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Collector Scoop: Carl Bedell

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are excited to have a little chat with our very own board member Carl Bedell!

Carl has worked with various private museums and art institutions to develop young professional membership groups, including the Corcoran Museum of Art and the Phillips Collection. In 2015, Carl Co-Founded ACCADEMIA DC, a pending 501c3, that aims to build a new generation of benefactors for the arts by connecting emerging collectors with artists.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

My introduction to art came in 1992 when my family moved to Germany for a military assignment.  If my weekends were not spent playing sports or in school activities, my parents had my brothers and I in the car traveling to see the wonders of Europe - often times that meant world-class museums. With that background, my appreciation for art developed and continued until I began collecting.

 In 2008, my mother and I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Barnes Foundation (just prior to its relocation). That weekend happened to be Philadelphia's First Friday when the commercial art galleries were open late and the trompe l’oiel painter Adam Vinson had a solo show that I stumbled across. Adam’s show was the first time I saw artwork in a commercial setting that immediately spoke to me.  I stayed in touch with Adam sporadically for the next five years until I decided to jump into collecting. His Card Sharks was the first piece of fine art that I acquired and remains one of my favorites.

The first photograph in my collection is by Binh Danh. Binh has several pieces in the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection and was included in their 2015 exhibition The Memory of Time. This exhibition was especially interesting to me because it was entirely of contemporary photographers - many of whom were relatively young. I visited the exhibition and left with a list of artists’ names that I took home to research. Binh was in that list and after several emails (he may tell you it was many more than several) we met during his visit to DC and shortly thereafter I committed to purchasing his Bridalveil Falls daguerreotype.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Discovering new artists is one of the most exciting aspects of collecting. Art shows, gallery visits and museums are obvious ways to identify new artists and I certainly have discovered many artists in that way – for example Adam Vinson and Binh Danh. But I also spend a significant amount of time researching artists online. Much of art in my collection is by artists that I have discovered in more proactive searches and then reached out to directly.

Facebook, Instagram and other online social media provides an incredible resource for identifying new artists.  Most artists now have some sort of online presence and the algorithms that the social media uses to “suggest” new content is pretty successful in identifying your preferences and suggesting new artists. I have discovered many artists this way, many of whom I have come to know personally and in some cases, acquired their works.  Heather Rooney is one such artist.  In 2013, Heather was producing photo-realistic portraits of World Cup stars and posting them online with a time-lapse video of the drawing. Her skill level is incredible – especially as a 22 year old self-taught artist. The video of Heather drawing the Winston Churchill portrait I purchased is online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-dke8QaiJo.       

 Whenever I travel, I normally research and contact local artists and try to make a point to fit in at least one studio visit (in addition to the local museums and galleries). This adds a special memory to the trip and allows me to meet artists that are outside of the DC area. The first piece that came into my collection this way was a ceramic trompe l’oeil piece by Cathy Moberg, Good Fortune. Cathy works in Nashville and she allowed me to stop by her studio and see her works-in-progress. 

 Studio visits are important to me as a collector because it allows me to get to know the person and see the process that goes into creating the art. I normally come away from studio visits with a deeper understanding of what the artist was trying to convey and a greater appreciation for what the artist created. Some of my favorite studio visits have been to see the Baltimore based sculptor, Sebastian Martorana, the Washington DC based painter Trevor Young, and the New York based painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan.

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

My advice to emerging or aspiring collectors is to jump in, collect what speaks to you and make it personal. For me, my collecting began with an appreciation for artistic craftsmanship. Adam Vinson’s trompe l’oeil works were so incredible to me that after five years, the memories of his first works I saw still stuck with me and led me to begin collecting.

My biggest regret in terms of collecting is that I did not start sooner. Before I began collecting, I believed that in order to acquire “good” art, I would have to spend a small fortune. The reality is that there is a lot of great art available at every price point.  Some of my favorite works in my collection were the least expensive.

My appreciation for the art in my collection is largely based on the stories behind the works. Nearly every piece of art in my collection has a personal story for me – a story about the art or about the artist. That personal connection makes the art more than an aesthetic addition to my home. It makes the collection a record of the stories and people in my life.

