Passage Arts: Tell us about yourself and your online community, @arthistoryhaggards.
Diego Barrenechea: I’m 25. I’m from Monterrey, Mexico. I went to university in Switzerland and I did my master’s in the contemporary art market in Milan. @arthistoryhaggards started as a side project when I was in high school. It started at the boom of Instagram as a way to remember artists and stylistic differences and kind of teach ourselves.
PA: How has @arthistoryhaggards evolved over the years?
DB: It started as an art history blog and it became a curatorial project. Karla and I started writing about Rembrandt and artists in textbooks and now we talk about contemporary artists, events in the market, underrepresented artists, and social movements. It’s an ever-evolving project. We’ve always thought of it as a way to learn about art and share our experiences.
PA: You call it a group of millennial art historians. How do young people resonate with the platform?
DB: Karla and I are constantly going to museums and art world events and people our age are always asking us to come with us and show us around. This platform is a way for us to do that for more people.
PA: You also work in the art market and collect art by young artists. How did you start.
DB: I truly became involved in art collecting when I was a curatorial intern and doing acquisition research at a private art collection in Milan, Collezione Giuseppe Iannaccone. The collection curator became my "art world mentor." And of course going to Art Basel and Frieze when I was living in Europe got me more excited about the market. I got passionate about art collecting and became obsessed with acquiring and purchasing after college. I kind of became obsessed with it.
PA: As a young person, what do you think about the art market?
DB: We all know the art market is elitist and it has shifted towards the top 1% of wealth. I don’t come from a family of collectors. I come from a family that loves going to museums but most of the paintings in my family were paintings from IKEA or hand-me-downs from my grandmother. I’m the one bringing new art to the family and now my parents are getting involved. Art becomes an obsession when you start buying. It becomes a passion.
PA: What keeps young people like us from participating in the art world?
DB: It’s hard because it’s really who you are or who you know in the traditional art world. You get certain privileges and you get treated a certain way if you come from a collecting family or a lineage of collectors. It’s hard when you don’t know a lot of people. It’s a very closed circle. It’s not super friendly if you don’t know someone.
PA: What would you tell young people looking to get involved?
DB: Some people have told me they’re scared to ring the door to go into a gallery. I would tell them to be comfortable and be confident. The art world tries to seem really pristine, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems.
PA: You collect art yourself. What does it mean to be a millennial art collector?
DB: I think collecting art is becoming a patron of the arts. As a young collector, I really stand by helping young artists. I buy work from my friends and from smaller galleries, artists who are more independent. As a millennial, I think it’s important to support different types of sales. Sales of prints and multiples, for example, work on paper that help different organizations, a way to help charities and movements. I see a lot of art online and on social media.
PA: A lot of young people have trouble seeing themselves as art collectors, especially if they didn’t grow up with art. How did you start buying art?
DB: I started collecting works on paper. That’s a great way to start. It’s generally the least expensive and it’s a great way to support artists. One of the first works I ever bought was a print. Then, I started seeing the artist’s growth and I felt proud. I get that sense of the hype of the artist, the authenticity, the feel of the artist.
PA: To close, can you speak to the experience of breaking into the art world and getting started as a collector, especially as a young person?
DB: It’s what I’m currently living. It’s definitely scary and it does require strength. The art world is intense and intimidating but it’s also full of creative people who love sharing what they make. And I do think that there are different ways of sharing what they make. I think you have to be passionate about it, because passion can help you feeling scared and feeling like it’s not enough. My passion helps me beat out that feeling. I don’t have to buy at Christie’s or be a Vanderbilt if I have passion. The art world is shifting, social media is connecting people, and new people are opening up the field.