Despite our living in the “Information Age” there is still a disheartening disconnect between most private collectors and museum curators, a gap that results in some exhibitions not containing the one (or more) major artwork(s) needed to clinch their aesthetic and intellectual arguments. Especially in the case of contemporary realist art, this disconnect also means that museum shows do not reflect often enough what collectors are actually buying today.
At the start of their searches, curators usually send “blind” request letters via the auction houses or dealers who last handled the disappeared artwork, but that process is unreliable and slow, often leading nowhere. In many cases, therefore, the curators borrow artworks from other museums and publicly held collections, simply because they can’t find the private collectors who own the pieces they would actually prefer.
There is no comprehensive solution to this problem, but one new start-up is trying to solve it by taking advantage of the Internet’s global reach. Launched by London’s Bernadine Bröcker, the Web-based database Vastari.com may well appeal to the readers of the Fine Art Connoisseur because it could get their art seen, and also into the exhibition catalogues that further enhance those works’ credibility, and sometimes even their resale value.
Named in allusion to painter-architect Giorgio Vasari (1511-1563), whose ground-breaking book, Lives of the Artists, profiled the masters of the Italian Renaissance, Vastari is used primarily by collectors and curators, all of whom are vetted by Ms. Bröcker’s team before they gain access. Once admitted, the collector registers his artworks and uploads photographs of them. The artworks eligible for posting range across every period and medium – above an beyond historical paintings and sculpture into contemporary art and decorative arts, even jewellery and rare fossils.
Privacy and security are paramount in this scenario. The posted images are watermarked so they cannot be re-used, and users are welcome to report suspicious-looking (or potentially stolen) works to Vastari. Crucially, all correspondence among curators and collectors remains anonymous until they decide to establish a collaboration agreement. Vastari has no commercial aspect: users may not discuss the sale of artworks – only their loan. Auctioneers can register to communicate with museums, but not with collectors, while dealers are admitted as “professional collectors” only to see the exhibition announcements and related “call for entries” that museums post.
This past spring, more than 350 collectors and 100 museums registered on Vastari, which makes sense, since participation is currently free. (An annual subscription will be introduced next year.) If you do opt to join, please let me know what you think of the experience, and if any loans result from it. Vastari seems an ideal way to expand everyone’s understanding and enjoyment of art, and we wish its organizers well.