Artists Referenced:

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Collector Scoop: Jessi Bowman

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with Jessi Bowman of Houston Center for Photography about how her collection got started.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

My grandma is a mixed media artist and my aunt is a poet, so my family has always been very involved in the arts. My love for photography started out very early. When I was a kid I was constantly taking pictures. I had this Barbie toy camera, then I upgraded to disposables, then to a 35mm and finally to a DSLR. I eventually got my degree in Art History from the University of Houston and minored in photography.

I don’t ever remember consciously starting to collect, nor do I remember the first work that I bought, but I’ve always been a bit of a pack rat. I guess I started with McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and refined my taste from there!

The only thing I really remember was the excitement of supporting my friends or my family. To this day my grandma’s work still covers my walls. I do however remember the first “big girl” piece I collected, Untamed by Lori Vrba from Catherine Couturier gallery here in Houston… I am still paying it off.    

Lori Vrba  ,  Untamed , from  The Moth Wing Diaries

Lori Vrba, Untamed, from The Moth Wing Diaries

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Being a patron of someone’s work is almost more important than being an artist yourself. It’s kind of a tricky thing for artists to acknowledge sometimes. Obviously if you have the drive to create art you should do it no matter what and I think it’s crucial not to think about whether or not your art will sell while you’re making it, but I think people really underestimate how important it is for someone to buy your work. You can go on and on about art being for art’s sake, and that’s true, but art is a conversation between the person making it and the person experiencing it. If an artist doesn’t get anything in return, how are they supposed to keep making more? I don’t set a goal for myself, but I like to buy as often as I can. I have a list of artists that I would like to collect from and I’m kind of trying to go down that right now.

Has your affiliation with the Houston Center for Photography lead you to discover new artists that you have (or have considered) collecting from?

Oh all the time! There are tons of people whose work I’ve wanted nothing more than to put on my walls. I have been lucky enough to collect from a couple of people this last year, one of whom (Kristin Diemer) I purchased after sitting in on a review of her work.  

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother),  Untitled .

Tita Bowman (Jessi Bowman's grandmother), Untitled.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Funny enough, Instagram is one of my favorites. We get a lot of submissions to HCP which has brought many artists to my attention, but nothing beats falling down the rabbit hole of Instagram. I have collected at least four works from people I have found on Instagram.

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

From personal collection of Jessi Bowman

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

I know it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: collect what you like. Why spend the money on it if you aren’t going to hang it on your walls? Even if you’re buying for the monetary value, it’s hard to sell work to someone if you don’t like it yourself.

Also, don’t get discouraged and think you have to be rich to collect. There are so many talented artists in all different styles at all points in their careers whose work is affordable. I have never made much money. As an artist myself, I’ve worked out many trades and payment plans for my own work as well as for the purchase of other people’s. You don’t need as much money as you would think to collect.

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Collector Scoop: Colony Little

Collector Scoop is a blog series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we are happy to share a conversation with Colony Little of Culture Shock Art about how her collection got started.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

I created Culture Shock Art in 2010 as a passion project and a creative outlet from my career as an underwriter for an insurance company.  At the time I was drawn to street art I’d discover during my commute to downtown Los Angeles and I came across this incredible JR mural from his Wrinkles of the City series.  I had no idea who created the piece, so my quest to learn more about the artist/photographer led me to his TED Talk and I ended up writing about him on the blog.  JR’s career trajectory and the work he’s created to visually capture the stories of thousands of people around the world was fascinating to witness.  I ended up buying one of his early lithographs in 2011.  Since then I’ve collected art that is best described as eclectic.  My husband and I collect illustrations, graphic art, vinyl records (I love Blue Note covers), photography and low brow art. We have three pieces of art floating around here inspired by the show Arrested Development. I love them simply because they make me laugh!  

Image from personal collection of Colony Little (Left to Right) Graham Erwin,  I am a Monster!  2012 ; Ralph Ziman,  Mbara Bara , 2014

Image from personal collection of Colony Little
(Left to Right) Graham Erwin, I am a Monster! 2012 ; Ralph Ziman, Mbara Bara, 2014

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Patrons are the fuel that keep artistic communities running.  I’m inspired by creative collectives of artists, writers, designers, musicians and collectors that build synergies to support one another. During the past 5 years, L.A. has seen an artistic evolution taking place among creatives that drove the growth of the Arts District.  This in turn has resulted in a huge uptick in gallery openings there.  In my early years of writing and collecting I found the gallery system exclusive and limiting, but now those barriers to access are slowly disappearing as technology and media encourage galleries to create more open and (somewhat) democratic spaces for building communities.  Additionally, artist-run spaces are cultivating stronger bonds among artists, the community and future collectors. For example, I love what’s happening in Leimert Park--the Hammer Museum has partnered with artist Mark Bradford at Art + Practice and I’m also inspired by Michelle Papillion’s groundbreaking work at Papillion.   

