faces to watch in the art world 4. George Loudon

George Loudon, on this year's Turner Prize judging panel, is one of a rare and reticent breed: a British-based collector of contemporary art who is respected by gallery and young artist alike as a spender of smart money
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The Independent Culture
In a sealed room at the Tate Gallery, the judges for this year's Turner Prize have been hammering out their shortlist, to be announced tomorrow morning. Chairman Nick Serota, Elizabeth Macgregor of Birmingham's Ikon Gallery, Gary Garrels of the Art Institute in Chicago, Observer critic William Feaver and George Loudon have been hard at it, working through the public's nominations. While the runners are being decided one question remains: who is George Loudon?

A 52-year-old Dutch financier who moved here in the late-Eighties, Loudon is one of that rare and reticent breed, a British-based collector of contemporary art. While Britain is good at producing artists, it is probably the worst country in Europe at sustaining their careers. Collectors are vital, not only to artists, but to the galleries that show them.

Loudon was educated in Britain, and began his collection in the late Seventies, a time when austere conceptualism and post-minimalism was giving way to neo-expressionist painting. The tyro collector started with younger European painters like Walter Dahn and Jiri Dokoupil and the fiery Afro- Haitian painter Jean Michel Basquiat. Loudon has since developed an affinity with a new generation of conceptually based artists - Georgina Starr, Silvie Fleury, Angela Bulloch, Damien Hirst and Cathy de Monchaux are among his recent acquisitions. He buys a lot and he tends to buy young art, spending, he says, "relatively small amounts of money". Dealers say he's a dream to work with, a collector, for once, who pays his bills. Galleries keep him up to speed on what to buy. Loudon is not interested in cultivating his taste, he says, so much as challenging himself with what seems interesting. He has never sold anything on, but constantly rotates his collection, keeping much of it in storage.

Apart from his infusions of cash into the art world, Loudon is probably most influential as a committee man, a denizen of the banker's boardroom, a member of the Patrons of New Art, a trustee of the Tate Foundation and a member, of the Stedelijk's Acquisitions Committee in Amsterdam. He likes to be involved, thinks that Britain doesn't have the collectors it deserves, and seems as interested in the mechanisms of the art establishment as in buying. The smart money has moved in, and he's marking someone's card, right now.