Learn to Distinguish between Good Art and Its Other Recyclable Forms
Branislav Radeljic is a professor of international relations, former co-founder of Contemporary Balkan Art in London, as well as a collector of Southeast and Central and Eastern European art. He talked to us about his passion for art and explained what art collecting means to him.
What was the first piece of art you fell in love with?
This was back home, in Belgrade, while I was still in high school. We had a great art history teacher, whose effortless style and enthusiasm about the subject generated an ever-increasing interest in different epochs, their dominant features and representatives, if known. Eventually I did one of my A-levels under her supervision and, as part of the final assignment, I wrote a lengthy piece about Picasso’s early works. I fell in love with the infinite complexity of his blue and rose periods, the uneasy stories of his characters, their sadness, compassion, and hopefulness. It’s difficult to choose one piece, but if I had to, it would be Family of Saltimbanques. It’s incredible to what extent its background, blurred segments, and powerful messages are relevant nowadays.
Do you remember what was the first artwork you purchased?
Honestly, I don´t. I was asked the same question at an art fair some time ago, and then told that I should know it – it is the first piece you purchase that apparently marks a turning point and makes you begin collecting. Ah… This doesn’t mean that the first piece I got was insignificant. In fact, artists don’t think of their artwork as insignificant, so who am I to do it? Rather, I’m not so much into the first-of-something categorization. The decision to start purchasing artwork was a spontaneous move and thus not something planned or with an agenda in mind. I was also lucky to meet people and benefit from their knowledge about galleries, good vs. bad art, new and emerging talents, and so on. With this in mind, I was extremely happy when I discovered Wolfgang Voegele. I’ll never forget how I rushed to visit his exhibition in London, and how I arranged my business trip to Poland to coincide with the opening of his show there.
Oil on canvas
How would you describe your art collection?
It’s small and visible, not big and stored in basements. I like to look at art, to admire diverse styles and techniques, to compare nearby pieces and move them around to see if and how they interact with one another. After a few years, it has turned out that my collection is quite cosmopolitan. While oils are the dominant medium, I also enjoy drawings, watercolours, and photographs. I have tiny pieces as well as those that require larger surfaces. However, some pieces, regardless of their size, are so powerful and it’s better to leave them alone. This is the case with the mind-blowing Petar Mirkovic’s photorealistic drawings, which are largely contextualized in the aesthetics of the Hollywood motion picture industry.
What is your opinion on Central and Eastern European art and the market?
The whole region, and I’d also add here Southeastern Europe, has gone through many transitional and geopolitical challenges. In such a context, artists have sought to redefine their own position, as well as to confront and influence the post-1989 reality through new initiatives and higher standards. Personally, in addition to reading about the ongoing trends, I’ve been lucky to get to know artists such as Dragos Burlacu and Stanimir Genov, and hear first-hand experiences. Today, there are many CEE artists, both established and emerging, who have a lot to offer and complement the global art scene. In fact, a number of them have been repeatedly exhibited worldwide and are included is some serious public and private collections.
Self-portrait with Butterflies, 2016
Oil on canvas
What would be your advice to a prospective art collector?
Don’t rush. Do some research, either individually or assisted by an art expert (try to find a genuine one). This will help you to better understand your own taste and, equally important, prepare you to distinguish between good art and its other, recyclable forms. Once it’s entered your space, enjoy it. Be prepared that your own taste may change over time – it doesn’t matter, quality artwork is always in demand. Look forward to something new.
Charcoal on paper