Collectors arrive at last night's Christie's auction in Manhattan. (graphic by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

In an effort to better understand the art market, Hyperallergic sat down for an interview with a major collector. As the conversation revealed, this mega-collector, who spoke with us on condition of anonymity, revealed that his passion was not so much for art, per se, but the attention garnered by spending large amounts of money on it.

“I love how, at the auctions, when I make a really insane bid, everyone gasps,” said the collector, casually adding Splenda to a cup of Kona coffee. “It makes me feel really important, to have everyone know exactly how much I spend on art. I just wish that instead of those little paddles we had, like, air horns.”

The collection in question, valued in the mid-nine figures, includes works by what he characterizes as the art world’s “Big Ten.”

“I’ve got a Pablo Picasso,” he said. “It looks weird to me, like why does it have so many eyes? But chicks love it.”

He also owns several Warhols, “of course,” inspired to add them to his collection “after I heard Jay-Z rap about it.” He then paused to request that his assistant order him some Wagyu steak tartare (“But ask them to make it well done”).

“I don’t really like to buy anything that’s less than $10 million,” the collector continued. “It just doesn’t elicit the validation I crave.” He also stressed that he tended to avoid buying work by female artists because they aren’t expensive enough, and it doesn’t seem like there even were any female artists in “the olden days.”

“I did hear about that one artist, where you get to have sex with her,” he said. “That seems like an interesting piece.” But for the most part, like many collectors, he is content to stick to big names and use art as a tax dodge for gratuitous wealth, rather than using those resources to support living artists, or really to benefit any of the people who struggle under completely unsupported conditions to make work that the market goes on fetishize.

“I’m still trying to get a Rembrandt,” he confessed. “Those are hard to come by, but everyone has heard of that guy.” He paused. “Did Beethoven make art? He’s really famous. Remind me to ask my assistant to look it up when she gets back with lunch.”  

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....