A Conversation With Art Collector German Vizcaya

Artist: Ragna Bley. Photo: Artland

“Art and artists are the pinnacle of any society and need to be cherished and protected accordingly”

According to art collector German Vizcaya, the future holds no limits for the art market. For many years, he was hesitant to step inside the art world, but what seemed like an exclusive arena, ended up being a new playground for him to gain insights into the spectrum of human creativity. Though he is “only a freshman” in the game of art collecting, he is driven by his gut feeling instead of letting the market dictate which direction to go. It’s all about taking the time to let the object reveal itself. In this interview, the Oslo-based collector reveals why this world would be a grim place to live in without art.

Name: German Vizcaya
Location: Oslo, Norway
Started collecting in year: 2016
Number of artworks in collection: Approximately 25 pieces

What is your earliest memory of art, and what led you to start collecting it?
As a child, I was continuously exposed to different art forms – Both my parents were to some extent artists in their own right, and embraced creativity as a whole. My father was always making beautiful figures out of materials like wood and stone, and welding sculptures in aluminium. My mother sewed cool blankets and big, colourful pictures that would hang on our walls. However, what really made a great impact on me was visiting some close friends of the family. They had their whole wall full of these incredible papier-mâché masks that instantly captivated me. I was mind-blown by the poetic beauty and complex mystique the masks possessed. They undoubtedly triggered something in me. In addition, as one of many, the first true artist to ever allure and fascinate me, was Pablo Picasso. I have always been in total awe of his artistry. The first time I ever stood in front of one of his paintings, was overwhelming. As a whole, there have been many factors in my environment that have shaped me to love and appreciate art, and now in extension, to start collecting it. I find myself in constant need of the stimulation that art in general blesses me with.

How would you describe yourself as an art collector?
I have just recently started collecting, so I am probably both fairly moderate and eager at the same time. Overall, I am an old school romantic, with a somewhat idealistic approach. I do not consider art as a long-term investment when considering pieces. To me, art is not about the economic gain or accumulation, but rather the internal feeling, vibe, and thought process the object instigates. Sure, it might seem naive and disadvantageous in some way. However, the way I see it, I am not dealing with stocks. I feel a loyalty and need to respect art more than just another piece of material object. Therefore, I try to emphasize the subjective value of the object in question, and trusting my gut and instincts.

Artist: Ann Iren Buan. Photo: Artland

What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
I think that art is a way of self-expression, both for the artist as well for the collector. Both parties project something of themselves onto the piece; an ethos that evolves. I seek some kind of self-awareness and escapism in the objects, I guess. I see them as a mirror that reflects and reveals unexamined chambers within myself; as an extension of my sense of self. Art is a way for me to communicate and converse with myself, and thus getting to know my own self better. However, I also like the idea of somehow, in a minuscule way, contributing to the art scene. In my opinion, art and artists are the pinnacle of any society, and need to be cherished and protected accordingly. Without the likes of Picasso, Shakespeare, Goya, Chopin, TAKI 183, Dali, Neruda, Basquiat, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Kafka, Bukowski, Shakur, Munch, Pessoa, Knausgaard, etc., this world would be a grim place to live.

Describe your collection in three words.
Honest, diverse, and emotive.

Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection?
I feel as if I am just rediscovering art, which is a humbling and flabbergasting experience. I have always enjoyed and appreciated figurative art. The last couple of years however, I find myself more intrigued by the power of abstraction, as it challenges me more. Nevertheless, I love art as a concept, as a way for the artist and myself to express ourselves, in our distinctive way, and allowing me to seek for my own poetic beauty within it. So, at the time being I am just a freshman trying to navigate and orientate my way in the art world, and I suppose my collection reflects that. I am merely trying to buy art that speaks to me in some sort of way, which can be everything from contemporary photography, to paintings or sculptures. Perhaps adapting a certain profile and strategy, will come with time and experience. Eventually I might develop a more strategical approach to collecting, who knows?

