The Collector

The word is an eye
Silence spies on it

Edmond Jabès
The bark of the world, 1953

In an interview in Rome in 1982 Antonio Gnoli asked Bruce Chatwin about his departure from Sotheby’s, and received the reply: “I couldn’t stand a day longer the sublime game that comes into play when a collection is considered, looked at, built up….cold, calculating and predictable”.
A different opinion about the world of collecting can be found in a conversation recorded in 1986 for the archives of the American Smithsonian Institution of Art. Giuseppe Panza di Biumo comments: “we cannot believe in art if we don’t believe in a certain kind of changeless, or perennial if you prefer, approach to what is beautiful, important and essential in life”.

In the last twenty or thirty years we have witnessed a remarkable increase in museums and art centres who have a very dynamic approach to showing their collections, organising exhibitions and activities. We can attribute this to changes in social behaviour in terms of how the public uses and enjoys culture. Society’s rapid evolution towards having more spare time available has created what has become known as leisure culture, prompting a new way of perceiving and consuming culture. The channelling of personnel and both public and private funding into creating cultural containers and contents, has given rise to spaces and debates which are complex in some cases, confused in others.

At times this situation becomes too removed from the commitment of Culture although there are centres whose activities and collections offer an alternative and try to stand apart from a certain uniformity imposed by the power of the media, or even politics. With this new panorama as a starting point, every cultural centre ought to define what they understand by collecting and what they hope to achieve when exhibiting works of art.

Were Duran-Ruel, Vollard and Kahnweiler dealers or collectors? They took a series of artists “under their wing” who had founded the Salon des Refusés and later the Salon des Indépendants, because their work, considered excessively modern, had been rejected by the strict criteria of the Academie de Beaux Arts.

Was Kaspar Utz another kind of collector?

Are the Panza and Herbert collections a “good way” to collect, acquiring works of art as soon as they are begun?

Or would the ideal collection be one which questions a certain historical heritage and creates other methods through a new reading of society.

What makes a collection coherent and inherent with itself and with history, and therefore open to observation and admiration, is the bond (the non-verbal story) which is established between what it says firstly to the person who chooses the work of art, the collector, and later to the public who will come to see it.

The works of art which Josep Suñol has gathered together over the last thirty-five years range from a broad historical look at the 20th century avant-garde down to the private space where the artist sketches out his own path.

From the early seventies, Josep Suñol started building a collection based on the historic avant-garde artists – Picasso, Miró, Man Ray, Balla, Tàpies, Saura and so on. Shortly afterwards he began to acquire works by artists regarded as the next generation, Gordillo, Solano, Zush, Boetti and others. Once this group which we can call the 80s generation started to become established, he began to incorporate artists from the 90s into his collection, like Colomer, Rom, Buxbaum, and Noguero amongst others. This “chronology” made up an endless stream of images whose value lies in their place in the historic moment in which they belonged, and at the same time is closely related to Josep Suñol’s perception of it.

The collection cleverly relates a series of individual experiences – in as much as they are produced by individuals – but which at the same time are universal. This can only be achieved when the artist has a commitment and a proposal to make with history and with aesthetics -understood as the container and vehicle- aesthetics which focus more on being than doing, more on the structure than the outer skin.

The aesthetic “test” is very nomadic. There is no one specific place, there are places.
There is no one work, there are works, from which different situations emerge ranging from pleasure to cruelty, from rest to fatigue, from what’s beautiful to what’s horrific, from one feeling to another.

These supposedly great distances often touch each other, reducing time, and so creating the great paradox of universal certainty.

The Josep Suñol Collection seduces and attracts because it has managed to create visual flow embedded in the passing of time. Whether time is homogeneous or heterogeneous it is in any case alive, aware of its own tension.

The metaphor, discovering the object, friendship and memory are always present.

As the years have gone by, it is quite clear that the experiences of this long journey, with its essential pauses, have been well worth it. It’s a matter of understanding that art has a language which for some of us is something inevitable in life.

Sergi Aguilar