Clive Beardsmore is a seasoned art collector, well known for donating an estimated £100,000 of works by David Hockney, Graham Sutherland, and William Gear to the New Art Gallery Walsall.
He did it to ensure the works stayed together… but also because collectors move on, develop new tastes, and are always finding excitement around the next corner.
He can still remember the first painting he bought: a gouache of Worcester High Street in around 1988.
‘I knew the place, and knew the artist,’ he recalls, ‘and one of the things I still enjoy most about collecting is knowing the artists. I love hearing them talk about their work.’
Wolverhampton-born Clive is a longterm supporter of the RBSA and recommends visiting the gallery to see one of the regular exhibitions, demonstrations or workshops put on by artists with work to sell and knowledge to impart.
Works in our Members and Associates Exhibition which opens on 23 November
Collecting art is something accessible to more people than ever with schemes like OwnArt offering a relatively painless introduction to buying art with an interest free loan.
‘It’s a great scheme,’ Clive says, ‘and one that I recommend because you spread the cost over ten months, but the work you’ve bought is at home on your wall.
‘It can work out at £50 a month or less, depending on the limits set by the gallery.’
Buying art is all about enhancing the home. Not in a ‘wallpaper’ sense, Clive explains, but for the love of the work.
‘I’ve always been involved in the art world, working at Walsall, Wolverhampton and Worcester art galleries, and so I’ve been surrounded by art.
‘It was one of my favourite subjects at school, and I’m also a qualified town planner, so I’ve had to draw and design over the years.
‘I have many friends who are artists and started out collecting watercolours of the 19th and 20th century, but I sold them in the end because my taste moved on.’
This is what happens with collecting, Clive says. He maintains a network of connections in the art world from the Midlands down to Penzance.
‘My main interest now is in abstract art, and I gave a talk recently at the RBSA’s William Gear exhibition.
‘I acquire a lot of works through contacts and knowing people, but equally it can be as random as walking into a gallery, as the collector behind the Bomberg Exhibition in London did. He wandered in one day and found he became more and more interested in art.
‘You should only ever collect what you like. That’s what I do.’
Clive travels to St Ives, around Birmingham, to London, wherever he can to meet artists and find out more about their work.
‘Open Studio events can be a great way to see what is out there. I’ve been around studios in Digbeth around Fazeley Street and the Custard Factory, and it’s a good way of meeting artists to see their work.
‘The other way is to get to know dealers at commercial galleries, or to keep track of local authority or other exhibitions where works are for sale.’
Clive will do research online, but advises those new to collecting and even those more experienced to always view a work in person.
‘You can make an appointment, or go to an exhibition. Sometimes I will look up artists to find a link to dealers, or I see something and book in to see it, but I wouldn’t buy online without seeing a work first.’
Clive was at the recent RBSA charity auction and says: ‘There were artists there who had won prizes and been in recent high profile exhibitions.
‘The regions struggle a little as everything is so London-centric but I’ve supported the RBSA since the 1980s and I think what they are doing is very good in terms of building links with businesses and putting on artist demonstrations and workshops.
‘It’s a great way to meet the artists involved, and it’s worth remembering that any work purchased in Birmingham is about half the price of a similar work in London, where people don’t seem to think twice.
‘So if you buy art in Birmingham, you’re getting a real bargain.’
Members and Associates Exhibition
23 November to 23 December
For over 200 years the RBSA Members and Associates have gone on show in this annual exhibition, including the work of those newly elected this year.
With most works of art for sale, it’s an ideal opportunity to find that unique Christmas gift.
You’ll find a beautiful selection of landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, portraits, sculptures, abstracts, prints and more!
Featured image: Christopher Baker, ‘Perchance To Dream’