Art museums have been an active part of history even before the eighteenth century. Earlier European and North American museums were known for their various elite personal collections. Like today, these collections were not accessible to the public and were accommodated in private spaces. Only a select number of wealthy and educated men who were close friends or acquaintances of the art collector had the privilege to visit these private art museums. However, today, as most art museums are open to the public, anyone who is interested in art or is willing to learn more about it can visit an art museum situated in any part of the world.
Olyvia Kwok, London’s most reputed art collector and investor, believes that ‘Art is unregulated’. A BSc Statistics graduate from Queen Mary’s University, Kwok opened her first art gallery in St. James’s, London. With more than 15 years of experience in fine art, today Kwok is a founder of Willstone Management, which is a leading art firm in the United Kingdom. With her profound interest in art, extreme knowledge of the emerging art industry and comprehensive network, Kwok has helped several art investors in investing and managing unique art pieces.
Since a lot of people now understand the value of the art, they have started seeing art not only as a collectible, but also as an investment opportunity. Kwok says ‘What I find is that lots of people are actually into very-strong hard assets, such as properties, or see collectibles such as cars, or diamonds and everything else. Art is being financialised to be a proper asset class. I think it’s more solid, more sophisticated to be involved in.’ However, buying an art piece is not like walking into a mall and grabbing the most attractive piece you see on display.
Before adding an art piece to your art collection, you first need to understand your taste. Art museums can be a great source of inspiration for both new and experienced art collectors. The more time you spend in an art museum, the better you will understand the art and will be able to gain knowledge about various art styles, periods and mediums. From paintings and artifacts to antiquities, art museums preserve all types of art pieces from ancient and modern periods. These art museums not only collect objects, but also preserve them, understand them and exhibit them to the public to share the knowledge of art.
Apart from hosting visitors, art museums have been the backbone of several artists. These art museums do not just give artists a space to exhibit their art, but also acquire their work and display them permanently. As art museums embrace the artwork of artists belonging to different groups and practicing different art styles, they exhibit an unbiased understanding of both art and artists. In addition to displaying art pieces of famous artists, art museums and galleries give recognition to novel artists, irrespective of their demographics or socioeconomic status. These art museums have the power to push the knowledge of art further and educate people about the diversity of traditional and contemporary art.
Despite supporting upcoming artists and educating the public about art, art museums today struggle with various issues related to ownership, elitism and social relevance. Many art professionals even fear that visitors who are not familiar with a museum culture might feel unsolicited and overlooked in the traditional art galleries. Due to this, several art museums have started giving up their traditional role and are working tirelessly to meet the expectations of the emerging culture and market. In addition to exhibiting traditional heritage, these art museums have also started displaying modern and chic art, high-end cars, fashion accessories, etc. to grab the attention of the modern visitor.
However, customary art professionals have shown their concern towards the idea of using museums attracting tourists and making it a space of international attention. Many art veterans also feel that to capture international attention, art museums are ignoring local communities. Art museums often face constant criticism for giving importance to renowned international artists and overlooking the regional ones. Some critics say that art museums must structurally change by becoming more thoughtful towards their collections and the visitors they serve. Whereas others feel that, apart from exhibiting art pieces, museums must try to address societal issues with the help of displays and educational offerings.
Regardless of all the criticism that surrounds art and art museums, Kwok says ‘That’s the beauty of it, in the art world – the flexibility.’ As the art industry has grown significantly in the last few years, now art is a billion-dollar industry. The passion of artists and the hunger of collectors have helped the art world survive and prosper through the years. Art museums invest a lot of resources in selecting artists. Before exhibiting their work, museum staff visits the studios of various artists and build relationships with different collectors all around the world. The vast network and immense market knowledge help museums in shaping the careers of several artists.
Many times, before showcasing a work, museums offer the art pieces to their preferred clients, reputed art collectors and the major public and private collection holders. Art museums and galleries act as a bridge between budding talent and art collectors and help them progress in their respective fields. Credible art museums attract a large number of international collectors, who are eager and ready to invest in quality artwork. Art collectors prefer to visit reputed art museums that are trustworthy and exhibit art pieces of genuine artists. Additionally, making way to a reputed museum helps artists in adding value to their art pieces and gets global recognition. As the art market is progressing at a fast rate, the artists, collectors and art museums need to be reliable, transparent and reputable to prosper in the art industry. Art museums play a significant role in boosting the career of artists and in helping art collectors in investing in art pieces that will add beauty to their collection and value to their assets.