"I love art as a concept, as a way for the artist and myself to express ourselves, in our distinctive way, and allowing me to seek for my own poetic beauty within it"

How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
I have been fortunate enough to meet with a couple of artists whose work I have admired at either their studios or at random events. As a collector and enthusiast, I find it encouraging and rewarding. Meeting with the artist allows you to get a broader picture of their artistry and approach to their own art, which often lets you see their artworks in a completely new light. For me, meeting with artists have opened the gateway into the art scene. Although the works themselves is what I am connecting with, I have learned that the human connections also play a big part in my engagement. It has often just confirmed the notion that their artistry is something I would like to take part in. I believe that the time invested and the research process done by the collector, in one way or another is reflected in the artwork purchased.

What is the most recent piece of art you added to your collection and why?
I just acquired a Ragna Bley piece, which I am really excited about. It is organic and ethereal, liquidized forms soaring over the canvas, it has a lightness and complexity to it that keeps challenging me. It is one of those pieces that stands out and haunts you. I saw it at a gallery and just could not let the opportunity go.

Has digitalization changed the way you collect art?
It has definitely opened a completely new world that I did not have access to earlier. In general, I am not that into social media, but Instagram can be a great platform to be exposed to the art world. Experiencing art through social media gives me a feel for what is happening in the art scene. However, it has not changed the way I collect or view art necessarily. I would rather experience art live and up-close and ‘feel’ the object’s raw qualities and emotions contained within the object first hand, if I have the option. I find it easier to connect with it on a deeper level, than judging a work by how it visually looks on a screen. I don’t know, I think art should be experienced, rather than scrolled through. I am not much of an online collector I suppose.

Artist: Kristy Luck. Photo: Artland

What or who has influenced you as a collector?
I am not sure if I can pinpoint anything, but my close friend and collector Jo Morten Weider, has played a big role in my collecting. He has introduced me to artists and the Norwegian art scene, and pushed me with his commitment and knowledge. Although intrigued, beforehand I was very much hesitant to step inside what seemed to be an exclusive arena in fear of not having the competence and academic background to value and discuss art. Meeting with unassuming artists and gallerists that have approached me with their extended knowledge, willingness, curiosity, and passion, has undoubtedly contributed to spark something in me.

Is there any specific place you always return to when you need an art fix?
No, not really. For me, collecting is more of a process rather than quick art fixes. I try to get acquainted with the art and artist before I commit myself, which usually requires some time invested. However, I do enjoy attending galleries that reflect the art I like, whenever I can. I always come back to those, because I know something often will catch my attention and introduce me to something of interest. Then there is Oslo Open, where artists open their studio doors to the public. It is a great way to get introduced to ‘new’ art, and to meet the artists in their own habitat. Still it has to be said, after attending my first ‘Got it for cheap’-exhibition – which is the total opposite of my instinctive way of approaching art – I am pretty sure I will be attending many more in the future.

"Although intrigued, beforehand I was very much hesitant to step inside what seemed to be an exclusive arena in fear of not having the competence and academic background to value and discuss art"

The art market has a reputation of being a playground for the elite. What is your experience of this?
Before I actively started attending openings and acquiring artworks, the scene seemed intimidating and exclusive to me. The art scene can easily be perceived as reserved to a selective group of people by an outsider as myself. I am just trying to do whatever feels right for me at the time and not let the art market dictate which way to go. In terms of knowledge and budget, I have no way of being on the level of many of the collectors around, nor is it a goal of mine. I have met well-known collectors with a humble approach, as well as the complete opposite.

Where do you think the future of the art market is headed?
Digitalization and technology has undoubtedly made art more accessible and available, and there is a world of possibilities waiting to be taken advantage of. It certainly has opened many doors for artists, collectors and devotees. Social networking apps like Artland makes it possible to discover, connect, and communicate with other like-minded people, and buy art. I mean, the cross between technology and art has already giving rise to new forms of art. We now have museums and galleries using VR for participants to virtually walk through exhibitions and view works of art for sales. The future holds no limits for the art market.

Artist: Anders Sletvold Moe. Photo: Artland

Top three pieces of advice for new collectors
1. Set a realistic budget and stick to it
2. Do not be afraid to engage with artists or consult with gallerists
3. Do not rush, give each object a chance to reveal itself

Top three art destinations
1. Kunstnernes Hus (Oslo)
2. Standard (Oslo)
3. NoPlace (Oslo)

Three inspiring artists to watch
1. Carl Mannov
2. Jorunn Hancke Øgstad
3. Anders Sletvold Moe/Audar Kantun