„Where do you draw the line between a collector and a hoarder?“
Art collector and music producer Matthew Fargher, talks about his art world experience and setting up his first music studio in one of the artist studios belonging to his father.
FAM: We would love to know a little about your earliest introduction into the art world.
Well my earliest memories are of being made to follow my parents around the galleries and cathedrals of Florence, in uncomfortable smart shoes, with the promise of a good lunch afterwards. Three things that I can happily admit to having learnt to appreciate! Even now I would probably struggle to name a single cathedral but the experience gave me a complete grounding in the art world for which I am now grateful. My father, Tim Fargher, is a painter and sculptor who had his studio at home so many of my earliest memories revolve around playing in there and of the interesting characters who would come through. Once I had witnessed the bronze casting process there was no getting rid of me. There is nothing like fire and molten metal to spark an interest!
You never felt like following in your father's footsteps?
Well, having witnessed the dedication that it required I knew I never had that commitment to art, but I used to take over one of his studios and convert it into a makeshift rehearsal room for my band of friends. It was from there that I really learnt to play drums and it was from there that I inflicted cacophonous hell on the people of my village most evenings.
What was the first piece of art work you bought?
Every year in Aldeburgh there is an exhibition at the Peter Pears gallery by the Sudborne Park Printmakers. I bought a work by Peter Polaine, I was just 22 at the time.
Do you have something in mind when collecting or do you play it by ear?
There is no preconceived agenda behind what I buy, I just pick up pieces as and when I see them. I bought some prints from a small arts community in Havana. They have the only licensed print workshop in the city. No prestige or name, just part of a small art collective who are able to work despite the interference of the ruling authorities.
How about these Shepard Faireys hanging behind you?
These I bought from a gallery here in Berlin about 10 years ago. I like how he sprung out of the street scene to be taken seriously in the manner of Banksy or even Basquiat. To me he seems to be have real ambivalence towards power—he both celebrates it and ridicules it and that attitude has always appealed to me.
These Shepard Faireys have become much more expensive than when you first bought them. Is it important to you that the work accrued in value?
No not all, honestly I just buy what I like and it is a bonus if it rises in value. More than anything my knowledge of art is not quite there to help me invest wisely!
But cost is important?
Totally, I adored these Gerhard Richter aluminum prints he did a few years back now. Beautiful works but the price was a bit out of budget, 36,000€ is a hefty expense at the best of times, but I can't deny that I wasn't tempted.
Do you like to gamble on up-and-coming artists?
I get interested in artists from hearing about them from friends, from magazines. I got to know about a young printmaker in London, Caspar Williamson, he produces prints himself and also has published a few books on the subject, I like the way he promotes the craft of printmaking through his practice. There are many dying artisanal practices these days due to the rise of technology, digital printing is slowly taking over and starving traditional printmakers of investment.
But there will always be a market for the true craftsmanship of printing?
Absolutely, being around my father I learnt the value of craft experts like genuine screenprinting. That expertise and feel is not something that can ever be replaced with digital technology.
How would you recommend starting a collection?
Get a wall, hammer and some nails…, but joking aside really you have to buy what you like and collect things that catch your eye and interest you. I have a great friend who has the most amazing collection of Mexican Day of the Dead Masks, skulls, and figurines. It's fascinating and beautiful and whether it has any form of monetary value is beside the point.
What is the favorite work you have in your collection?
This maquette I have from Lawrence Edwards is special to me. The real sculpture is about 2-meters high but when you live in a flat in Berlin and don't have a massive garden then it is just ideal. He is one of the few living artists to have exhibited with such luminaries as Elizabeth Frink and well I love it as a work.
I bought this RAQs Media Collective work, Super-duper, Helter-skelter Lego World, a few years back now. It shows the whole planet broken down into cubes of resources, it is quite a stark view of the world and I like seeing England reduced to its component core. I bought this from a friend's gallery in Mitte, it wasn't signed but luckily the artists were in town for the exhibition so they eventually got them to sign it. I am glad about it too because RAQs are now doing pretty well, and featured heavily in the Venice Biennale in 2015.
Do you collect anything else?
Where do you draw the line between a collector and a hoarder? I seem to have an endless compulsion to buy snare drums. My collection is bordering on the excessive and well luckily I have a studio to store some of them.
By Duncan Ballantyne-Way — Senior Editor