Curator Explains How Banks Buy Photographic Art

The Wall Street Journal is carrying a fascinating interview with Luminita Sabau, the head of art patronage at Germany’s DZ Bank and the curator of one of the world’s most impressive collections of art photography.

It’s an odd sort of job and an odd sort of use for photographers’ works too. Most artists would expect their creations to be bought and viewed by people who have chosen to see it — and who would appreciate it. That isn’t necessarily going to happen when a work is hung at the headquarters of a bank. As Ms Sabau herself put it:

“People go to museums to see art, but here people are confronted with art. Sometimes it is far more interesting to observe how they deal with it than in a museum.”

Of course, whether people ignore your work as they pass it in the corridor or sit and admire it might not seem all that important when you’ve sold it for a five-figure sum (or higher). Most photographers would at least like the chance to find out.

And Ms Sabau gives one clue to help them do it. Asked how she buys art, she answers that she follows “classic art historic criteria,” which presumably means that she aims to build a collection that covers as wide a range of artistic movements as possible. Create art that’s completely unique then, and it might be hard to see how it would fit into a collection like that of the DZ Bank. Much better perhaps to combine innovation with a nod at those who came before.

Interestingly, if being bought by a bank doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, Ms Sabau’s description of her relationship to the art she buys is no more encouraging.

“Generally a new work comes into my office every six weeks. I want to find out how long the tension between the picture and me lasts. There are works that I can never see enough of. Others I understand fairly quickly and after a short time they have nothing more to give me.”

That sounds like the appeal of even a great piece of photographic art might not last long. The check though might last longer.

[tags] photographic art, selling photographic art [/tags]

One comment for this post.

  1. Eric Hamilton Said:

    Actually, to me, it just sounds like that's how she decides what she considers a great piece of art. I'm pretty much the same... some photos I get sick of quickly, and others grow on me and become favorites over time. I prefer the latter.

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