Collector Freddy Insinger talks about collecting, age, the art world, what he believes makes a distinctive collection.
We caught up with Amsterdam based IC Collector Freddy Insinger to talk about collecting and what age has got to do with it. At just 26 years old he is an active ambassador of the Stedelijk Museum. Here, the Concept Developer/Brand Strategist shares his thoughts on the art world, what he believes makes a distinctive collection, and the struggles of collecting at a young age, but not before showing us his new works by the artist Danny Fox.
IC: How did your passion for collecting begin?
FREDDY INSINGER: At the age of 13 I walked into Sotheby’s and there was an exhibition on graffiti, which is called street art today. The show was ahead of its time, especially because at that time no one had ever heard of names like Banksy, seen or Shepard Fairey. I remember calling the next day and somehow they took my 13 year old voice seriously after asking where to buy works like the ones in the exhibition. They recommended me a local gallery. After two weeks of convincing my mother to take me back to the big city and bring me to the gallery, she took me back and as soon as I walked in I knew which work I wanted – a work by seen. Back then, they were still very affordable - but still a ton of money for someone who had just been washing cars! However, during my high school years there was much more room financially to buy art, and I bought plenty of works from local street artists – pieces that I still very much enjoy today as they all have a personal story behind them.
Tell us about your collection
My collection is a reflection of my life so far. I buy works that move me, works that I can relate to emotionally, and that help me to rethink thoughts and to inspire me. I try to build a collection that pushes the envelope of culture. I want my collection to go beyond the conventional, art should stimulate creativity and trigger thoughts – whatever that means. Building a collection is like making art, find your own voice and try not to replicate the established collectors. Regurgitating and fostering trends lead to sameness.
Building a collection is like making art, find your own voice and try not to replicate the established collectors. Regurgitating and fostering trends lead to sameness. Freddy Insinger
Almost all my spare time, besides work, is invested in the art world. Traveling to exhibitions, fairs, meeting art dealers, visiting private collections and being an ambassador at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam takes up most of my time, but it’s worth it!
From almost an infinite set of artworks available on the market, my reasons for buying have changed over the years. I am mostly interested in the idea behind an artwork, more than the aesthetic itself. However, I believe great works have both – an exceptionally profound idea combined with skilled craftsmanship.
My taste has changed and I have gained a lot more knowledge about the art market. From my point of view collecting is about quality, not quantity. I enjoy the hunt of finding iconic works of a certain artist. Furthermore I never buy works that have an edition over, let’s say, 15. I’d rather buy unique works. I might have to save a bit longer to do this, but that is the only way for me to create a collection that will be unique over time. For that reason, buying the big names has never really been of interest to me, however I very much enjoy studying them whilst not even thinking about the financial wherewithal.
I always say I know too little about art to spot a great emerging artists at the beginning of their career, as the more knowledge and experience you have the better you get at spotting great talent. For the time being, I am enjoying buying contemporary art in the medium of paintings, photography and I will slowly start to add sculptures to the collection in the future. Figurative but also more abstract works appeal to me. Every work has its own story and some works were very easy to purchase, others took me months of research and meetings to get to the point of purchase.
To me, building a collection is to be able to share it with future generations. Hopefully I’m working on a collection that one day will become a legacy.
"Art was a rather lonely hobby when I was younger. I had hardly any friends who shared the same interest and it wasn't always as fun. Now with the Internet and social media this has all changed." Freddy Insinger
What is your philosophy behind collecting? i.e do you only buy living artists’ works? Do you ever sell the artworks you buy?
It’s not that I have a specific philosophy, but I do have a particular modus operandi. First of all I am very blessed to have started collecting at a young age as this has given me the chance to build a network and find the right people to enjoy art with. I have lived in New York, London and Berlin and I have spent a lot of time in these local art markets, and have learned plenty of lessons – sometimes the hard way!
I prefer to buy from living artists, as I enjoy meeting artists and supporting them where I can. I especially enjoy following them over the years and seeing how their works develop. I have been looking at Masahisa Fukase ravens series recently, on the other hand emerging artist Guy Yanai is in my collection, but I believe you should stick to the question: “How does this artwork add value to the bigger picture and returning theme of my collection?”.
