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How They See - Issue #14: Łukasz Wiącek on building your art collection, investing in art or just buying a beautiful painting to hang on a wall

Łukasz Wiącek is the owner of private art collection: "WiacekCollection", based in Lublin, Poland. Fi

How They See

October 3 · Issue #14 · View online
How They See will help you to meet artists from all over the globe and understand their perception of art. Published weekly on Saturday.

Łukasz Wiącek is the owner of private art collection: “WiacekCollection”, based in Lublin, Poland. First of all, Łukasz is very passionate about art, I think you will get this notion while reading our interview. He has a lot of knowledge about this domain and what is more, he is putting theory into practice. A result of our conversation is, in my opinion, something universal, a text that is a must-read for anyone who would like to buy original art, who is looking to invest money in it or who is a creator.
You can learn more about Łukasz Wiacek and his collection on Instagram.

When and how did you become interested in art?
The statement always, may seem quite infantile, but it seems to be the closest to the truth. I spent my childhood in my grandparents’ house, which, apart from a few paintings, was filled with books. To this day, I remember the 19th-century edition of Henryk Sienkiewicz’s “Quo Vadis”, richly illustrated with engravings, or the Bible in the engravings of Gustave Dore - I could literally gaze for hours at the scenes depicting the stories contained there. The upbringing of my grandparents also influenced my mother, who has a degree in art education and later worked at school as an art teacher - thanks to her I am sensitive to visual arts and perceive them consciously. This sensitivity to art was so strong that as a result I graduated from art history and became permanently connected with the artistic community. Currently, I work in a museum and conduct classes related to the art market at one of Lublin’s universities, in fact my whole life has been and still revolves around art and collecting.
How to start collecting art? Could you give some advice for someone who is a layman in this domain?
Allow me to answer this question with a warning addressed to all people who are just starting their adventure with building their own collection. 
It is said that people learn from mistakes - mainly their own. Nevertheless, when investing in art, it is worth listening to anyone who at the beginning of their collector’s journey had no experience and made a number of mistakes, typical for the layman mentioned in the question. The fact that the vast majority of collectors end up in a completely different place than where they started is no secret, because over the years, not only our tastes, but also knowledge and experience change.
In my case, I was initially blown away by collecting. I wanted to have everything that appealed to me. Sometimes I went so far with my choices of buying things, that when I would later hang them on one wall they were so different from each other that they constituted a diverse and random collection (both in terms of content and quality), rather than a consistent and well-thought-out set of objects.
It is said that: the Collection is the Collector’s business card.
After an initial period in which my collection grew in a dynamic but uncontrolled manner, there was a moment to stop and analyze my past choices. This temporary freeze of purchases allowed me both to evaluate the works that were already in my collection and define the direction in which I would like to develop it further. 
Therefore, before we decide on another purchase, which is intended to expand our collection, it is worth considering what the selected work will bring to our collection and what parallels we will find with the objects already in our possession. Well thought purchases and corresponding objects will allow us to create a collection that not only reflects our sensitivity to art, but also will contribute to expanding the so-called “Cultural social competences”. That is, it will have an educational aspect.
Łukasz Wiącek and his collection
Łukasz Wiącek and his collection
Collecting art is an expensive hobby, isn’t it or is it a myth?
Of course, I would like to say with full confidence that it is the myth, but the answer to your question is more complicated than it seems. The common statement that collecting works of art is intended only for the elite and has become a hobby of the rich people contains a lot of truth, but importantly, it is not a rule and doesn’t have to be. It is enough to learn a few universal rules that will allow anyone to build their collection, regardless of whether we decide to invest in the works of recognized or beginning artists. In a nutshell - first of all, we should define the budget that we are able to spend on the purchase of works of art, create our own key according to which we will select objects and determine the frequency of our purchases. An important factor in building your own collection is also constant monitoring of the market and maintaining contacts with representatives of the art world - artists, art dealers, art historians and other collectors. Those above-mentioned rules may seem truisms, however their implementation will allow everyone to become an active participant in the fascinating world of the art market.
Where to find knowledge about art and artists who are gaining popularity? Does it require a lot of time?
Time is a relative concept. It seems to me that if we do something with passion, every hour devoted to the development of our interests passes very quickly. Therefore, devoting even one or two hours a day to our collection will have an invaluable impact on its development. We have to remember that the more we watch, read and talk to representatives of the art world, the more we know, and the more we know, the better choices we make when buying the first or the next work of art. In the beginning, it is enough to read one article or a review of an exhibition in our city every day with our morning coffee. As time passes, getting to know our preferences, we will search for texts, exhibitions, and thus authors who interest us. It is also worth making friends with cultural institutions in our area - remember that the offers of museums, art galleries and community centers are created just with us in mind.
Of course, the Internet is an invaluable tool in expanding our knowledge and in finding artists whose work we want to see. With its help we have access to various publications without leaving home: both popular science and specialized, and we can easily find selected painters, sculptors and graphic designers on their websites or on social media. It is also worth mentioning here that when deciding to collect the works of the young generation of artists, we cannot ignore such events as: end-of-year exhibitions organized by art academies or national and international competitions for students and graduates of artistic faculties. In addition to this, for the last several years, cyclical artistic events have also begun to appear in Poland, bringing together selected private art galleries, organizing at the same time exhibitions and accompanying events, such as: Warsaw Gallery Weekend or Cracow Art Week. Participation in such artistic events allows, within two or three days, not only to get acquainted with the works of various artists, but above all, it is an opportunity to talk and exchange views with other participants of the art market.
What kind of criteria should the object meet to make you interested in it?
There are many factors that work has to meet to make me interested in it, however not all the works that I like end up in the collection. With each subsequent year, I try to choose objects that are to be included in the collection in a more and more conscious way. Although I still find many interesting paintings, prints, sculptures and installations, not all of them have common features to the objects already in the collection. Thus, over the course of a year, I select a number of works to which I attach my comments and carefully archive them on my disk. Then, at the end of the year, when I am budgeting a new purchase plan, I choose a few of these amazing objects, which in my opinion will be an interesting supplement and will expand the WiacekCollection. Therefore, when answering your question, before I decide to buy the selected object I ask myself:

