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An Art Collector's Interview with Sonia Borrell - Tryson Collection

"An artwork must resonate with me on a personal level; it's essential that I can perceive the narrative woven into every piece I consider. I listen for the artist's voice in their work, sensing the pulse of their passion. There must be that moment—a kind of heartbeat—when I first lay eyes on a piece. If that heartbeat isn’t there, if the work doesn't stir something within me, I simply can't bring myself to add it to my collection."

An Art Collector's Interview with Sonia Borrell - Tryson Collection

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Please tell us a bit about who you are and your background?

Sonia Borrell: I was born into a traditional family in the heart of Barcelona, where careers in medicine and architecture were the norm, not the exception. The all-girls Catholic school I attended was just what you’d expect—uniforms, discipline, the works. And it set me on a pretty straightforward path to law school at the University of Barcelona to get my Master's, which made my family proud. But there was another side to me. Since I was little, I've always had this thing for art. Give me a colouring book and some crayons, and I'd be in my own little world for hours. Drawing and colouring weren’t just hobbies; they were my escape, my passion.

In 2008, I finally embraced this lifelong companion fully. I ventured into the world of art collecting, a step that felt like a homecoming. It was as if all the lines I had drawn, all the colours I had carefully chosen as a child, had been leading me to this point. My life, once composed in shades of tradition and expectation, was now a canvas of endless possibility. The disciplined contours of law still shaped my world, but the vibrant, boundless love for the artistic is the colour in my life.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What was your first experience with art?

Sonia Borrell: My very first experience with art was as natural and unassuming as the Mediterranean breeze of my Barcelona hometown. It was in the quiet moments, with a simple set of crayons and a blank sheet of paper, that my love for art began. I remember the joy of watching colours blend and take shape under my young hands, the excitement of creating something from nothing but imagination. Those childhood afternoons, filled with doodles and daydreams, were where it all started, long before I knew that art would become the compass of my life.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How did it shape your interest in collecting- the inspiration and vision of your collection?

Sonia Borrell: I've always been enchanted by art; it's been a core part of my being since I can remember, with youthful aspirations of one day being an artist myself. My art collection is a tapestry of pivotal moments that define me. Every artwork reflects a pivotal time in my life: absorbing the rich culture in Indonesia during a family trip in the 80s, exploring Egypt's age-old enigmas in the '90s, undergoing a year of change in Barcelona in 2007, and embracing the raw allure of London's street art scene. Even the COVID pandemic has sculpted a new reality for the art community and my involvement within it. Over time, my engagement with art has deepened, transitioning from an enthusiastic admirer to a dedicated, full-time collector.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How long have you been collecting art? How has your collection or the type of work you collect evolved over time? (How have these years shaped your aesthetic? Do you think our collection or type of work you collect evolved over time?)

Sonia Borrell: I started my art collection back in 2008, yet art has been a part of my soul for as long as I can remember. With each passing year, my collection has grown richer and more diverse. It all began with an affinity for the vibrant, narrative-laden works from contemporary Spanish artists like Okuda, Jaume Plensa, Edgar Plans, Miguel Macaya, Regina Gimenez, and Claudia Valsells. As my journey through art has continued, so too has the evolution of my taste. I've delved into the dynamic world of Barcelona's transformative art scene and felt a connection with the candid street art of London by Banksy, Stik, D*Face, Ben Eine, and Dotmaster.

My curiosity didn't stop there, and I ventured further, exploring the global Pop Surrealist movement, captivated by the creativity of Szabolcs Bozó, Felix Treadwell, Laksamana Ryo, Vivi Cho, August Vilella, Ana Barriga, Marria Prats, and Yosuke Ueno. My collection is now a global ensemble, with pieces from every corner of the art world.These years have deeply influenced my aesthetic. I've gravitated towards pieces that speak to me personally and reflect the shifts within our global society, particularly those brought to light by the pandemic. This growth has granted me a broader perspective and deepened my understanding of art's significant role in responding to world events. Constantly evolving with the pulse of the world's changes, my collection is as dynamic as the ever-shifting tapestry of global culture.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Tell us a bit about your collection - Do you collect with a particular goal in mind?

