Matan Kanety purchased his first work of art unintentionally. "It was seven years ago, at Fresh Paint art fair. I had never even thought about it before, but that time I went with a friend who had already purchased several art works in the past. I bought works by Jennifer Abessira and Dorian Gottlieb, and it led to the acquaintance with the artists, and a friendship that has evolved over the years."
Kanety, a 33-year old businessman engaging in real estate and maintenance, grew up in Givatayim and lives in Tel Aviv. His interest in art has developed since, and today he has a fair collection, consisting primarily of Israeli art.
"You may say I grew up with art my entire life. My mother exposed me to art and music from a very young age, and ever since I can remember, we went to exhibitions in Israel and when we traveled abroad. When I was young, I never really took an interest, but I didn't suffer either. Over the years art piqued my curiosity. Acquaintance with the field certainly made me open to aesthetics, interior design and architecture, proportions and color schemes. This, and the fact that I am impossibly pedantic. I love it so much, that after graduating from business school, I went to study interior design just for fun.
I collect mainly works on paper, and focus on what you may call minimalist work. There is something about works on paper that is more compatible with my personality, something intimate and down-to-earth, less extravagant. Perhaps it's the texture of the material and the lines— for example, in a work on paper consisting of a charcoal or pencil drawing everything must be very accurate. There are no additional layers, no way to cover mistakes. I think that these works, often made with minimal materials, are the embodiment of Ludwig Mies vander Rohe's dictum, "less is more."
As the conversation progresses, I realize that by "paper works" he is referring not only to drawings or paintings on paper, but also to less conventional manifestations of the material: "I purchased a work by Michal Naaman from Gordon Gallery which is, in fact, a 'slough' of one of her paintings—a mesh of the masking tape which she uses in the painting process. It is something so delicate, translucent, and very moving to me. I also have a work by a young artist, Moshe Roas—scorched prints on fabric reminiscent of corals or some aquatic plant, and works by Benni Efrat—I am especially fond of his works on newsprint."
Kanety does not collect art as a profit yielding investment, but he is not oblivious to the business opportunities of the world art world. Kanety, who owns a collection larger than his available wall space, was involved in a venture two years ago with the mission of making art from private collections available to a wider audience through a rental service, primarily to office spaces. The project never passed the trial phase.
"We realized that collectors possess art works in storage spaces that no one enjoys, so why not pass them on to others on loan or rent? We even developed an option where you may purchase the work at the conclusion of the loan period. It turned out that people didn’t fully appreciate the value of artworks to feel that the cost was justified.
The problem is that art is often not very accessible, galleries are not always the warmest most welcoming places, and it can scare people off. There is something about art that threatens people; a barrier due to lack of understanding or lack of confidence. It is somewhat like the syndrome of the young boy who faces the naked emperor—people fear things they don't understand. When it comes to hanging art in an office, they may choose to exhibit things that they can justify, famous names. It’s like wearing Louis Vuitton or a Rolex watch."+
Nevertheless, he says, he does know people who consult, ask, and take an interest in art when the time is right. "People I know who are now in their thirties, and have reached a certain stage in their careers and life, are now gaining interest in art. I am regarded as "the friend who understands art," and I have friends who join me when I go to see exhibitions. It gives them a sense of confidence that someone speaks their language, not “art language”.
So perhaps the key to the art world is that everyone needs such a friend?
"Everyone needs a friend and a nonthreatening platform; a place where you may see art and get up close to it, without the hindrances and the sense of nescience. Just as there are websites where you can buy clothes and shoes, there is no reason why there won't be similar access to artworks. Most people flinch because they may not understand the artworks or feel that they don't have enough knowledge to assess the work, the pricing, or the artist's importance “properly”.
We must break the paradigm of an alienated space with works hung on the walls, without a price, and without an explanation or a title; even when there is an explanatory text available, it is usually written in a language which is too difficult to understand. How many people visit an exhibition in a museum or a gallery, read the text on the wall and understand even 10% of it? There is something elitist in the art jargon, and I think that in today's art world, the alienating spaces and the use of high language, which ostensibly attest to a good artist who is held in high esteem, ultimately miss the mark, because they don't get through to many people. The essence of art is the encounter with people."
Are you addicted to collecting?
"Definitely. I have been collecting for seven years now, and I think that one of the most beautiful things is that the collection reflects my personality. Ever since my partner Elah came into my life, the collection has branched in new directions. She has introduced a lot of color into my life and into the collection, literally as well as metaphorically.
There is the conception that a collector is a person of means, a patron, but that's not necessarily true. One doesn’t need to buy “expensive” art, or “good” art. My parents, on every wedding anniversary, used to buy a small work of art that spoke to them. One doesn’t have to be a big collector. One can be a modest collector and enjoy it. The way I see it, the only rule is to truly love the art."