I don’t sell works and I don’t buy art to speculate. Your reputation in the art market is everything, it’s a small world. I have invested a lot of time meeting galleries and dealers and they know my reasons for buying, how much time I spend researching artists, and that I am rather selective, especially now that I am looking for works that are unifying and create consistency. But I would be lying if I would say that I have absolutely zero financial interest. Rather I can say that the works are in good hands, which I think is and should be one of the biggest concerns for emerging artists and their work.
You are quite young to be such a serious collector, does this set you apart in the art market? And if so, does it benefit you at all?
I am not a “serious collector”, but I do take collecting seriously. There have been some galleries that have supported me from the beginning of my interest in collecting – teaching me, inviting me to openings, and taking the time to talk to me, something which I am still thankful for. I think being young is only a partial advantage, as on the other hand you might not be treated as a serious buyer from the first moment, which is understandable.
In the beginning I experienced some difficulty in buying certain artists on which the market is tight. I had to convince galleries to sell me work. Now that my collection is finding more shape and galleries know that the works are in goods hands, my age is becoming less of a disadvantage.
Many of the first conversations I have with art professionals end with the question: “What is your advice for young collectors?”. Most recently I was talking with the Berlin based gallery owner Javiér Peres from Peres Projects, who emphasized the importance of buying the best works within your budget and not just to buy a work because of the name.
"I don’t sell works and I don’t buy art to speculate. Your reputation in the art market is everything, it’s a small world." Freddy Insinger
Is there any artwork in your collection that has a stand-out story behind it?
Most of my works have an interesting side-story, but the story behind the “Hell” photo by Dash Snow is worth sharing.
I was walking down Prince Street in Soho New York with one of my close friends, Nicholas de Kwiatkowski. He has taste and a good eye for art, so naturally we always talk about art. He asks me if I’ve “ever heard of Dash Snow?”. It didn't ring a bell, but his name alone made me curious. I started reading about him and I loved his work. I was also blown away by his background story. After that I decided to buy a couple of his books which turned out to be quite tricky as they are extremely expensive and out of print. However, I finally managed to find them and then started looking into his collages and polaroids. The collages are especially hard to find but I found an amazing one on Paddle8, but in the last 3 seconds I was outbid. There was nothing I could do! Disappointed and frustrated, I continued my search. I decided to ask another close friend of mine who is deeply rooted in the New York art scene to help me find a work. It was a bit of a long shot and for weeks I didn't hear anything until one day I received a text: “Hey I think I found you one, not sure if you like it…” and there on my screen was the “Hell” piece. I couldn't believe my eyes!
We negotiated about the price and I was told the work was in Switzerland. I called one of my best friends and asked him if he was up for a trip to Switzerland, he said yes, and so the next day we jumped in this old Toyota Jeep and drove over thirteen hours. We finally arrived at 00:30 am, finalized the deal at the kitchen table of the seller and then left to the hotel. It was one hell of a journey, but in addition to getting a great piece I have a beautiful shared memory with a friend.
How do you keep up with contemporary artists?
Instagram, Dazed, Artsy, and magazines. Or I see them at art fairs or friends tell me about them. Talk with artists, ask who they like and are interested in.
What tips do you have for the young collectors reading this?
The main question you have to ask yourself is: “How much are you willing to give up?”.
Art was a rather lonely hobby, when I was younger. I hardly had any friends who shared the same interest and it wasn't always as fun. Now with the Internet and social media this has all changed. You can spot new artists online, meet other collectors and browse galleries. I think every millennial follows a couple of art related instagram pages, art is hot!
There is a plethora of articles and books written for young collectors or about collecting on a small budget. However If I may give some of my own advice:
1) Find an art mentor – like with everything in life, if you want to become better at something you need a coach or a mentor. Someone that takes the time for you, will give you an unsalted opinion and knows the tricks and tips from the art world. I am very lucky I have a close friend of my mother who is this for me. I see him on a weekly basis and he has been an invaluable source of inspiration to me.
2) Buy a book on the artist you are planning to buy. This will help you to gain more knowledge about the artist and it will give you a relatively good view on the works the artist has made so far.
3) Read reviews of exhibitions and shows. Galleries are determined to sell, make sure your decisions are based on your own research. Never take advice from someone who benefits from the outcome of your decision.
4) Talk to as many different people who are active in the art market, even if you don’t like their approach or job. It will help you to understand their motives. Believe me there are, like in every industry, plenty of people who will try to take advantage of you.
5) Buy this book: “Collecting Art for Love Money and More”.