Encounters with artists can be so beautiful that you feel the desire to buy their work
Stories are like collections: fragments of events, memories of desires, and encounters. In our search for collections and collectors, we came across Laurens Mariën. The Ghent-based composer and host of Nein have been collecting art for more than ten years. What initially started with the works of close friends grew into a well-filled house. Between all these works of art, we had a conversation about curating a(t) home, intimate encounters, and speculating collectors. This is an invitation to Laurens’ collection.
Every story has a beginning. What is yours in regard to collecting art?
At school, I saw people around me making work, but buying each other's work wasn’t very common. One of the first works I bought was a painting by Bert Huyghe. I didn’t realize that buying work was a possibility, but it turns out that often all you have to do is ask. I kept doing this every time I came across something that grasped me. Before I knew it, I suddenly had a collection.
I didn’t realize that buying work was a possibility, but it turns out that often all you have to do is ask
What motivates you to collect?
Initially, my collection started from a personal interest in people and their work; I knew everyone whose work I bought personally. That changed later as I began to collect works by artists I did not know, but whom I had been keeping an eye on for a long time. At this moment I mainly collect young Belgian artists, artists who are alive today. Nevertheless, I see collecting as a matter of time. With the works I currently collect, I will be able to say 30 years from now: 'These were the people who made art back then'. There is no certainty that these artists will still be making art by then, but it will be a kind of time capsule of today.
How do all these works blend into your everyday interior?
While I often say that I don't like colour, I’ve noticed that there is actually a lot of colour in my collection. Both the works of Nello Margodt and Nel Aerts are slightly pastel-ish. I try to curate everything that hangs in our house so I can experiment with how certain works dialogue with the space and with each other. Sometimes I rotate works: in the bedroom, I currently have a work by Ines Claus that until recently hung in the living room, but the colours no longer matched when we bought a carpet. Collecting art in a home also means taking practical matters into account. I would like to buy sculptures or installations, but I can't place them here. Besides that, there is the opinion of my girlfriend who also lives in this ‘museum’. (Laughs)
Are you interested in making your collection more public?
It would be nice if people could come here once in a while to see the works, and it’s anything but my intention to keep this collection private. Yet I wonder if people wouldn't find it annoying that the works are placed among all of our daily 'rubbish' - my home is not a white cube. Lately, I have had the idea of transforming my house into a museum of contemporary art. Then every Sunday you could make a reservation and have a drink, which is also great for getting to know people.
Would you like to share with us an intimate story about a work of art in your collection?
Sometimes an encounter with an artist can be so beautiful that you feel the desire to buy one of their works. For example, I have a work by Roeland Zijlstra whom I visited in his studio. His attic was packed with works and each work there had its own personal story. The work hanging in my living room is about a girl he saw passing by on a bicycle. He was so intrigued by her that he went outside every day, hoping to see her again. She passed by again and he was finally able to meet her. After several dates, he was allowed to paint her. This story, but especially Roeland's presence and ideas about art, gave me a warm feeling.
It’s anything but my intention to keep this collection private
Collecting art as a form of support for the artist, possibly even as a form of care?
I really think that artists should buy works from each other as much as possible. There's this common sense that the model of the art market is not good at the moment. We are against rich private collectors but at the same time, artists rarely buy work themselves so work just goes to the remaining option. Artists often want to be able to make a living out of their work. At the same time, they don't want to participate in a capitalist system and only sell to rich and speculating collectors. If we all bought a little more work from each other, there would be less of a need to sell art at excessive prices.
I really think that artists should buy works from each other as much as possible
Can collecting art be seen as an investment?
I am convinced that I will never sell any work from my collection unless I find myself in an untenable financial situation. But I do sometimes ask myself the hypothetical question: what if one work in my collection suddenly had a huge rise in value, would I sell it to buy twenty others?
Always wanted to start your own mini-museum with the artworks you desire? Have your eye on a work of art?
Simply apply for an interest-free loan and pay for the work at your own pace. No need to use savings + take the artwork directly to your home ;-)