‘You need to train your eye before you start collecting art’

Want to start an art collection, but have no idea how to get started? Then Benedicte Goesaert knows what to do. As an art connection, she helps art lovers develop their collection. ‘The more money you have available, the bigger the playing field. But it does not change the basic principles: Buy art that suits you. ‘

Wealth, about the rich life

De Tijd gives you an insight into the rich lives of the very wealthy.

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‘Wealth’ will be available as a free supplement to De Tijd on Friday 10 June.

Benedicte Goesaert left Antwerp Zeno X Gallery in 2019 after eight years to work as an art connoisseur. ‘I learned a lot in the gallery, but I felt it was time to expand my horizons. In a gallery you represent artists. You’re trying to sell their artwork. As an art connection, I build a bridge between art and collectors. I now work much more independently. It’s liberating. I’m not really into sales anymore. ‘No pressure’, she says, as the title of the exhibition she curated at CASTTL in Antwerp, with works from the collections of artists Carla Arocha, Stéphane Schraenen and Luc Tuymans. ‘Very interesting to see what artists collect on their own’, she says during the tour of the exhibition.

Goesaert wanted to become an archaeologist, but she became an expert in contemporary art. ‘As a kid, I used to find bones of an animal in a meadow. I thought a dinosaur, but it was just a cow. But interest in something new and unknown was aroused. From there, it’s just a small step towards contemporary art. ‘

Now she’s an art connection. ‘I chose that name to distinguish it from art consultant or art consultant, suggesting a more investment-oriented approach. I do not shy away from questions of money and value – I also know all the art appraisal tools – but I am not an investment advisor. If you ask me: What work of art should I buy now to sell it at a huge profit in three years, then I must try it. I do not think of art that way. Besides, I do not have a crystal ball. ‘

Organic Benedicte Goesaert

  • 1988.
  • Studied art science at Ghent University.
  • From 2011 to 2019, she worked for the Zeno X Gallery. A year later, she established herself as an art compound.
  • She connects collectors with art. She oversees and advises artistic heritage, including the Philippe Van Snick Estate, and has previously been involved with the Philippe Vandenberg Foundation.
  • In 2021, she curated the Watou Art Festival along with Chantal Pattyn and Peter Verhelst.

Suppose I want to start an art collection and I knock on your door. What do you want to know about me?

Benedikt Goesaert: “Why did you contact me.” (laugh)

I need someone to guide me through contemporary art. There is too much.

Goesaert: ‘I understand that. I especially want to know why you want to collect art and what your knowledge is. Suppose I offer you a glass of expensive wine. This is your first glass of wine ever. Then it is impossible to put the taste of the wine into context. Is the wine good? Is he bad? Is he worth his price? You have no frame of reference with your first glass. It’s the same with art. If you want to start collecting, the first thing you need to do is train your eye. Do it a few years before you start buying. An art fair is very interesting. I gave guided tours to potential collectors in the latest edition of Art Brussels. I can not explain to them a work of art, but I can give them the keys to entering into a relationship with a work of art.


Goesaert: »Art needs e.g. not always to please. If you are shocked by a work, that may be enough. Much also depends on your personality and your living conditions. If you work in the technology sector, you may have been triggered by art related to it. By that I do not necessarily mean art about and with technology. But maybe you like artists who push boundaries, who think out of the box. Sometimes art acts as a catharsis. In the event of a major emotional loss, art can be a means of giving that loss a place. There are many reasons to connect with art. I remember a conversation with a manager who said to me, ‘When I get home, I want to see art that I do not understand.’ As a kind of antidote to his analytical work. ‘

© Wouter Van Vooren

‘There are some basic parameters to starting an art collection. Do you only want Belgian art and / or from your contemporaries? Are you open to non-western art? You should all think about that. The answers are a filter that I can use to prevent the congestion. You also have collectors who buy art very impulsively and obsessed. They do not need me. Either way, it’s always an exciting world. What did the German cultural philosopher Walter Benjamin say again? To gather is to gather elements from a world of chaos and give them meaning. I agree.’