Your career as an arts writer has allowed you the opportunity to discover many established and emerging artists. Has there been a situation where your career lead you to collecting art from a new artist or a similar experience?

When I worked in the insurance industry roughly 1/3 of the business my company produced came from high net worth individuals, and many of them were collectors of fine art.  This afforded me opportunities to interact with collectors, artists and galleries at fairs.  In the early years of Culture Shock Art I would use the blog to research and write about artists that I collected or wanted to collect.  Now that I’m writing exclusively, my wish list of art to collect has grown but my bank account hasn’t!  With that said, there is fantastic art that can be had at any price point. I’m amazed at the growth rate of art purchased on-line in the past few years.  Also, events like L.A.’s Incognito at the old Santa Monica Museum of Art (now known as the ICA and is moving downtown) are a good example of leveling the playing field between emerging and established collectors. 

Incognito was a fundraising event disguised as a fun artistic experiment--hundreds of works of art donated by emerging and well known artists were placed on display, each piece priced the same.  The catch was that the identity of the artist was hidden, so you could potentially walk away with an Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari or Catherine Opie if you were lucky.  At the end of the day there was no wrong choice because you were ideally basing your decision on instinct and love for the piece.  That’s how we came to own a work by Rena Small.  It is one of my favorite photographs because my husband chose it and he was not familiar with her work at all.  Years later we were at the Norton Simon museum and he came across one of her photos of Basquiatthat was part of her “Artists Hands” series in 1985.  Moments of serendipity lead us to beautiful discoveries!

Rena Small,  Untitled , 2012

Rena Small, Untitled, 2012

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

Hands down Instagram! You can find me @cultureshockart

It has been an amazing platform to virtually interact with artists while getting a behind the scenes look into their lives and their process.  Many of the relationships I’ve cultivated through Instagram have turned into friendships and great collaborations.  Years later I'm still obsessed with Instagram because it is a convergence of all the things I love (art, coffee, handbags, records, photography and dogs). To satisfy my wanderlust, I’ll follow someone like photographer Rick Poon and for creative inspiration I love fashion designers like Duro Olowu and Reuben Reul.  Kim Drew @museummammy curates amazing work by black artists on her blog Black Contemporary Art.  My queen of kawai is Hana Kim @supahcute who introduced me to some amazing work by Martin Hsu (@martinhsuart) and for a shot of pure colorful joy, I love the photography of Kimberly Genevieve (@kimgenevieve).  Another great resource for collectors is One Art Nation.  They have a very informative video series on topics ranging from the art market to protecting your collection.  

Yoichi Kawamura,  Untitled , 2012

Yoichi Kawamura, Untitled, 2012

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

Collectors are largely driven by status, investment or love for the art.  Always stick with love and your instincts! One of the goals of my blog is to make art accessible for my readers because many close friends and family struggle with contemporary art and feel that it is intimidating.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Whether I’m in a museum, gallery, art fair or a studio I don’t try to make sense of everything I see.  I simply trust my gut and ask questions.  What are you drawn to?  What does the piece remind you of?  Does the work make you happy, sad, angry, confused? Allow yourself to go with those simple questions and keep asking why.  If I find myself thinking about a piece days after I’ve seen it, I know I am onto an artist or work that I want to learn about and explore more deeply.   

Learn more about Colony Little and Culture Shock Art
Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

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Collector Scoop: Joshua Farr

Collector Scoop is a series of interviews and features on emerging and established art collectors. Today, we had a conversation with Vermont Center for Photography gallery director Joshua Farr about how he got into collecting art.

Can you share your background with us and how you got into collecting art? Do you remember the first piece of art that you bought?

I feel almost as though I've sort of stumbled into collecting photographs. You could say it's a side-effect of my job!

Backing up a little bit... I attended the NH Institute of Art for my BFA in Photography, graduating in 2011. My time there certainly helped build a foundation of understanding of both the technical aspects of photography as well as my exposure to many historic and contemporary artists. Since 2011, I have been working as the Gallery Director at the Vermont Center for Photography in Brattleboro, VT. The last 5 years of working at VCP has really exposed me to a whole new world of arts management and curatorial endeavors. The process of jurying exhibitions and seeking new work for our gallery walls each month inevitably exposes me to a diverse array of work.

