Other Art and other practices

I came to think of my grandfather when I visited the newly opened exhibition ”Other Art” at Göteborg Konstmuseum (Fine Art Museum in Göteborg). It’s the ”other” Art, the not established, that is shown. The self-taught Artists. All those nurses, farmers, teachers, cleaners, construction workers that do Art on their spare time, at their homes and with no intention of ever being exhibited or perhaps only very locally. Building a beautiful stone wall to keep the hens in place; building an animal memorial out of logs in protest of authorities’ animal laws; carving wooden figures of men signing up for military, small men with bent backs and bitten faces being checked by military officers; paintings; garden decorations; a home designed like a mosque to remind of a home country. Is this Art? The discussions have been vivid at the Museum of Fine Art if this should be shown or not at an established Art Exhibition Hall.

Another story related to this, is the one about all those people in the quiet promoting local self-taught Artists. The neighbours, friends, parents, children, auction dealers drinking coffee, visiting and admiring their work, buying and selling, collecting their Art work. My grandfather Bertil was such a person. He bought and sold Art (mainly paintings) and antiques. He bought what he thought would sell, but paintings he liked ended up hanging on his wall. His daily life was going to auctions. Does it connect somehow to each other? Other Art and other practices?

The thought of Bertil followed me after the exhibition, and I found this old and since long forgotten text about him. The text was done as a school assignment, a long time ago, but gives a glimpse of how life as a merchant and collector of Art and antiques could be shaped.

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”In the middle of central Örebro, in a three-room apartment, Bertil Stenholm lives. The apartment has the style of the 1960s and is very well furnished. There is not a patch of the wall without paintings, not a corner without a chest of drawers and antique tables, not a shelf without crystal decorations. In the midst of this crowd of furniture and paintings, scan3557_000.jpgI met Bertil over a cup of cooking coffee (he always cooked his coffee) and cream to discuss his largest interest: Antiques.

Bertil was born in a merchant family in 1911. Already as a young man trading things was the large interest of his life. Buying and selling things is a very good way to earn money, Bertil thought at an early age. The most important with this form of trade is to keep up-to-date with merchants of antiques and go to auctions. You have to know what sort of things have a value and also what things there might be an interest of on the market.

To find antiques is hard, though. For something to be called an antique, it needs to be at least a hundred years old. The older, the more valuable. Price settles if the buy was a bargain or not. As Bertil put it: – There is a lot of running back an forth sometimes between different shows and merchants, many cups of coffee drunk, before a deal is done.

But also this form of trade has gone through changes. It’s not like the old days when auctions was still recognised as sound business. You sold furniture and objects you wanted to get rid of, to the highest bid on the auction. Today there is a range of laws and regulations to consider. It’s also allowed for the person selling, to put a bid or guard the price. If the object is not sold to this price, it will not be sold. As a buyer you pay a thirteen percent tax on everything bought.

Swindling is not uncommon. Objects are sold as antiques, even though they are not older than a few decenniums. For an unused audience or buyer, it’s easy to get cheated. You must thoroughly control the origin of the merchandise and take in expertise before you buy.

But despite changes in dealing with antiques, swindlers and tough bargaining, it is the perfect occupation for Bertil. There are no risks involved, since he doesn’t put in any capital. And as he says: – There is nothing better for us pensioners, who’s pensions doesn’t even cover a piece of pork!.”

The interview was done in the beginning of 1990s at his home in central Örebro, Sweden. Bertil Stenholm lived 1911–1999. Most of his working life he collected Art and antiques. When Bertil chose paintings it was mainly local Artists that was his passion. His main criteria for buying was if he liked the motive or not, usually landscapes and portraits.

One Response to “Other Art and other practices”

  1. [...] Nätverkstan was a connecting partner for the Region on this visit. Related blogpost is on Other Art and other practices and  and [...]

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