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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: 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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Isn't Everyone a Collector?

Why is "collector" such an intimidating label?  We all collect things, whether it's baseball cards or records or postage stamps.  We have hundreds if not thousands of songs in our itunes libraries, and we have issues of National Geographic going back for years.  But when I ask someone if they are an art collector, they almost always say no - whether they have one or two things on their wall that they picked up at an art festival or on a trip, or if they have several pieces of art that they have carefully and methodically amassed.  It seems the only people willing to take on the "art collector" label are those that feel properly educated about art and consider themselves something of an expert.  Why is this? An article in Art+Auction magazine (and republished on artinfo.com) described how a long-time art collector became interested in vernacular photography (snapshots by every day folks, some dating back to the 1890s, purchased at flea markets and on ebay) and has over 35,000 images.  This seems like a meeting in the middle between baseball cards and high-end fine art, which just goes to show, collecting is collecting.  Whatever peaks your interest - whether it is a snapshot or a Picasso - the impulse is to surround yourself with things you love.  So go ahead, be a collector.

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