  • does the work captivate me? That is, does it have something that prevents me from passing by it indifferently,

  • whether the selected object fits into the key of my collection and will complement it both in terms of content and art;

  • whether the object has a quality in itself; that is, whether it was made with artistic and technical diligence,

  • whether a given object stands out from other works of a given artist and may constitute a breakthrough in his or her art,

  • whether the work of a given artist retain characteristic elements of its creator; i.e. whether a given object is a coherent element that builds the brand of a given artist,

  • does the selected work come from a new cycle or is it an object that already has an exhibition history,

  • what materials were used to create the object - how to store it and what conservation works it may require.
Of course, the number of questions asked to oneself goes up or down depending on the object I am thinking about. I must admit that I have in my collection both works that are purely investment projects and those that definitely have more sentimental value.
Łukasz Wiącek with his dog, Barry, in the background a painting by Miłosz Zawistowski
Łukasz Wiącek with his dog, Barry, in the background a painting by Miłosz Zawistowski
I am asking these questions because we still have a pandemic, interest rates are close to zero, and on some savings accounts you can even lose money. It seems to me that works of art can be an interesting investment alternative.
Buying works of art is usually a very good investment of capital, but it should be remembered that not every artistic object has this feature and allows you to get rich quickly. In addition to this, when we are talking about art objects, we must also be aware that they are divided into three categories: investment, collector’s and decorative. Therefore, in our choices, we can follow a purely investment approach, where our collection will be only an investment portfolio, which consists of works of art by already recognized artists and treated only as financial assets.
When creating our collection, we can also be guided by a passion for art - creating an interesting set of objects, which is a consistent collection both in terms of content and quality. Such approach is closest to me, because this category is not only characterized by an investment aspect, but also an educational one. People who create such collections are also developing it scientifically.
We can also buy one or two paintings, to hang them above a sofa. It will always be a better choice than a canvas print from a supermarket basket. However, we should remember that the object which is going to decorate our interior should have “value in itself”. That is, it was made with due diligence. After all, what we have on the walls of our house also shows the taste of its owner.
How is it in your case, do you treat your collection as an investment or is it more a passion?
In answer to your question, it is worth considering at first who actually is a collector? It seems to me that if we create our collection with passion, it becomes an indispensable element of our lives. A kind of unbreakable bond is created between the Collector and his Collection, driven by both sides. Therefore, the Collector, through his actions, expands the Collection with new objects, and in return the Collection motivates, shapes and educates its owner. Such mutual interaction ultimately leads to the creation of a collection consisting of unique and valuable works of art; both artistically and financially. Although the main motivation for creating WiacekCollection is the desire to surround myself with works of art, I must admit that I am aware of the investment aspect my objects have.
You have written that your collection: “is a collection of works of art presenting mainly the works of young Polish artists, showing tendencies of contemporary art”. Is there really no work of art by a foreign artist in it and do you plan to enrich it with such objects?
WiacekCollection is a collection of works of art, presenting mainly the works of young Polish artists. Each work expanding the collection aims to show contemporary artistic trends and the artists’ path in creating their own vision of the world. Of course, among the artists whose works are part of our collection, there are foreign names - mostly artists from Ukraine, who are studying, creating and working in Poland. As for the objects of other foreign artists in the collection, these are single works such as: a hand-tanned cover for a Sofie Muller catalogue or a graphic by Marita Fontana.
Although there are many great foreign artists whose work has a significant impact on me, collecting “native” art is for me the most important in rebuilding public awareness of the purposefulness of investing in the works of young artists operating in Poland.
How do you acquire new items for the collection?
As I mentioned in the previous question, acquiring items for a collection is usually a long process involving many minor activities. This process is designed to minimize errors related to purchasing done on the spur of the moment and dictated by an impulse. As a result, many of these works end up in the warehouse and never leave it. These objects are side-stories that do not match the main key or open up completely new narratives that we do not need. Therefore, before I decide to buy, I try to analyze how the presence of a given work will affect the expansion and improvement of the quality of the entire collection.
