Affordable Art: Getting Started - Hugo Brown

Affordable Art: Getting Started - Hugo Brown

Collector, originally from Partick, now based between Glasgow and Holland

I know almost every major collector in the world, and I’m sure any one of them would tell you that doing this is a sickness, an addiction. I bought my first major piece almost 30 years ago when I lived in the Hague. They were just changing over from black and white to colour televisions, but I decided to use the money I’d saved for one to buy a painting instead. The artist I chose went on to win a prize as the best up-and-coming painter in mainland Europe that very Saturday, so obviously after that you think you’ve got an eye for these things.

At first, I bought quite a lot of pop art before it really went up in value – not major works, things like Warhol multiples – but when these became very famous and much more expensive I started collecting younger artists instead. It then becomes more exciting to watch them develop and go on to major shows of their own.

My collection is called COBRA to Contemporary because I’m a big fan of the post-war COBRA art movement, particularly Karel Appel, and of the contemporary art scene. I think what has held British art back a lot, though, is the YBA thing. There’s still too much media interest in people like Damien Hirst and not enough in younger artists and European artists. I gave a talk at the Whitechapel Gallery, of which I’m a benefactor, and right after it a chap from Sotheby’s got up and told us of a piece he’d sold for £4m, telling us, ‘This is the contemporary art world.’ We disagreed with him strongly, of course.

The contemporary art world revolves around the major international shows, of which Basle is the biggest. Then there’s Art Miami, Frieze in London, Cologne, Berlin … I’d advise anyone who’s seriously interested to travel to these if they can, because they represent a much fairer reflection of how contemporary art is priced than any auction. Those with a modest amount could do worse than heading to Glasgow Print Studio or Edinburgh Printmakers – if you have £1000, you could probably come away with 20 nice pieces, rather than just one.


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