GB: About a month ago you told me that you were “just focussing on the essentials”, which has challenged me and stimulated great self reflection ever since.
That is a great place to be, however as much as I envy that ethos and wish I could do the same, I seem to be moving further away from that commendable discipline at an alarming rate and doubt I could ever return.
It is a fascinating statement and at the centre of collecting behaviour.
After some deliberation I have realised that none of the items I own are ‘essential’, yet the practice and activity of collecting is for me ‘essential’.
Humans only essentially need to collect oxygen, water and food, yet to maintain a healthy mind we all need a structure, a passion and sense of creative worth, so for me personally the Antique fairs are an environment where I can utilise my combined skills and experience in the most acute and progressive manner, making the actual activity ‘essential’ for my well-being and sustainability.
I feel the most alive and alert when at a busy Fair, with all senses heightened, and firing. Surprisingly I only see that same level of focus, drive and concentration in about 10 other dealers out of the thousands that attend… unless it’s just a desperation thing ?
PWB: I was 1/2 joking about ‘essentials’, (as obviously we don’t ‘need’ any of this stuff :) but at the same time I’m trying to cleanse and clear / to ‘prune’ – and pick just ‘the best’ if buying new (old) stuff. Re. your point about the fairs – I can totally see this – and wanted to ask: what percentage of you would you say is a collector? vs a dealer? (..and over the years how do you decide what to keep Vs what to sell on?)
GB: Yes I realise it was not a literal statement, but still a brilliant and evocative remark which will resonate and challenge all collectors.
It all depends on the collector’s own perception and ambition of what progression means, which could be more volume, every or diverse examples, or less better examples, all have tailored idiosyncratic taxonomies and manifestos.
My rational, focus and targeting is never fixed to one subject, style, period, designer or artist, I am constantly in a state of flux and shift, but always hungry to accumulate and build some areas and rest others.
As I trawl and cherry pick a Fair I am searching for about 10-15 lines for others and about 20-30 for my own collections.
I’ve always had an anal retention issue and desire to keep all the Great stuff, which is totally counterproductive and I fully realise is steeped in insecurity and detachment issues.
However I am evolving with maturity (though my wife would add ‘not quickly enough’) and starting to realise that I am not always actually the best custodian for all of these rare items.
You asked me once about the items which I regret selling, and there are many. The best items have only been released to raise funds for something even better, more appropriate or where ‘one off’ opportunities are ‘essential’ to not turn down.
So I now see the new objects which I should not really be able to acquire.
During the early nineties I had a strong collection of about 40 rare Tin Robots, a couple of which I had as a child in the early seventies. To supplement raising a young family, and thinking I had achieved something, I sold them all over 6 weeks.
Ten years later I met an interesting guy who was buying Robots in America taking advantage of the exchange rate. I had simultaneously become aware of Paolozzi’s V&A Krazy Kat collection of Robots and ephemera, so within four months I had re-built my old collection and tripled it mostly from the States. I will just keep them now, I don’t want to have to do it a third time !