Want to buy art, but don’t know how or where to start? Let affordable art adviser Nick Campbell lead the way.
A gap in one’s market – wouldn’t we all like to find one of those? Nicholas Campbell, at a remarkably young age, has done just that, and in a market – the London art market – so densely packed with galleries and grand fromages that it’s hard to find a crack, let alone a discernible gap. Yet for anyone who is busy and time poor, who lacks intimate knowledge of the complex, sometimes opaque art world, but wants to acquire meaningful contemporary art at affordable prices – then Nick Campbell has become indispensable.
Nick successfully plugged the gap seven years ago in his early twenties. What did people do before he set up his Narcissus Arts consultancy, sourcing artworks for under £10,000, and what do they do now if they aren’t aware of his service, or choose to go it alone?
‘Of course, it’s possible to find really good affordable art,’ he says, ‘but without expertise, and when you are busy doing other things, it’s not at all straightforward, and it’s quite easy to end up with works that are so much less interesting than they might have been for the same price, or less.
‘It frankly pains me to see people paying £3,000 to £4,000 a pop on often unexciting, decorative work at the Affordable Art Fair, when, with a little help, they could discover exciting emerging artists for the same price. I help my clients to buy art that’s fit for their purpose, working well on the walls of their homes, but that also has added interest: that of following ‘their’ artist as he or she progresses.’
It was during a history of art lesson that Nick knew ‘in a flash’ that contemporary art was to be his passion. ‘I had an inspirational teacher, Mr Robinson. One day, he showed us a painting by Mark Rothko: two tones of blue, nothing more. ‘I didn’t get it at first, but thanks to Mr Robinson I came to understand that it’s not just about what you see on the canvas in front of you, but about what goes on behind, what the artist is saying. When I looked again at the Rothko, I found it electrifying, especially after all those Renaissance gods and goddesses we’d be studying.’
After university, Nick went straight into the art world, working for high-end galleries in London and Miami. But very soon, he saw his gap, and the business he founded has now naturally split into two parts: Narcissus Interiors, which sources artworks for more commercial projects including show flats, hotels, restaurants and boats; and Narcissus Arts, acting now for both private and corporate clients. ‘Introducing our clients to art that they adore is the fun bit,’ says Nick, ‘but we also handle the boring bits: framing, transportation, installation, the lot.’
Buy for love. It’s hard to think of a more charming or knowledgeable guide through the complexities of buying art. Nick counsels against purchases made just for possible financial gain; you must love and appreciate them too.
There are rich pickings, he says, if you know where to look, including from alumni of London’s world-class art schools, though, worryingly, the cost of living in the city is making it harder for young artists to stay here. Among his current favourite artists are a young Canadian he came across in New York called Caroline Larsen, Russian photographer Leonid Tishkov, and London-based George Henry Longly, who recently produced a stunning and intriguing wall sculpture.
Like many of the artists he champions, Nick is also still young, and yet he is becoming an increasingly sought-after voice in the international art world.
He is an official ambassador for the Frieze Art Fairs; on the committee of several arts organisations; listed as one of the New 100 (the biggest collectors in the world under 40) and won the Spear’s magazine award for Best Art Advisor under 35.
Who will call next looking for Nick’s help? He never knows, but one particularly rewarding request came not long ago: from Mr Robinson himself.