The History of Art Collection

The History of Art Collection

The history of art collection is almost as old as art itself. The first art 'collections' resided in the temples, tombs, palaces, and sanctuaries of ancient civilizations. Art objects were initially created with the mystical function of ushering the dead into the afterlife, revering gods, and establishing the power of monarchs.

In the European world, art collection as we recognize it today began during the Hellenistic Period of ancient Greece. Art collectors would commission copies of older Grecian works from the artists and artisans of their day. They proudly displayed these stylish copies in their homes and gardens as a symbol of their status. This practice continued to develop further under the Roman Empire.

During the Italian Renaissance, the concept behind modern-day art collection was born. At this time, the act of commissioning artworks or of having a great collection had a direct connection to the patron's social status, erudition, and taste. The Medici Family of Florence, Italy were some of the most important collectors of their day. The legacy of their collection lives on even still, as many of the works they gathered fill the halls of the great museums of Italy.

The Medicis and other aristocratic families made art collection popular throughout Europe, and commissioned art became a common and valuable gift used by diplomats and clergy alike. Subsequently, art became recognized as an important aspect of a kingdom's cultural prowess.

This leads us to the advent of modern museums. During the 18th century, European monarchs began to open the doors of their collections and donate art to be shared with the public. Museums were conceived as secular spaces for public engagement and learning. At this time, museums devoted only to art like the Capitoline (Rome, 1734), the Louvre (Paris, 1793), the National Gallery (London, 1824), and the Alte Pinakothek (Munich, 1836) were founded.

By the 19th and 20th century, industrialization, the rise of a middle class, and more leisure time opened private art collection to more than just royals, governments, and elites. Members of the upper middle class began to collect artwork and private collections began to appear.

By the 1950s and 60s, art collection became popular among anyone with money and was less contingent upon connections and knowledge of art. Art gallerists, critics, and curators acted as brokers between members of elite families, glamorous Hollywood stars, and anyone with enough money to get their hands on fine art. These gallerists and critics acted as tastemakers and gatekeepers, deciding who could buy and what would sell.

As the world has globalized and the definition of art has broadened, the title of "art collector" has broadened as well. These days, art collectors come from various economic backgrounds and the selection of art is based more on what speaks to the collector than it does on the artist's name or price.

Art continues to be an excellent and enduring investment. The art that hangs on a collector's walls lives on to be passed down from generation to generation as family heirlooms or generous donations that uplift and enlighten the public. It seems that in the end, the common thread of art collection lies in legacy building.

As LX Artworks Collectors, each of you are a part of the continuation of the long and enduring legacy of art collection. Your unique, individual stories and backgrounds add to the provenance of the pieces you collect. Together, you are part of the evolution of art collection.