Remember that important factors which can help us make a decision is our awareness - so let’s read a few articles or critical texts about a given artist. If it is possible, let’s visit the creator in his studio or simply enter the gallery and talk to an art dealer who represents the artist whose work we like.
If we are already certain about the importance of a given work in our collection and the object we choose is within our budget, then the work goes to the collection.
Łukasz Wiącek in the studio of Emilia Dragosz
Łukasz Wiącek in the studio of Emilia Dragosz
Do you often have the opportunity to visit an artist in a studio? What emotions usually accompany such a visit?
Visits to the artist’s atelier are probably the most pleasant and valuable moments in building your own collection. Even if we leave the studio empty-handed, we will certainly have a head full of knowledge. Many artists from time to time organize an event called an “open studio”. It is an invaluable opportunity for us, not only to get acquainted with the work of a given artist, but also to exchange views with both the artist himself and other figures related to the art market. Again, I emphasize the educational value here, because each conscious collector, constantly expanding his competences, makes his collection better with each subsequent purchase.
Which of the works in your collection made the greatest impression on you, in a way that you can’t stop thinking about it?
The collection includes many works that still arouse a lot of emotions in me, hence it would be difficult for me to choose just one.
What if you were to answer such question, but considering all the works of art you’ve had the chance to see?
There are a number of works that delight me, and thus influence my perception of art and shape my artistic preferences. However, in order to answer this question more specifically, one of my favorite paintings is the work of Jerzy Durakiewicz, “Kompozycja” (“Composition”) from 1956. It depicts the figure of a man sitting at the table, who in a gesture of helplessness bows his head and hides it in his hand. Fortunately, I have the possibility that I can look at this painting for hours, although it is beyond the reach of my collection.
I also often quote the story of Zbigniew Olszewski’s painting, “Wieża straconych życzeń” (“The Tower of Lost Dreams”). A painting from the 90s of the 20th century depicting a majestic tower, looming somewhere in the endless shadows, spewing from its guts peoples’ dreams, goals and ideas that never came true … I am shocked by this work to this day. I remember the moment when the artist first brought it to the gallery where I worked. After unpacking, I stood frozen and all I could do was watch. The irony of fate was that at that time I couldn’t afford this painting, and with undisguised regret, I sold it to one of New York private collections. I hope he’s still in good hands today.
In an interview for Konik Kreatywny you have compared art collecting to addiction. These are very strong words, does this passion really work like that?
Definitely yes.
In an interview for Konik Kreatywny, I talked about what Jerzy Stelmach described as delectatio morosa - that is, “persistent attraction”. Collecting has become an addiction for me - a certain void that appears inside me, which later needs to be filled. The filling of the abovementioned deficiency is the purchase of works of art, which brings an extraordinary feeling of fulfilment and joy.
Referring again to the previous answer, in which I spoke about the bond between the Collector and his Collection. The abovementioned emptiness results from the unrestrained willingness to fill the gaps that we notice with each subsequent purchase. Therefore, the collection can be easily compared to a puzzle - where the next acquired object is a single element of a larger whole. Thus, each painting included in the collection is only a seemingly insignificant small fragment - without it, however, the Collection can never be called complete. And this is how some kind of history of experiencing the world is created, told through objects of contemporary art.
Łukasz Wiącek and painting by Katarzyna Hołda
Łukasz Wiącek and painting by Katarzyna Hołda
What advice, from an art collector’s perspective, would you give to aspiring or self-taught artists?
The art market is ruthless. Indisputably, talent is important, however without a bit of luck and a lot of hard work, staying on the market is practically impossible. I would like young artists to be more aware of the rules that guide the artworld. In the long-term process of building your brand apply some basic rules:

  • create your portfolio,

  • “come out to the people” - don’t be afraid to send out information about what you are doing,

  • REMEMBER! Never release poor quality works to the market,

  • don’t be imitative, try to develop your own artistic language,

  • remember that collectors are looking for objects by artists whose work fits the convention of their artistic development,

  • try to take part in competitions, rankings and scholarships,

  • maintain contacts with representatives of the art world: Critics, Curators, Art Dealers and Collectors,

  • try to show your work to the widest possible audience: use all the options available, including social media,

  • try to put your works in both private and state collections. The presence in an interesting collection increases the interest and the price of your art,

  • remember that domestic and foreign exhibitions in prestigious institutions increase the value of your works,

  • be patient - the art market requires patience and regularity,

  • maintain meticulous documentation; note where your works were exhibited and in which collections they are located.
What is your favourite color?
Navy blue.

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