Sonia Borrell: My art collection is much more than the pieces themselves—it's about the artists behind them and the common enthusiasm for creativity. In curating art, I'm also nurturing the talents, giving them a platform to shine and be recognized. Mentoring emerging artists is about giving back, sharing wisdom, and fostering a sense of community and continuity within the art world. It's my hope that the artists I’ve championed will pay it forward, ensuring that the cycle of inspiration and guidance thrives for generations to come.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Can you share some insights on your favourite or recent acquisitions/additions to your collection?

Sonia Borrell: My collection has recently been enriched with pieces that I find truly compelling. For example, quite recently I acquired a canvas from South Korean artist Vivi Cho, whose work captivates me with its dreamy exploration of emotions, relationships, and the human condition, all expressed in a rich, mixed-media visual language. Then there's the small canvas by American artist Alex Katz that I encountered at Art Basel Miami 2023. It has a striking black background that perfectly frames and accentuates the bright yellow portrait, creating an immediate, love at-first-sight connection for me. The latest piece I've welcomed into my collection is from German artist André Butzer. Having attended his exhibitions at the Thyssen Museum in Madrid and the Museo del Novecento in Florence recently, I was utterly taken by his work. Each piece is a conversation, an experience, and a cherished encounter.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What makes you passionate about collecting art?

Sonia Borrell: The most exhilarating aspect of collecting art, for me, is the personal relationships I build with the artists. There's something incredibly fulfilling about meeting the creative minds behind the artworks, diving into their processes, and understanding the nuances of their craft. Following an artist's journey, from the inception of an idea to the final brushstroke, adds a profound depth and intimacy to each piece in my collection. It's the stories behind the canvases, the hands-on experience of the artists' studios, and the evolution of their techniques and narratives that captivate me. I get to witness their challenges and triumphs first-hand. This connection doesn't just enrich my understanding of their work; it transforms the art into living histories, each with a personal chapter in my own life's story. It's not just collecting; it's a partnership, a shared path of growth and discovery, which is what truly fuels my passion.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What are your criteria for selecting a work of art? Is an artist's professional trajectory or career an important factor or would you collect a piece simply because you love it? How do you decide which artists and pieces to acquire?

Sonia Borrell: When deciding on an artwork to collect, I'm drawn to pieces that stir an immediate emotional response or provoke thought. The decision goes beyond aesthetic appeal; it's about the narrative and the potential for a profound connection with the work. The choice to collect is a careful blend of instinct, research, and the personal relationship I build with the artist. It's about the art's ability to continue revealing new meanings and inspiring fresh perspectives over time. Each piece is a commitment, a belief, and a support for the artist's future.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What differentiates a piece of art that you would collect from one you wouldn't?

Sonia Borrell: An artwork must resonate with me on a personal level; it's essential that I can perceive the narrative woven into every piece I consider. I listen for the artist's voice in their work, sensing the pulse of their passion. There must be that moment—a kind of heartbeat—when I first lay eyes on a piece. If that heartbeat isn’t there, if the work doesn't stir something within me, I simply can't bring myself to add it to my collection.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Do you work with art advisors or other art professionals to help select or source artwork-Do you think that is important?

Sonia Borrell: I steer my own course in the art world, making independent decisions and curating my collection with a personal touch and a big influence from my family. However, I'm always open to engage in dialogue about emerging artists with galleries that have earned my trust, as well as with fellow collectors. We share a wealth of information, offer our insights, and provide support to one another in this vibrant art community.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Do you buy art in auctions, or follow auction results? How influential is that to your collecting, if at all?

Sonia Borrell: I primarily acquire art through galleries, as they are the usual channels through which I explore and discover new pieces. On rare occasions, I might find myself at an auction house for a particularly compelling artwork. Despite this, I stay updated with the market through a subscription to Artprice, keeping a close eye on auction results to stay informed about the latest trends and values in the art world.

Most of the time I acquire works in galleries around the world. I only collect artworks by living artists, so in general I don’t need to go to auctions.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What do you think makes a piece of artwork special?

