Q: Sid Sand. The Big Cheese. Head Honcho. Top Dog. You are the overseer of all things to do with The Public House of Art and the brains behind the mission. It seems only fitting that you therefore have the privilege of being our first guest for this series of conversations about art and life. Now tell us, what part does art play in your life?
A: What a flattering intro, you’ll make my head explode. Right, well let’s get down to business. (He takes a moment to reflect on his long, colourful past in the art world…) Well it all started really when I began collecting art at a very young age. I was living in China at the time and I would say that this was the very first time I was exposed to art and I could afford to buy it. What I was so intrigued about through the genre of Chinese art was how their culture was reflected through their art, which helped me for the first time to really understand art and put a meaning behind it all. So since then it’s played a very important and central role in my life. As I see myself as a very visual person, I’m always looking at beautiful things and for me that’s what art does, it reminds me of things that are wondrous in this world. So yeah, I would say that it is a very big part of who I am!
Q: So, you became a collector after discovering this new and exciting world and you’ve come on leaps and bounds, nowadays acquiring pieces by very established artists. On the other hand you started this project, The Public House of Art, where you appear to offer a very different way at collecting art. Tell us a little about how this happened?
A: If I’m honest, I have been lucky enough to be very privileged in my career and my education and so forth, which enabled me to understand and be able to build up a collection of art. But having said this, I have always felt a sense of nervousness entering a conventional art gallery. It’s a feeling that I have today just as much as when I started collecting. I’m sure you will agree when I say that I think the standard gallery can be quite a scary place. You never really feel welcome or that you have the right to be there and you are always made to feel uncomfortable by the penetrating eyes of the perfectly coiffured gallery guy or girl sitting behind their big Apple Mac and the eerily quiet surroundings where you try to look intently at each art work, when really you just want to get the hell out of there. This therefore got me wondering, why does this always happen? Why have galleries become such snobbish establishments? I personally think that this is just plain wrong. Point blank. So from the beginning I have always said to myself that whenever I have the means, I would love to be able to provide art to everybody in a fun way, sometimes even pushing the stereotypical boundaries of how art is sold and making a little bit of fun out of how the existing art world has evolved to what it is today. It has become the norm to present art in boring, cold, pretentious ways and I wanted to get rid of that. And that I feel truly is our mission at The Public House of Art. It is to get beautiful artworks, aesthetically speaking, by artists who really have a chance to move forward and to be able to sell them to people at a very affordable price.
Q: So tell me - how do you manage to keep the prices affordable if you are looking for very high quality art? Surely something doesn’t quite add up…
A: Well first of all we are very honest with the artists and tell them that they can’t do it solely for the money. They have to understand that that’s not what our project is about. That is number one. The artists that are part of The Public House of Art also see it as a way of being able to showcase their artwork so that a whole range of people can acquire their pieces for display in their homes or in their offices for example. So whether they are first time exhibitors or established, they really don’t do it for the money, but they do it so that people from all walks of life can enjoy what they have created. It’s a one-time thing - we don’t have artists that stay with us for a long period of time. The Public House of Art is a theme-based store and twice yearly we change our theme and the artists only do one theme. They probably wouldn’t want to do another theme because they don’t get paid that much unfortunately, so to ensure we can keep our prices low we simply don’t have the means to pay them that much. So they really see it as a one-time opportunity to make these amazing artworks, putting in a lot of time and effort so that all our customers whether they are big, small, rich or poor, are able to enjoy their amazing creations.
Q: What about your own artistic abilities? Have you ever considered being an artist yourself?
A: If only… I would love to! I have all these crazy ideas whizzing around in my head, but at the end of the day I just have to face the fact that I’m just not good enough.
Q: Let’s talk a little bit about your favourite artists. Who is your number one artist from the past and who is your rising star, for example an artist that we might never have heard about?
A: I would say that my favourite artist from the past is Yue Minjun, a Chinese contemporary artist. And why I say past is that I first saw his art when I was living in China. So yeah, I would say that he is my favourite artist from that period. Of course my taste and understanding of art have evolved, so today I really love an Indian artist, somebody from my own origin, and his name is Valay Shende. He is also someone I would really classify as a rising star. He has a very long CV as well as being displayed in many museums, many boring things like that, but at the end of the day his artworks, aesthetically speaking, are just amazing, they really are awesome. So I therefore immediately was dying to have him as part of our themed collection, ‘The Awesome.’ Very fitting don’t you think? I wasn’t sure if he would be on board with the concept, bearing in mind that his artworks carry very heavy price tags. He has in fact just had several pieces of work auctioned and some were sold for €100,000 plus, but in fact he loved the idea of The Public House of Art and he was generous enough to contribute and to make works specifically for our first theme, which are on sale from us. So for me, he is a real rising star and probably one of my favourite artists at the moment.
Q: So a more fundamental question now about how you understand and appreciate art. What is more important for you when you see an artwork for the first time - form or its meaning? That is to say its immediate beauty or the story behind it?
A: Form, completely form. For me it’s pure aesthetics. I love the story, which may be interesting to some, but it actually bores the hell out of me and at the end of the day it should look nice and mean something to me. I really think that people over-conceptualise art and at The Public House of Art we also have people who can bore you shitless so to speak, because they know every single detail about the artworks we show and how they are individually connected to art history. So yeah we too can give you endless mind-numbing facts if that’s what you are after, but essentially you are there to buy something if you like the look of it – and please do so!
Q: And the idea that you have the artists themselves explaining their work on a video – how does this effect the overall way that we as viewers understand the artwork in question?
A: I think a lot gets lost in translation. When you go to a bog standard gallery you have some classic gallery guy or girl who is trying to explain to you what the artist was thinking when they made a specific work. We’ve heard it all before, and what is to say that most of it isn’t bullshit? Some pretentious crap that they have made up, trying to tell you what was running through the artist’s head when really they have no fucking clue. I think it’s much more fun if it comes directly from the horse’s mouth. So I really wanted the artists themselves to be given the chance to voice their own opinions on why they created that specific artwork. And that’s exactly what we did. So in The Public House of Art for every work the artist has an explanation that they themselves have made, letting us really know some personal background to each of the artworks and why they chose to make them look the way they did. Way more interesting and entertaining wouldn’t you agree?
Author: Charlotte Zajicek