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Start a Collection breeds confidence in new buyers of art, bringing them amazing bargains in the process
Wilfrid Gabriel de Glehn 1870-1951 RA NEAC, A Light Breeze, Bit, Oil on canvas, 55 x 70 cm. Was: 48,500. Offered in Start a Collection at: 38,500.

LONDON.- Selling art successfully is a matter of a little give and take. Start A Collection, a three-day event in Mayfair, has proved to be one of the most innovative ways of doing this.

The latest run will take place from August 13-15 at Messum’s in Cork Street, with previews on the 11th and 12th August.

As has happened in past years, expect a queue to start forming the night before the August 13 sale opening as buyers compete for amazing bargains. Messum’s even supply breakfast for those in the queue in the form of coffee and bacon sandwiches.

Art dealer Johnny Messum came up with the idea 12 years ago as he pondered the challenge of attracting new clients.

“I realised that there were a vast number of untapped buyers who lacked the confidence to dip their toe in the market for the first time,” he says.

“They were keen to start collecting art but were afraid to express an opinion of what they did or didn’t like – and wary of buying a dud.”

The answer, he decided, was to create an event during which he and his colleagues could guide these people towards works chosen with a professional eye.

“By selecting art from our own inventory, new collectors know that they are buying something that we have committed to ourselves,” says Johnny.

There are other advantages too. Messum’s offer all the works at sometimes enormous discounts, a factor that certainly helps boost confidence.

When the three-day window of opportunity ends, the works return to their original prices, which certainly helps to concentrate minds… as does the rule that, while pictures can be reserved by email or phone, priority goes to those who turn up at the gallery within the first hour of opening. Hence the queue.

This year, for the first time Messum’s are focusing on works acquired from artists’ estates to help support them through the year. Discounts of up to 50% will be on offer.

“Too often – and this particularly in the contemporary world – people with budgets of 1,000-5,000 regularly went awry with works of art that would go on and have no material value whatsoever,” Johnny explains.

“The disappointment at that realisation, sometimes years after the initial purchase, can be enough to sour the mood and stop people who might otherwise have enjoyed the concept of building a collection. The result is that they often end up with nothing on the walls at all, or a cupboard full of ‘mistakes’.

“Our initiative helps to prevent that from happening, and we are delighted that we have forged a number of long-lasting relationships in the process.”

Two clients who first started collecting in this way have now spent well into six figures over the following five years.*

Start A Collection is just one of the ground-breaking events that Messum’s have created to promote collecting and new trends in art.

They have just completed the latest in a series of transglobal exhibitions run in partnership with Mossgreen, the Melbourne auctioneers and dealers, to bring British art to Australia and Australian art to the British.

That has already led to two British artists, sculptor Laurence Edwards and painter Alan Cotton, being invited to take part in leading Australian exhibitions.

“Australian collectors are undoubtedly developing a taste for works by overseas artists now,” says Johnny. “This is a relatively new phenomenon, but because we are pioneers in this market, we have been able to detect this trend before many others.”

In January, Messum’s partnered a school in West Yorkshire in a ground-breaking project that introduced pupils to the commercial art world.

They set up simultaneous exhibitions at Brooksbank School in Elland and at Messum’s in Cork Street featuring the work of two renowned Northern artists, Jake Attree and David Blackburn, as well as art by some of the pupils.

The 11-day shows gave the pupils the chance to become involved in every aspect of promoting and selling art.

“The seamless manner in which colleagues and friends from Messum’s have integrated with teachers, students and artists has been truly inspirational and has produced a wonderful exhibition,” head teacher Kevin McCallion said at the time.

Expect further major initiatives from Messum’s before the year is out.

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