Sonia Borrell: What elevates an artwork from beautiful to extraordinary is the story it carries. It's crucial for me to connect with the artist's intention, to sense the pulse of their creative spirit. I often weave my own narratives around the artworks I encounter. When I share these with the artists, it's fascinating to find that my interpretations can sometimes diverge from their original vision. Yet, it's this personal dialogue with the artwork that's vital to me. My intuition plays a key role; it's almost as if I can hear music or sense an aura emanating from a piece as I stand before it. That’s when I know it’s more than just a visual encounter; it's a conversation.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Is there a particular message or style you look for when collecting art? Are there any themes or subjects that you’re drawn to when collecting art?

Sonia Borrell: My passion leans heavily towards collecting figurative art, especially canvases burs=ng with vibrant colours that narrate tales of youth. There's something deeply rewarding about embarking on the journey to discover and collect pieces from young emerging artists. Their work is imbued with a purity, a raw energy and passion that's palpable. It’s this energy that draws me in; you can feel the dedication and emotion they pour into their creations, making each piece not just a visual treat, but a vibrant echo of their spirit.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Are there any artists whose work you have collected multiple pieces of? If so, why?

Sonia Borrell: Whenever I find an artist, whose work truly resonates with me, I never stop at acquiring just one piece; at the very least, I'll collect two. There are artists with whom I become particularly obsessed, leading me to collect their works extensively. Artists like August Vilella, Vivi Cho, Laksamana Ryo, Edgar Plans, Mifuu Oda, Takashi Murakami, André Butzer, Yosuke Ueno, Noritoshi Mitsuuchi, Adam Handler, and Socko have captivated me in such a way. I make it a point to add to my collection from these artists annually, nurturing a growing and evolving representation of their artistic journeys within my own collection.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How did you first become aware of the artists whose work you’ve collected? Where do you discover artists?

Sonia Borrell: I often come across new artists in a few different ways: through tips from other collectors, advice from art galleries I trust, or simply by scrolling through Instagram. Quite frequently, these artists begin by following me on Instagram, sparking conversations. From there, I start to follow their work, becoming intrigued by their exhibitions. Typically, this leads me to reach out to their representing galleries. This has become a common path for me in discovering and engaging with new talent.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What do you look for when attending an art fair or even when you are browsing through an artist's portfolio? Are there any specific techniques or mediums that you are drawn to when collecting art?

Sonia Borrell: As I make my way through the vibrant aisles of an art fair, or even when I am browsing through an artist’s portfolio, my eyes are always searching for the novel and noteworthy. New artists and fresh perspectives are what draw me in, the promise of finding a piece that whispers of innovation and creativity. I'm there not just as a collector, but as someone looking to be inspired, to strike up a conversation with a piece that has a compelling story and fits seamlessly with the treasures I’ve already gathered. It’s this journey of discovery, the hope of crossing paths with artists whose work feels like a piece of my own collecting soul, that truly energizes me. My favourite medium to collect is definitely canvas.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What challenges have you faced when collecting artwork?

Sonia Borrell: At the start of my art-collecting journey, I gained invaluable insights. One key lesson was the challenge of acquiring works from established artists as a newcomer; many galleries are hesitant to engage with young collectors. There are essentially two paths forward: being recommended by a seasoned collector who has both a solid reputation and an impressive portfolio, or beginning with works from emerging artists and evolving alongside them. I always advise newcomers to start here, as it allows them to discover their preferences and sculpt their collection in tandem with the artists' growth. This approach not only shapes their artistic journey but also builds a more personal and meaningful collection.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What has been one of the greatest joys from collecting art?

Sonia Borrell: One of the greatest joys in my art collecting journey has been the chance to closely follow and contribute to artists' personal and professional growth. Whether I'm observing their progress from the side-lines, offering guidance, or forging friendships, these interactions are deeply rewarding. At my core, I identify with the spirit of an artist—I think and curate my collection with an artist's sensibility in mind. This unique perspective not only shapes my approach to collecting but also forges a deeper, more meaningful connection with the artists and with my collection.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: How do you keep up with the current trends in art?

Sonia Borrell: I've never been one to chase after the latest trends or movements in the art world. Right now, there are countless artistic movements influencing the scene, but I focus on acquiring art that speaks to me, appeals to my family, and harmonizes with our existing collection. I often say that my collection is curated in the 21st century with the 22nd century in mind. I'm building the Tryson Collection as a legacy, interweaving various pieces that will resonate with my grandchildren and beyond. It's a project with an eye on the future, piecing together a tapestry of art that will hold its relevance and meaning for generations to come.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What do you consider to be the most important factors when selecting or evaluating an artwork?

