The Path to Patronage

Despite the proliferation of art flippers across the globe and an ever-more monetized art market, collecting art remains a pursuit that extends beyond the purely economic realm. Buying a work of art is only the first step; patronage is the goal. Museum shows and biennials wouldn’t happen without the many works that have been supported, sight unseen, owing to the lasting relationships and trust that exist between collector and artist. Varied models of patronage abound, of course. For instance, that of London supermarket heir Alex Sainsbury, who—despite his family’s already-enviable collection and the wing his father donated to the National Gallery—wanted to delve deeper into contemporary art. To do so, he opened Raven Row, in 2009. Sainsbury located his exhibition space and residency program in an eighteenth-century edifice just bordering the city, near Whitechapel Gallery. It quickly became an important point of reference for Londoners because of its ongoing residency program and exhibitions of notable contemporary artists. Collectors like Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo use their deep institutional affiliations to help slingshot their chosen artists’ careers. Art-world darlings David Ostrowski, Ned Vena, and Pamela Rosenkranz, whom Sandretto Re Rebaudengo began collecting in their early days, where recently placed in Beware Wet Paint, at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), in fall 2014. Some collectors, like Francesca von Habsburg, take a multi-level approach. Her foundation, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), funds scores of artist projects for biennials and other exhibitions worldwide, as well as residencies and international trips for its artist-recipients. The exhibition space TBA21—Augarten, in Vienna, is also used for consistently first-class shows of supported artists. It even housed Ragnar Kjartansson and friends, for a month-long performance of The Palace of the Summerland, in 2014. Regardless of the methods they use, patrons like these are indispensible when it comes to helping make the art world spin.

What better way to really get to know the art world than by reading our Shorties! These little snippets of art world wisdom cover topics ranging from art fairs, auctions, to the relationship between artist and collector, written by leading journalists from around the world.

Alexander Forbes is a New York based art writer and critic, currently serving as Artsy’s News Editor. Prior to relocating to New York, Alexander was based in Berlin as the European Editor for artnet and German Bureau Chief for Louise Blouin Media.

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