“I am the collection”

Interview with art collector Michał Borowik

Art serves as a primary navigation tool in the life of Polish art collector Michał Borowik. There is north, south, east, and… art. Every piece in his collection is a manifestation of important moments in his life. A life that revolves around a curiosity about getting involved with other people’s stories and a vision to tell the world that art collecting is for anyone. The compass points towards ‘art’. Step into the world of the Borowik Collection, a social chronicle of an addictive rebel. Or in Michał Borowik’s own words: “The collection is me, I am the collection”.

Name: Michal Borowik
Location: Warsaw, Poland
Started collecting in year: 2005
Number of artworks in collection: Does it really matter?
Name of collection: Borowik Collection
Instagram: @michalborowik

Michał Borowik holding a piece by Witek Orski. Photo: Rafal Maslow

How did you become an art collector?
I started buying art in 2005, mostly contemporary art with a focus on artworks by young, emerging Polish artists. The collection has been open to the public since 2011 and comprises videos, photographs, paintings and sculptures. If you are fascinated with art, but consciously give up the AFA (Academy of Fine Arts) and painting, because you realize that what you are doing is not exactly what you were hoping for, then you face a classic gap between your desires and possibilities of their implementation, which causes severe alienation. You go through all the symptoms of withdrawal and art craving – you are missing turpentine and art matter, you realize that you need some sort of expression. At one point, it came to me that collecting, exploring the field of art, and picking out pieces from all this enormity of existing art is a form of creation, too; that it can leave a mark or stamp undeniably yours. The collection is me, I am the collection – I fully identify with it. It is a matter of addiction. You cannot hide it – the art is addictive and T-shirts with the inscription “Buy art, not cocaine” tell the honest truth.

Artists from the Borowik Collection: (left to right) Mateusz Sadowski, Looking to the end (diptych), 2011; Michal Gayer, Krwawa Julka (broken neon), 2009; and Cyryl Polaczek, Altar, 2014. Courtesy of Borowik Collection.

How would you describe yourself as an art collector?
Idealists are always sexier than realistic cynics – they want something, fight for something instead of sitting on the couch and complaining. Nine years ago, I did not expect that the collection would attract any interest at all. It is a real privilege for me to show others that anyone can collect and that collecting is sexy. Art is one of the directions on my compass. There is north, south, east, and art. I breathe art. You do not become an artist overnight and similarly, it takes some time and maturity to become a collector. Actually, this process is still going on.

What was the first artwork you purchased?
What is probably more important than the name of the very first artwork I purchased is the fact that this work is still at the heart of my collection today.

Marcin Kowalik, Landscape elements, 2007. Photo: Agnieszka Wrzak

What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
Pleasure is the most important reason for collecting. Paraphrasing: “The goal of a collection would be fulfilled if watching it with comprehension evoked pleasure”. Then there is helping and promoting artists. We are at a moment when the promotional activities are to be performed by galleries, artists, institutions… but also primarily by collectors. The power of collectors lies in the fact that they risk – in fact financially – the most; the gesture of purchasing is the gesture of promotion due to this very reason. The economic activity in the art environment today is, perhaps not stronger in itself than ever before, but more visible.

Describe your collection in three words.
I’m a rebel.

Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection?
My collection is based on very subjective and personal criteria. It is like a social chronicle, a box full of souvenirs, my personal journey through Poland in search of interesting art, my memories of meetings with artists, talks and exhibitions. In our littered, multimedia culture, a significant collection is not only being compiled, it is being created. Among all the works, there is a common thread that I have been spinning for many years. All moments important in my life, both dramatic and joyful, are there. This collection is more than the sum of all parts – it is a special quest for coherence between the work and the artists.

Pieces by Cyryl Polaczek, Zofia Nierodzinska, Pawel Eibel and Iza Tarasewicz. Courtesy of Borowik Collection.

What considerations do you take into account before you buy a piece of art?
The ability to add new elements to the collection puzzle is just as important as skillful subtracting. I get rid of the works that start to annoy me, no longer fit into the emerging ‘whole’; the ones that in time become redundant, semantically exhausted and empty. I do not have a long-term goal but I am constantly refining my collection and I hope it will stand the test of time.

What do you enjoy the most: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?
For me, the most important thing is not only possessing the art pieces but also making them public and helping artists out. My collection is a kind of platform or stage on which young, not yet widely known artists may come out. Its publicizing has a dual purpose – to promote the artists and to educate the public. Art should be accessible to everyone, even if not as exclusive property. The very existence of my collection, acquired thanks to the passion rather than billions of Swiss francs, only confirms this.

Mateusz Sadowski, Half a banana, 2014. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
Young artists are innocent. When I buy their works, I experience their self-esteem and identity being created and reinforced. It is not just about purchasing an art work but rather about getting involved with someone’s life and where it is heading.

How do you know when you stand before a really great piece of art?
A collection is a collection of items gathered and selected according to a particular design. In the light of such a definition a randomly chosen set of books, pieces of art, stamps, sabers, porcelain pieces, coins, or even postcards cannot be regarded as a collection; it lacks a more precise denotation, a narrower specialization, or – in other words – a profile of the set given. Only when its nature has been pinpointed, can we talk about a collection of, for example, nature books, stamps issued by the Republic of San Marino, or Polish modern art. Possessing a collection is not the effect of a one time decision but the result of a long-term process during which the knowledge on one’s area of collecting and the related market is continuously broadened, which in turn allows more effective modifications in the assets. The value of a collection is calculated with respect to both the outlay of the means directed to its compiling and the skill of taking apt results from the growing experience.

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of art collecting?
Don’t wait for tomorrow, it may be one day too late.

Gregor Rozanski, May you live in interesting times (future of history, history of future), 2009-2010. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

Magdalena Starska, Untitled (We are happy to be), 2010. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

Pawel Eibel, Untitled, 2010. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

Jakub Czyszczon, How to say, 2009. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

Witek Orski, Stones (triptych), 2012. Courtesy of Borowik Collection

Michał Borowik. Photo: Krzysztof Wyżyński