Art fair digital globalisation: Instagram is the unofficial dealer that is the most talked about.

Other virtual offerings have also changed the market.

With constant Internet access do you still have to travel as a collector today?


Looking into other worlds of life is still one of the best ways to build a good art collection.


  • ​At the big art fair events, art life is at its most concentrated.
  • Even more important than the big art fair, however, it is possibility to visit smaller fairs and auctions depending on the collection focus.
  • The most important impulses are events that are not dedicated to sales.
  • Always combine trips to a global art fair and auction with visits to the galleries you work with and the artists' studios.
  • If you want to take full advantage of the art fair, it is sensible to prepare for them by means of relevant media and art consultants

Hardly any other activity is as much associated with collecting as traveling

Click to Tweet

Hardly any other activity is as much associated with collecting as traveling.

Collectors travel to studios, workshops, exhibitions and biennials, to fairs and auctions, to other cities and other countries.

Regardless of whether collectors are interested in Sèvres porcelain or the painting of classical modernism, whether they are inspired by Empire furniture or conceptual art.

It has always been like this.

The collectors of ancient Rome traveled the Aegean coasts to bring home Greek sculptures.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, English aristocrats bought so much old Spanish and Italian art on their Grand Tour that they came to short-term bottlenecks.

German art enthusiasts like Paul Cassirer and Fritz Gurlitt were to become, after some Paris journeys, among the first to buy French impressionist art.

Without the support of American collectors like Peggy Guggenheim, European modernity would certainly have been different.

Even the current boom in contemporary art would hardly be possible, to its full extent, without collectors from China and the Arab Emirates.

Collecting art seems intrinsically linked with the view into other life worlds.


art basel miami art fair

The more one talks to collectors about their collecting activity, the more clearly their life is still determined, as the trade of art is increasingly taking place in the virtual world. This observation is especially striking in contemporary art.

The professional caravan is made up of collectors, curators, art consultants and critics who fly around the globe a few times a year.

The great art fair world migration begins in March with the major auctions in London and New York and with trade fairs like Art Dubai and Art Basel, Hong Kong. In biennial years the migration continues with a stay in Venice.

In June, it reached a climax with Art Basel. In the autumn, trade fairs such as the Frieze London, the Parisian FIAC and new auctions are on the agenda before the year ends with a kind of class meeting in Miami.

The innumerable openings of important museum exhibitions, biennials and other events, which you can see again and again, have not yet been included here.

Never before has it seemed to be a good moment to be on the road for the procurement of art. The art world has never been as globalized as it is now.

This development is known for its status enhancing capabilities, which are expressed, among other things, in investment art and absurd price recorders.

Okwui Enwezor, director of the Munich House of Art and curator of 2015’s Venice Biennale, summed up the ambivalence of this phenomenon in a conversation:

"The past decades have opened the door to the globalization of art. Today, in some respects, we are living in an era of art fairs. This dominance of the market has many negative consequences and has fundamentally changed the art world.

But there has also been some change in the positive. Today we have more access to the work of artists from different parts of the world than ever before."


But anyone who is more concerned with the phenomenon of the global art migration will soon realize that - despite all Artforum diary entries in "Scene & Herd" – it is not take everyone along.

When talking to collectors, each of them can report scenes from the plane to London or New York, where everyone seems to know everyone. But most of them do not feel the urge to go anywhere.

​Thomas Olbricht, known for his Me Collector's Room in Berlin, where he also shows a changing of present-day art exhibitions, says that while he is only going to travel for the sake of art it leaves much to be desired.

The focus of art fairs is on a broad international focus

Click to Tweet

He is particularly active in Basel, London Frieze and TEFAF in Maastricht. "Here I experience the current art scene in a particularly compressed form."

For Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani, the founders of the Samdani Foundation and probably the most important art collectors in Southeast Asia, the focus is not only on the trade fairs in Basel and London, but also on a broad international focus.

Sergei Tchoban, who came out last year with the opening of a museum for architectural drawings in Berlin, also travels to complete his collection.

But he is more interested in special exhibitions such as the Salon du Dessin, held every April in the Palais Brongniart in Paris.


travelling to art fair

For many collectors traveling to an art fair can have a real life-changing effect and has become something like a life form over the years.

The Samdani’s, for example, started to build a museum collection nine years ago.

Their goal is to support the art scene in Bangladesh, where there have been little support for art, and at the same time bring as much exciting international art into the country as possible.

"Rajeeb and I have never studied art history," says Nadia Samdani.

"All we've learned about art, we've experienced on journeys. The more art we see, the more we learn. We meet as many artists as possible. Many curators lead us through their exhibitions. All this is a beautiful and enriching learning process.”

