Art collecting in the realm of darkness

Thanks to the great Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen, Johan Camilo Alstad-Øhren gained an interest in art collecting. Today, he owns more than 50 artworks unified by elements of fear, which run like a red thread through the entire collection. Get to know his motivation right here. Fear not!

Name: Johan Camilo Alstad-Øhren
Location: Oslo, Norway
Started collecting in year: 2005
Number of artworks in collection: 52
Name of collection: Fear Collection/Alstad-Øhren

How did you become an art collector?
I started collecting 1st edition Henrik Ibsen novels, which sparked my interest in collecting art. I bought my very first piece from my first earnings from a summer job as a construction worker. I later spent all my wages on a piece that I saw in an exhibition. I was sixteen at the time and I was very determined to secure a piece, so I made a phone call to the artist and arranged a studio visit.

How would you describe yourself as an art collector?
I am still searching for an inner circling theme of the collection. My aim for the collection is to be as clear-cut as possible. Impulsivity is a personal trait I keep restrained when it comes to collecting. The research is part of the fun!

I aim to create a collection that embodies a vision, where all the individual works are reinforced by the sum and visa versa.

What was the first artwork you purchased?
It was an oil painting by the Norwegian painter Håkon Gullvåg.

What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
I seek pieces that challenge the way I perceive a peculiar subject and that keep raising new questions. The works needs to be challenging, but finding this in variable works with a recurrent theme that fits the aim of the collection is, however, very difficult.

Describe your collection in three words.
Intuitive, dark and crazy.

Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection?
To some extent, they are all characterized of some sort of crazy and macabre dimension.

What considerations do you take into account before you buy a piece of art?
I collect pieces from the catalog “New York Minute” by Deitch Project. If I can afford it, it should be a representative work by the artist. If not, it is better to wait. Other pieces within the given theme or subject can often be of interest, but I need to be certain that the work can challenge and grow on me, before I buy a second choice.

What do you enjoy the most: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?
Both. The hunt periodically demands more of me than the time it takes to dive into the material of the work after the acquisition.

How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
It might be essential to be able to ask questions direct to the artist in the pursuit of understanding what kind of project he or she has worked on.

Do you have a desire to have your collection shown?
I aim to create a collection that embodies a vision, where all the individual works are reinforced by the sum and visa versa.

What are the wishes for the future of your collection? What would you like to see happen to it?
I wish for it to be conserved, kept together as a whole.

What work of art do you wish you owned if the price tag did not matter?
It must be ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch or ‘Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette’ by Vincent van Gogh.

How do you know when you stand before a really great piece of art?
I believe it is a question of intuition, which is largely affected by visual memory and studies.

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of art collecting?
Before purchasing any works, sign up for all art magazines and read. When purchasing, buy large pieces.