Sunday 21 June 2009

Collect at the Saatchi Gallery

Having been held in the V & A for it’s first 5 years Collect moved to the Saatchi Gallery in London this year and an exciting and interesting event it was.

Collect was set up by the Crafts Council to promote and sell contemporary craftwork to private collectors and curators of public collections - it’s like the craft version of Frieze, the contemporary visual art fair. Galleries have to apply to have a stand there and the gallery /organisations, and also the work they intend to show, are all vetted by a selection panel. Work shown has a to have minimum price of £500 and prices went up to in excess of £35,000, so serious collectors only! craftscotland was successful in it’s application to be there for the second year running this year and I was working on the stand which was very interesting -I’ve previously been to Collect as a curator/collector so it was quite an insight to see it from the other side of the fence, so to speak!

There was a big difference in atmosphere between the Saatchi and the V & A - the stands in the V & A were smaller (or seemed to be) and, as there were 3 rows of stands in each gallery, you could always see a number of stands from any point so it was easy to be distracted by something else catching your eye across the space. In the Saatchi Gallery there were 12 rooms across 3 floors and each stand had wide space in front of it which made it less crowded for the visitors and gave the work room to breath and be seen at it’s best.

The craftscotland stand showed the work of 11 Scottish makers who had applied to take part and had been selected by a panel of experts (before having to get through the Crafts Council/ Saatchi selection panel as well). 12 other Scottish makers were also represented on other stands -The Scottish Gallery, Bishoplands Trust, Contemporary Applied Arts, Electrum and Lesley Craze Gallery - an impressive showing for a small country! We were thrilled when Geoffrey Mann’s Flight Take-off was nominated for an Art Fund award on the opening day -it didn’t win one but it was great to hear that a Jacqueline Ryan necklace on the Scottish Gallery stand had won one and was going to Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Over 10,000 people attended Collect over the 3 days and it was fascinating to talk to the private collectors about who they had in their collections. Although there is obviously a recession on, there is definitely still money around though I do think people are playing safer in how and where they spend it - it seemed to me that the more established galleries still did well as their track record adds to the value of the piece to the collector - provenance is important. All the makers we showed on the stand had their admirers and we had many compliments on how the stand looked this year - well done, Tina Rose!

An extraordinary amount of work and preparation goes into an event like Collect -you watch crates of work being heaved around the galleries then being opened and work from all over the world being unpacked, positioned, dusted and labelled then everyone disappears returning calmly in their finery to promote and sell the work giving no sign that they have just spent 2 days doing hard physical labour in a constant state of panic in case you‘re not ready in time - impressive!

It remains to be seen whether Collect will be in the Saatchi Gallery again next year - I do think it attracted a slightly different audience this year with more of the type of people who attend contemporary fine art events rather than craft -interesting to know how many converts were made.

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