal of interest in other people’s – especially the artists’ – universes.

Slowly but surely, the collectors from Bodies, letters and some animals sifted through young artists, as well as not-so-young ones whose works remain accessible, and began unveiling their influences, connecting dots, feeling the dialogue between the pieces, thus creating a unity which is now displayed in the beautiful pages of this catalogue.

The Calmon-Stock Collection and its trajectory teach us that collections don’t require much to come about – only desire.

ALEXANDRE RIBENBOIM is an entrepreneur and a consultant. As a consultant, he worked a great deal within the art market and began his own little collection.