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Kathleen Robbins

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Collecting Stories Part 6: To Theme or Not to Theme?

This series chronicles my (and I hope soon others') journey to becoming an art collector, with the goal of demystifying the whole concept of collecting. As you will see, I do not have an art history background, and I do not have Picassos covering my walls. There are just pieces of art that I love, and I buy them. That is collecting. See? Not so scary.

Previous installments in this series discussed how I started buying art, some embarrassing early purchases, how I learned about editioning, and building relationships with the artists I collect. In this post, I'd like to talk about themes in art collections. Many collectors I know have themes they collect within as a way to narrow their focus - photographs of musicians, black and white street photography, still lifes. . . anything really. Some may focus on a very specific time range and origin (1890-1920 American paintings, for example). But can you collect without a theme?

Hells yes. My theme has been the "everything I love" theme. And it is diverse, because my tastes range from straight documentary-style portraits to dreamy, etherial images to just about anything that makes me feel something. However, over time I have realized there are some types of images I am drawn to over and over again. My former gallery manager once pointed out my over-the-top affinity for forlorn women and birds. I also love beds and windows and intense portraits, often of rough-around-the-edges men. I don't only collect these things, I just tend to be drawn to them. I do have a bird room though (after my husband said, "can you at least put all of that bird sh*t in one place?").

an recent image of a wall in my bird room (rearranged constantly),   featuring Joshua Meier , Rachel Chabot, Tristan Spinski, Christian Bradley West, Angela Bacon Kidwell (x2), Kathleen Robbins, John Bohannon,   not pictured: Keith Carter, Randi Lynn Beach

an recent image of a wall in my bird room (rearranged constantly), featuring Joshua Meier , Rachel Chabot, Tristan Spinski, Christian Bradley West, Angela Bacon Kidwell (x2), Kathleen Robbins, John Bohannon, not pictured: Keith Carter, Randi Lynn Beach

I love white on white or mostly white images, and I recently realized I had quite a few of these and/or snow photographs. Recognizing a mini-theme, I decided to hang several of them together, similar to my bird room.

clockwise from top left: Ben Huff, Sarah Moore, Sarah Moore, Daniel Coburn, Maureen Drennan (waiting on another piece. . .)

clockwise from top left: Ben Huff, Sarah Moore, Sarah Moore, Daniel Coburn, Maureen Drennan (waiting on another piece. . .)

And then when I purchased my beloved David Hilliard, Anna Walker Skillman (owner of Jackson Fine Art) suggested I hang other photos with kids in them (seems I had a bunch of those too) on the wall with it.

counter-clockwise from the top left: Brandon Thibodeaux, Mark Steinmetz, Daniel Coburn, Daniel Coburn, Joshua Meier, Mark Steinmetz, David Hilliard

counter-clockwise from the top left: Brandon Thibodeaux, Mark Steinmetz, Daniel Coburn, Daniel Coburn, Joshua Meier, Mark Steinmetz, David Hilliard

So don't get hung up on rules. Just buy what you love!

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Linking Art Purchases to Special Occasions

Last week I held another Art Circle, a program I love where a small group of people get together to learn about fine art photography and collecting in a laid back and fun way. One of the things that came up in our conversation was how a lot of people like to buy art on vacation, to remind them of a really great trip or experience.  I have thought about this a lot over the years, because Atlanta is not a tourist town, and we do not benefit from that type of art buying.  Also because, even though I buy art seemingly around the clock, my husband and I do tend to buy more when we are away.  We even bought a photograph at the AIPAD fair in New York. . . from a gallery based in Atlanta.  We were having a great time in the city, and money somehow feels easier to part with on vacation.

I've been wondering, how can we make art buying its own memorable experience?  And what non-traveling occasions could be marked by the purchase of a special piece of art?

Last year a couple approached me with an idea.  They were engaged, and they wanted to register for a photograph. Guests to the wedding would be able to give them money to go toward the purchase of a piece of art they selected. From there, they plan to purchase a new piece every year to mark their anniversary.

So how can we get more people to register for art or think about buying art to mark a special occasion or anniversary?  Websites where you can purchase original art online should consider adding a registry function.  Galleries - offer this service to your collectors.  Let's do this!

Looking for help creating your own innovative ideas to connect new audiences to your work?  That's what Crusade for Art is all about.  Read more here.

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