Sixteen artists and one collector, The “Art of Collecting” by Benjamin Sigg is the result of his past 15-year of collecting experience, a sign of his dedication towards Chinese and Southeast Asian contempoary art, and a reflection of his insight and taste towards the universe of art collecting.
TEXT: CoBo Editorial Force
IMAGES: Courtesy of the artist and CONSIGG
A former Swiss hotelier, Benjamin chooses Hong Kong as his base for art exploration. Together with his uncle, the legendary Chinese contemporary art collector Dr. Uli Sigg, Benjamin embarked on several art trips to learn Chinese contemporary art first-handed and meet the artists through visiting their studios, to establish bonding with the artists and their works.
At the occasion of Benjamin Sigg’s collection exhibition at CoBo House, CoBo’s editorial team sat down with Benjamin to talk about his insight on collecting and art investment, how he has become a collector, his relationship with artists and anecdotes of his artistic adventure. It is a story of art as a passing on passion and family heritage.
How did you first introduce to art?
I was introduced to art at an early age. It was in my Dad’s home and our family has been collecting art for generations. My grandfather had a great collection of Albert Anker (1831-1910).
Anker, next to Hodler , Klee and Giacometti, was probably the biggest name to collect in the 19th century. Only in the recent 20 years our family started to collect more modern and contemporary artists.
When and how did you acquire your first piece of art?
The first piece of art, I purchased at the age of 20. It was a piece from an German Photography artist, Andreas Luetherer. The move to collecting Chinese and South East Asian Contemporary started in the early years of 2000.
How would you decribe your relationship with Dr. Uli Sigg? How did he influence you in terms of the appreciation of art and collecting?
Uncle Uli has been a significant influence in my life as a collector.
He has become a mentor to me, not only because of his collecting but also as a humble personality and incredibly smart business man.
I was fortunate enough to join him on several studio visits in mainland China. He taught me a lot on how to build a collection. He is very analytical and asks the artists a lot of questions. This though in a very polite and professional way. This made me look at art in a different way and take it as a serious matter.
What is your definition of a collector?
Well it’s pretty simple. A collector buys/ collects things that appeal to him. He collects them because they are beautiful objects, because they appeal to him and because he has a personal connection with them.
Any tips on building a collection?
Buy what you like. Follow your own taste and collect what appeals to you.
Unlike my great uncle or other collectors, I do not have any specific approach. I simply buy what I connect with.
How do you evaluate the investment value of an artwork? What’s the methodology and research behind?
That is the difficult part. Don’t buy for pure investment purposes, it’s like the stock market. There’s no guarantees in life. Of course I did and do extensive market research online. There are subscription plans with websites such as mutual art or art price and they tell you the auction prices and approximate market values. However, even there you find incorrect data.
Tell us about the most successful art investment you’ve made so far.
The most successful investment will probably only reveal in the next 10 year’ s time. The market now seems already at its peak in terms of pricing.
The market has shifted these years and many now start collecting western artists that are more affordable and also of great quality.
How would you descirbe your relationship with artists?
My relationship with the artists is great. If it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t be collecting their works.
It is very important to have mutual respect and to keep a good relationship with the artists.
How does the relationship with artists affect your act of collecting? Could you give us an example?
I have visited many artist studios and really love doing that. Like mentioned before, bonding with the artist is very important. Artists are people like you and me, they all have their own personalities.
I have refused to buy some works that I liked before, because the ego and attitude of the artist didn’t please me as a collector.
Tell us about the new ventures that you are going to kick-start with Dr. Uli Sigg.
I’d rather tell you that at a later stage. We are working on something pretty exciting but for now that is too early to comment on.