When the Anish Kapoor collection opened in Palace of Versailles (2015), the Samdani went there personally to the opening and also attended a studio visit to Anselm Kiefer in Paris, which is also in Nadia’s collection.

"The more you see, the more you learn."

For the young couple traveling is both simultaneously a personal and a philanthropic project.

Another topic, which is always present in the conversations with collectors about traveling, is that of hunting and tracing pieces - not just for a monetary price, but also with a special psychological value.

Visiting art fair events and auctions has a special role to play here.

Nowhere else does one encounter such a rich offering.

Nowhere else does one meet, in one concentrated place, such a wealth of information.

And nowhere else can you meet so many like-minded people who share their own obsessions, exchange and measure up with each other.

Sometimes this kind of community expertise, which holds friendship and rivalry, lead to regular awakening experiences. "A trip to Paris took me to the Grand Palais in 2009", remembers Thomas Olbricht, for example.

"There I participated in the extraordinary auction of the Yves Saint Laurent collection. And I was successful!”

The experience of auction success and the attachment to the heritage of one of the great collectors before him gave a new direction to his collection.


But among the collectors who travel to the art fair by themselves, there are, of course, those who can make holidays around the holiday and go to other countries without having to expand their art collection.

And for these collectors the tools are better than ever.

Artsy and other booming sales platforms make life easier for collectors. There is hardly a gallery today that does not use its Internet presence as a strategic marketing tool.

And within a few years, the social network and photo app Instagram has become one of the most important art fields for artists, gallery owners and auctioneers alike.

The Berlin collector, curator and art consultant Bernd Wurlitzer says that there is hardly any emotional connection between traveling and collecting art. "Maybe Goethe had traveled to Italy," he says, laughing, "or Humboldt on his expeditions."

Instagram has become one of the most important art fields for artists, gallery owners and auctioneers alike

Click to Tweet

He and his wife regularly go to London to Frieze and Art Cologne in Cologne, but always with their children to see and to visit old friends. More interesting for Wurlitzer are "virtual journeys".

He had his key experience with the possibilities of virtual art trading 10 years ago, when he acquired two works from Alicja Kwade, in which a black diamond played an essential role.

"At the same time Marcel van Eeden presented a drawing on his homepage every day. On one, for me, no coincidence appeared, a black diamond with a carbon cord.

We wanted to have it in our collection. He was in an exhibition in Canada, and after several emails, the drawing went back to Europe and has been in harmony with the other 'diamonds'. "

Without buying a plane, such purchases are possible.


private museum and art fair

In his legendary ‘The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism’, the sociologist Max Weber described the accumulation of art as the representative strategy of well-to-do European bourgeoisie, in which the trace of the ancient faith illuminates that the one chosen by God.

Accumulations by European citizens of the 19th century were thereby the heirs of the aristocratic rulers before them, who also sought to strengthen their position with their personal art collections.

In some respects, today's collectors are the heirs of that European bourgeoisie. They are also concerned with a certain form of representation, even though it is usually no longer religiously motivated.

Thus, many travels of today's art collectors have one definite aim: the establishment of their own exhibition space or the establishment of their own museum.

Collecting, traveling, and others - all of these are parts of the process.

For collectors like Thomas Olbricht and the Samdani’s, their travels have resulted in building of their own destination, a place where other people can experience art they have not yet experienced.


If you ask art collectors for buying and travel tips, you will learn of a small museum or of a small church that you have to look at when you are either here or there.

One learns the irrefutable rule of booking a year in advance at certain trade fairs.

One can hear the Swiss charm of a certain high-end youth hostel in Basel and the blessing of housing leasing platforms such as AirBnB in Venice, where the hotels at the Biennale period combine exorbitant prices with questionable quality.

But all the collectors you talk to have an appeal: do not stop moving and discover something for yourself.

You have to visit a lot more smaller auctions, because you often discover interesting things. Of course, you always have to work with experts and collect and evaluate information in magazines and on the web.

But this finding, this collecting, that's something you can only do on your own.

Nadia Samdani is of this opinion. "It's incredibly important to really learn things," she says.

"You can not only contend yourself with consulting an art consultant and to buy his advice on this or that. You have to find out what you need, what fits and what is important for you. Our collection is finally our home."

Each art fair trip will lead you back home.

Collecting art is much more than a particularly challenging pastime, more than the satisfaction of a particular desire for aura and possession, more than the accumulation of capital or particularly clever money investments.

It also has little to do with the VIP operation of Basel, Venice and Miami.

Collecting art is first of all an attitude of mind. An attitude of mind that is open to the changing locations and the extension of the horizon. An attitude of mind that, through art, opens up the world in a way that is new and different.

And where could you do better than traveling?

James Jarvis signature

Leave your comment