I can't recall which was the first piece I actually bought, but perhaps the one piece which most inspired me to start actively collecting work is a large portrait given to me by photographer Siri Kaur of a young female wrestler titled "Kristie". (*Photo attached*) This piece holds both a stunning glow of color, creating such a technically beautiful print, as well as a beautiful capture of her subject. The combination of the color, the subjects stark expression, and the simplicity of composition triggered an emotional response in me.

 

Siri Kaur ,  Kristie , 2007

Siri Kaur, Kristie, 2007

How do you think that collecting contributes to the artistic community?

Collecting artwork seems to me to be a win-win scenario on many levels. When an individual walks into a gallery and decides to purchase a piece they want to take home with them, they are not only supporting the artist financially, they are also supporting the gallery or institution that is hosting the exhibition (which, one would hope, would then support said gallery's ongoing efforts of sharing additional fine works in the future) - and of course, the buyer is also benefiting via a beautiful new piece to add to their home or place of business.

I happen to live in a town with boundless enthusiasm for the arts - which is crucial - but I often see artists struggle because I feel like there is not enough of a buyer-population. I often find myself grappling with the general principles of how many artists price their work simply because I see the time, energy, materials and thought put into the creation of ones work, which can give merit to some of the prices you see work listed at today - however, I feel like it is important for artwork to be accessible by individuals of all financial abilities and for the arts market to not become an elitist or exclusive community.

Do you feel that the notion of collecting art can be intimidating or inaccessible to the general public? If so, how do you think that barrier can be lowered?

As I mentioned in my previous response, I do feel like collecting artwork frequently comes across as intimidating or inaccessible to the general public! Particularly for younger individuals who many not have the means to walk into a gallery and buy a piece off the wall. I'm not sure I have any immediate suggestions or thoughts as to how to actively seek to lower that barrier, but I will say that the majority of folks I have chatted with or spent time with who consider themselves to be collectors have simply decided to make collecting a priority for themselves. I feel like many things as far as our day to day lifestyle and financial abilities come down to priorities. Would you rather purchase a $5 latte every morning for a year, or that that nearly $2000/yr and invest it in artwork? With that said, I do realize that no matter what your priorities are, there are still going to be financial limitations for some of us, myself included. I feel like this is where creative trade & bartering skills can come into play! I've done numerous print swaps with professors, friends, and other artists whose work I admire and I feel like this can be a very non-intimidating approach to getting the ball rolling. You don't (and shouldn't) need to be wealthy to be a collector.

What are your favorite resources for discovering new artists?

I would have to say that one of my largest sources of exposure to new artists has been the juried exhibitions we have hosted at the Vermont Center for Photography. Often times, these calls for entry bring together hundreds of photographers from around the globe, each submitting a sampling of their work for consideration for the exhibit - and even if their work is not selected overall for the show, I do keep a running list of photographers whose work I've come across who I would like to follow up with at some point in the future or at least make mental note to keep tabs on their work. I have been known to find myself tumbling through artists websites after seeing a sampling of their work as a submission for a juried show and wanting to see more. Invariably, their sites have links to other friends sites, and I very quickly get sucked deep into the corners of the world-wide web!

In addition to juried shows, there's always social media (Facebook & Instagram primarily). We are living in an increasingly digital era and it's nearly impossible for me to scroll 3'' through my Facebook or Instagram feed without stumbling upon either a new artist who I wasn't previously familiar with, or new work by someone whom I was already familiar with.

Joshua Farr's home  - image provided by Joshua Farr

Joshua Farr's home - image provided by Joshua Farr

Do you have any advice for emerging or aspiring art collectors?

I would simply encourage any aspiring collectors to collect what they love. Collect work that moves you emotionally. I can't always explain what it is about every single piece that I own that keeps me coming back to it, but I know that every single piece that I own has triggered some level of raw emotional response from me. Personally, I never acquire or hold onto work because of it's monetary value (or potential future value) - doing so would feel too removed for me - removed from the beauty of the image as simply that...an image - or idea, rather than as an object or possession.

Learn more about Joshua Farr and the Vermont Center for Photography.

Are you an emerging or established art collector and interested in being featured? Email Rachael at rachael@crusadeforart.org

 

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