Collector interview: Budget collector Daniel Mason gives his Frieze tips

Among other advice, he suggests to buy what you like and that the affordable stuff is tucked round the back

Daniel Mason is a print and packaging specialist whose consultancy company, Something Else, numbers Levi’s, Nike, Warner Music, Microsoft and Unilever among its clients. He has been collecting contemporary art for around six years and his collection ranges from multiples by Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth and Richard Hamilton to more recent pieces by Gavin Turk, Jeremy Deller and David Noonan, as well as many examples of street art. The collection is mainly print based, but Mason also owns a number of paintings and drawings by artists such as Dee Ferris, Susie Hamilton and Eri Itoi.

The Art Newspaper: What attracted you to collecting?

Daniel Mason: I’ve always collected things as a child, whether it was the cards you used to get in packets of tea or specialist limited packaging. I’d always been interested in art but never really had the means to buy it until about five or six years ago. My first forays involved getting the literature around the subject, becoming more aware of what I liked and plotting a plan so that if one day I should be fortunate enough then I could jump in.

TAN: So you think it’s a good idea for beginner collectors to read around the subject?

DM: I don’t think you should overly research in order to come up with some sort of rationale and justification for your collecting, but you’ve got to have some kind of grounding in what you like and admire. There might be themes and ideas that appeal to you: you might like figurative work, abstract work, works on paper or prints. Everything in my collection is based on me liking it in its own right…it could be to do with the way it’s been executed, the materials and the processes, even the way it has been framed.

TAN: What kind of work catches your eye?

DM: I’ve always been involved in print processes and materials and how they’re used in the commercial sector—whether it’s record packaging or cosmetics packaging—so it gives me a great deal of understanding of how things are actually produced. In an odd sort of way it is this experience of print and packaging that attracts me—so I’ve always been drawn towards work that has been silkscreen printed because I understand the process and because it is affordable: you can purchase something of worth by an artist of note that won’t break the bank.

TAN: What would you advise someone who is just starting out as a collector?

DM: Make natural connections between things: there’s a kind of route map that you can establish and if there’s something you’re attracted to but obviously can’t afford, then visit the gallery that represents them and look at who else they show. A lot of galleries are very affable: in certain instances if they understand that you genuinely like a work they can be a bit more accommodating in terms of price. Galleries get very excited by people who are enthusiastic and want to talk about the work rather than those who say, here’s my money, put it in a bag, I’ll walk out with it now. Auctions are a completely different experience. There is a greater diversity of works and you have a bit more time to review what you wish to buy through catalogues and viewings. However, you have to resist getting carried away during the bidding.

TAN: Do you set a budget?

DM: When I’ve contacted the gallery and found out roughly what things are costing, I will set myself a budget…I don’t tend to break beyond £2,000 because you are into different territory then, and while I do have disposable income, I also have to put the breaks on—but if I really, really want something then I will go higher.

TAN: Frieze tips for the beginner?

DM: There are a number of reasons why an art fair like Frieze is very good. It makes you aware of the whole gallery system and it’s a great way of getting an overview of how that works. I tend to walk up and down quite methodically. I know who I want to see, but I don’t necessarily go there immediately—I will go up and down and have a good overall look. But I’m also a great one for looking in the little cupboards they have in the back because that’s where they tend to have the more affordable bits. That’s where I’ve seen stuff that I’ve liked and bought: they’ve got the major labels out front in the main killing space—and the small independents tucked around the back.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'The affordable stuff is tucked round the back'

Appeared in Frieze London dailies , October 2009