Does it matter to you whether I have 50,000 euros or 1 million to build a collection?

Goesaert: ‘The more money you have available, the bigger the playing field. But that does not change the basic principles: Buy art that suits you. If you have more financial resources, you can more easily cross collection, a trend among collectors. It is the collection of art from different periods. I recently spoke with a contemporary art collector who was considering buying an old master. ‘

Do you recognize the collector’s character and personality from the collection?

Goesaert: ‘I dare not say that. You recognize the collector from the collection. Someone who mainly has famous names in his collection seems to be playing it safe. I find it exciting to discover a collection of artists I do not know or do not know very well. I’m not a specialist in everything. In general, Belgians are bold collectors. That’s why they’re so popular at art fairs. ‘

But they are usually very discreet. Is it for fear of theft?

Goesaert: ‘That’s an aspect. But gathering is something very personal and intimate. Not everyone just wants to reveal it. Others do. Such as former construction contractor Walter Vanhaerents and his children. They turned a warehouse in the Dansaert district of Brussels into an art gallery. It’s amazing isn’t it? That you collect art from generation to generation and share it with the public at a private museum in Brussels. We must not forget that many museums come from private collections. ‘

Do collectors not often pursue each other for fear of missing a hype?

Goesaert: ‘It will happen someday. We are all driven by algorithms. If we all look at the same Instagram accounts, you get uniformity. But of course you can also walk away from it and go against all the hype. A while ago, I spoke with a collector who years ago had purchased works by the American artist Robert Mangold. He had discovered it at an exhibition in Brussels. No one was interested in Mangold at the time. But the collector bought it anyway. He’s still happy about it.

Cross-collection is popular: to collect art from different periods. I recently spoke with a contemporary art collector who was thinking of buying an old master.

Benedicte Goesaert, Art Connection

‘Hypes often lead to mixed feelings. At the same time, they lead to flattening and overestimation. That way, perspective and nuance are in danger of being lost. The African-American artist Jack Whitten, who can also be seen here at the exhibition, once testified to this. He was one of the artists whose work was shown in 2017 – a year before his death – at the exhibition ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’ at the Tate Modern in London. The initiative was well-meaning and important for understanding African American art history, he said. “But in fact, with such an exhibition, we are once again put in a ghetto. It did not correspond to reality. There was no division among the artists themselves. Why is my work not shown in an exhibition with white artists like Willem De Kooning and Franz Kline that I knew well? ‘ It would be the ultimate integration and artistically interesting because of the joint research in painting, he thought. ‘

You’ve been working on the Zeno X Gallery for eight years. Do the big galleries not determine the market too much?

Goesaert: ‘That’s said pretty quickly. But all the big galleries started once in a while. Almost always to support artists. Collectors also have power. They can market work against the will of artists and galleries because they believe there is money to be made. There is such a thing as covert art trade by non-professional dealers. Of course, galleries are trying to go against it, in that sense they have power. If an artist offers ten new works and there are 50 potential buyers, a gallery makes choices. Preference is given to collectors who are genuinely interested in the artist whose long-term intentions are known. If you’re an art flipper – someone who quickly sells art – you’re not in the front row of a gallery. ‘

How do you view the digital art market with the NFTs?

Goesaert: ‘I’m very excited about how it will develop. It will definitely change the art market. But how? I do not think we will know until a few years from now. An NFT is twofold. It is a tool for buying art, at the same time it can also be a work of art in itself. British artist Damien Hirst is running an interesting experiment with his project ‘The Currency’. It consists of 10,000 NFTs and 10,000 similar physical works of art. The intention is that you choose as a collector. Do you want NFT? Then the physical work of art disappears. If you select the physical artwork, the NFT will be destroyed. Very excited about how it ends. ‘

The Belgians are bold collectors. That is why they are so popular at art fairs.

Benedikt Goesaert,

art connection

‘I think it’s very fascinating how young people in the digital world are involved in collecting. They buy Nikes and Adidas, which do not exist in real life. Are they less materialistic or are they just extremely speculative? Thumb up, thumb down. Or as with Tinder, swipe immediately to the left or right. ‘

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