Tell us a bit about yourself, your career! What inspired you to start the Art Collector Academy?
I arrived in this profession from a totally different area. I was interested in it, and I visited Basel, the Venice Biennale, and I went to Cologne, too to see how this works abroad. It became clear to me very quickly that the globally prosperous, immensely exciting art world hasn’t fully conquered Hungary yet. (Or vice versa?)
I founded the Bergman sculpture gallery in 2011, and I quickly positioned us on the contemporary scene. I needed a few years to see to the bottom of the situation and be able to think in solutions. I found that the art scene is very weak in terms of business work, but for me, it was more of a challenge than an issue. I founded the Contemporary Collectors’ Academy in 2016 with the aim of “producing” appreciative collectors while maintaining an integrated thinking and values. The project was surrounded by respect and anticipation from the very beginning, which put a responsibility on us in terms of continuation. We are starting the sixth course on 10 November, and we have more than 100 satisfied alumni that I meet at contemporary auctions regularly.
What type of programs do you recommend to Academy applicants, how can someone become a professional art collector?
We don’t want to invent anything: our 7-module course was developed based on international best practice. We synthetized the Hungarian version from the syllabus of similar English and American courses, for which we won over the best lecturers. We offer experience-based training by certifying lectures with gallery and studio visits during the week that allow our students to see behind the scenes.
Professionalism is a question of openness and willingness, the main barrier for people to change is the better or worse comfort zone. My experience tells me that when someone is already committed to wanting it, they can achieve results unbelievably fast because the complexity of this is overrated.
Why is it worth it to invest in contemporary art for a collector? Is buying art a financial investment, or does it rather lift the social status of the individual?
Both, and even more. As some say, it’s a true all-in-one. Besides the ones mentioned, it’s a source of experience, but it serves our psychical and physical wellbeing, and, through social experiences, our meaningful connections, too – in short, it elevates our quality of life.
What are the most frequently asked questions that you encounter in terms of art collecting here in Hungary?
Doubts are stemming from uncertainty and the lack of transparency, the fact that this area hasn’t been able to develop into an industry capable of lobbying – and now it’s time. The lack of a model, the attempts of politics have created a standoff that can only be broken by the awakening of the profession. Similarly to other industries, this can be catalysed by provoking market demand, to which, as a result of its societal interest, the state must react with the adequate legislative environment, supporting institutions, and training. This is why it’s important to form a segment of private and corporate collectors with the right status that functions exemplarily and actively, not only raising decision makers’ awareness to this area but educating future generations, too.
What do you think, what’s Hungary’s position in the region in this?
We are lagging behind, but it’s not irrecuperable. Everyone else is ahead of us in the region, although we have (had) powerful traditions in contemporary art. Contemporary art is a permanent global Olympic game, which doesn’t accept racers on IV. We believe that an industry program would be an adequate diagnosis and authentic therapy for this organisation to recover and gain strength, and, with a “blood transfusion” from the recovering market, be able to step on the international scene as a potential runner-up. That’s why we have an industry program with ten subprograms that are well-known in top circles, too, and it’s currently and continuously being shaped involving the key professionals of the business.
László Kertész’s book, “Contemporary Art Collecting” is just being published by the Academy. What was your aim with the book, who is it for? Beginner art collectors or professionals as well?
The book is the change project of our industry program: it introduces the sustainable model to the reader. Its subtitle is “A Manual for the Lovers, Buyers, Collectors, and Investors of Art.” In short, it’s for everyone, and we managed to write this book in a way that it serves this purpose. It’s difficult to write special publications that are of academic quality and entertaining at the same time – however, feedback tells us that we succeeded in doing just that.