Sonia Borrell: A critical aspect of appreciating an artwork lies in grasping the artist's intent, the driving force behind their creation, and recognizing their commitment to their artistry. Knowing that an artist is genuinely dedicated to their field elevates the value and meaning of their work, enriching the connection between the viewer and the piece.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Who are some of the artists that you have your eye on, and looking forward to seeing more work from? Or perhaps looking to collect in the near future?

Sonia Borrell: I always keep a close watch on the artists within my collection, and when I notice they're creating standout pieces, I'm keen to acquire what I see as the best among them. My search for new influences often leads me to Asia, especially to South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, with Indonesia being a particularly rich hunting ground for fresh talent. Recently, I've turned my attenton to the Philippines, where I've observed a burgeoning Pop Surrealism scene filled with promising new artists. Yet, my quest for art doesn't keep me from appreciating the talents closer to home in Spain. A recent find was an exquisite piece by Pedro Hoz from Villazan Gallery in Madrid, a piece that truly resonated with me. Captivated by his work, I'm eagerly looking forward to adding more of Hoz's creations to the Tryson Collection. I particularly enjoy hanging around the London art scene movement. There is a group of artists that evolve around the Carl Kostyal gallery that they bring a lot of joy and innovation to the city. Their last exhibition with Maja Djordjevic was excellent, and I can’t wait for Marria Prat’s exhibition next week. Those type of events are keeping me particularly alive!

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: What do you think the art world will be like in ten years' time?

Sonia Borrell: In a decade, the art world as we know it will transform significantly. The younger generations today have a profound connection with art, music, and fashion, unlike anything we've seen before. This is something I witness daily within my own family. Being a mother to three boys, born from 2000 to 2004, has dramatically influenced my tastes and my outlook on the future. My sons are like windows to what lies ahead, keeping me connected to the pulse of youth and teaching me so much along the way. Through their perspectives, I've come to understand the direction our world is headed—towards greater transparency, fairness, values, and equality.

These principles are now beginning to sculpt the art scene, affirming the idea that art is, ultimately, a reflection of life seen through the unfiltered gaze of artists. I want to give you an example of big change. Last week I had the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia, and it was an eye-opening experience. I got to meet some local artists and young people there, and I was pleasantly surprised to find so much in common between them and my 21-year-old son. Whether it was their taste in music, fashion, or even art, the similarities were striking. They were familiar with many of the same artists we adore, thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms. However, one significant difference stood out: living in Europe, we're fortunate enough to experience this vibrant art scene right on our doorstep. In contrast, the young people I met in Jeddah must travel great distances just to see an original piece by Takashi Murakami, Stik, or Banksy in person. This realization highlighted a growing need to bring a change to the art scene closer to the young generation in the Middle East region, especially in Saudi Arabia. They're eager to immerse themselves in the art world not just through their screens, but in their own communities, craving that direct connection and experience.

ARTCOLLECTORNEWS: Please tell us if there are any other important factors about your collection or collecting style or anything else you feel that we may have missed. As well as any other thoughts you wish to share.

Sonia Borrell: The Tryson Collection is richly inspired by manga, anime, kawaii, and the like—often surprises many. My family plays a crucial role in shaping the direction of my collection. For those starting their own collection or finding their children indifferent to it, I have some advice. It's essential to embrace evolution in your art collecting journey. This evolution encompasses our growth as a family, as individuals, and the natural transformation of our tastes.

I urge you not to shy away from including your children in your collecting journey. Listen to them, value their input. The younger generation has a clear vision of what they're drawn to, and it's our responsibility as the older generation to nurture and guide their growth in all life's aspects. I was raised in an environment where children's opinions were often overlooked, where the grown-ups' word was law. But times have changed. To build a meaningful relationship with our children and to ensure our collections become a cherished legacy, we must welcome them into the art world. Let them fall in love with artworks, let them engage and contribute. This way, our collections will not only be preserved for future generations but will also be dynamic and forward-thinking.

Art is subjective, and everyone can learn to appreciate it, provided they find what resonates with them.  



Mar 21, 2024

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