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How To Build A Remarkable Art Collection, According To A Curator

Art advisor and curator DARIA BORISOVA speaks to KATIE BERRINGTON about mastering the skill of curation, raising up emerging artists and channeling the changemaking power of the arts

Borisova pictured in front of Summer Couples, 2020, by artist Kwesi Botchway, at Gallery 1957’s Becoming As Well As Being exhibition in London

“I really believe that art can help save the world. This is what wakes me up in the morning,” says Daria Borisova, an art advisor and curator based in London. From collaborating with non-profits working on bringing communities together, to using her platform to support artists and projects that are pushing for change, she puts her belief in the transformative and unifying ability of the arts into action.

She is particularly motivated by promoting and giving a platform to new artists. “When planning projects, whether it’s coordinating a small group show or working on a big public art exhibition, my objective is to bring together a diverse group of artists to share with the world,” she says. Last year, Borisova worked with Beauty for Freedom, a non-profit foundation raising awareness and providing funds to fight human trafficking, on a project titled #HERSTORY to raise money to benefit Black-led, women-led organizations in Malawi, South Sudan and Kenya.

The pandemic, of course, posed immense challenges for the art industry, including closures and cancellations. “Sadly, a lot of small businesses, new galleries and museums have been hit hard, leading to substantial job losses in our community,” she reflects. “The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report saw gallery sales fall by approximately 36 percent in the first half of 2020. Galleries were closed for at least 10 weeks, and art fairs that typically attract thousands of potential buyers were cancelled.”

There have been a few positives to take away, though, which Borisova hopes will make a long-lasting impact. “While I think the art world can get a bad rap for being too exclusive or alienating, 2020 saw our community come together in new and innovative ways that were inspiring,” she says, referencing the non-profit Artist Support Pledge, which was established to provide artmakers with a social media platform to share and sell their work.

Here, Borisova shares her key rules for curating an art collection.

Take time to develop your own taste

“As collecting is considered an ‘art’ itself, it is important to establish a style that reflects your taste. And developing taste takes time, research and experience. You should be careful and disciplined when making purchases that will be an investment – not just for a financial return, but for what I consider a ‘life return’. Anyone can assemble artworks together, but building a collection takes dedication.”

Question your aims

“I think it’s important for new collectors to question their goals and intentions for collecting. Is this collection for you, your family, a particular space? What is the central theme of your collection? You can always start by buying what you like, but, ultimately, a pattern may start to develop. Acquisitions should be purposeful. For one collector, their interest may be limited to one particular area or specific medium; for others, they may be interested in gathering a variety of works that reflect a conceptual theme. This is how a buyer transforms into being a collector.”

Build up your resources

“There are a lot of resources out there that I use every day to build my personal artist database. Keeping up with Artsy, Artnet, ARTnews and Art Market Monitor is a must. All these websites have newsletters you can sign up for; I especially like Breakfast with ARTnews. I recommend following Juxtapoz Magazine to discover new artists. Art21 is a great educational platform that includes films and publications on historically important topics and artists. You can get a price database account to check auction results, get market updates and receive artist alerts.

“Don’t forget about the power of Instagram, which I use every day to find new artists and changemakers in the art world. (Insider tip: it’s not about the number of followers – it’s about who is following them.) Not sure who to start following? Christie’s auction house usually comes up with a list of the top 100 accounts to follow in the art world. Besides following artists and news sources, I like to follow collectors and writers, too.”

Christopher Hartmann, Untitled, 2020
There’s no reason we can’t continue to support the arts and contribute to building a healthy cultural community
Check My Nails by Kwesi Botchway, 2020

Seek out what you like

“Once you have a sense of what you like, the next question becomes, ‘How do I find this?’ There are a number of ways to go about collecting art – visiting fairs, galleries, biennials and independent art shows (when they’re open). Pay attention to auctions, both for profit and for charity, where you might have the opportunity to find works donated by artists that would normally be difficult to acquire. Charity auctions, like the Kitchen Benefit Art Auction in New York, are also a great opportunity to discover new artists to add to your repertoire.”

Look for emerging artists

“Good artists are everywhere – just look at Instagram! But how do you find emerging artists that you think are worth your attention, when it can feel like options are overwhelming? I like to look at reputable institutions that have a history of producing strong artists, like the Royal Academy Schools. Every year, it hosts Premiums, an exhibition of work by second-year students at the Royal Academy Schools. I attended the 2020 show, and there was an impressive amount of diverse work in various mediums by artists who I think have an exciting future.”

George Rouy, Monument, 2020

Do some digging

“Look at galleries that have a history of discovering new and successful artists, too. If you love a particular artist, you can always look to see which smaller galleries they started with. For example, Nicolas Party is now represented by Hauser & Wirth, but a smaller gallery named Kaufmann Repetto in Milan had a show for him in 2018. So, start with the smaller galleries and check out who they’re representing today. They may be the artist everyone wants next year.

“Other resources include connecting with independent curators and art-school residencies. I discovered a number of artists through the Fores Project in London, including Christopher Hartmann and Vojtech Kovarik. Some other emerging artists I’m excited about at the moment are Amélie Peace, a young and emerging French artist based in London, who I found through an independent curator; George Rouy, found through Hannah Barry, a gallery in London; Joy Labinjo, found through Bloc Projects in Sheffield, UK; Salman Toor, through Lahore Biennale 2018; Jonny Negron, through Tong Art Advisory; Jesse Mockrin, through the Rubell Collection; and Shona McAndrew, through my Collecting 101 interviews with The Art Gorgeous magazine.”

Raise up artists from underrepresented communities

“There is a clear urgency, especially by museums and galleries, to acquire art by people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. With this notion to quickly correct incomplete collections, the market for artists of color has grown exponentially – and it was about time! But I think it’s important to bring these artists together in a way that is respectful and meaningful, rather than purely performative.

“I try to do my research and look to experts who I can learn from directly. Today, I’m especially paying attention to Roberts Projects, a contemporary art gallery in LA that represents mid-career and established artists, as well as the residency program ‘NXTHVN’ in New Haven, Connecticut, started by Titus Kaphar.”

Continue to champion the art world – now, more than ever

“The way in which we navigate the art world has shifted for a lot of us, but there’s no reason we can’t continue to support the arts and contribute to building a healthy cultural community. And by support, I don’t mean just spending money, though that certainly helps if you’re in a position to do so. Continue to share art, resources and fundraising opportunities with friends and family. Write to your local, state and federal representatives to express that the arts need continued government support. If you want to contribute financially, consider looking at how you can help locally. Is there an artists’ group or non-profit in your community you can donate to? Is there a museum membership you’ve always wanted to buy? We must come together now to ensure there is a future for the arts, both locally and around the world.”


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