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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: 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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Artsicle = Netflix for Art = *BRILLIANT*

Let’s give another round of applause for innovation and making art accessible. I love having my socks knocked off my new ideas. As highlighted in this New York Times article, Artsicle rents affordable art to subscribers for a monthly fee. People can try out a piece, exchange it for another, or buy it if they fall in love.

I recently brought up a similar idea to implement locally through Atlanta galleries. My idea (which I hope happens) is to offer a selection of pieces to a local young collectors’ club, and members could try out a piece in their home for a set period of time. If they liked it they could buy it, or they could trade it for something new.

This concept allows people to live with art for a while. I often say that people who are new to buying art are not likely to make an impulse art purchase. They are not confident enough in their taste and are not sure what they like. Giving someone an opportunity to try a piece out lets them experience all of the awesomeness that art can bring to their home and their life, and determine if the piece they loved two months ago still has that pull for them.

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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One Hit Wonders and Art

On Monday I moderated a panel on collecting, hosted by WonderRoot and aimed toward the Atlanta business community. The panelists included a curator, artist and collector (and everyone was a bit of all three, to be honest), and it was really interesting to hear about this passion of mine – building collectors and getting people excited about art – from different perspectives. For the most part we all agreed on the basics and built on each other’s comments, but there was one topic that caused a split between the panelists. The question was this: How important is it to like an artist’s entire body of work when deciding whether or not to buy a piece of art?

I say, unapologetically, very important. This is how I see it – You are becoming that artist’s collector. You are investing in their career and taking an interest in their future. I feel there is so much amazing art out there, why settle for a piece that you like, but you don’t respect the rest of the collection? I want to look at something on my wall and feel good about the image and the talent and consistency of the artist I am supporting.

I would not dissuade anyone from buying art. If you love something, and it speaks to you, and you just have to have it – then by all means. But all things being equal, if you love horses and you see a horse image that you are really drawn to, but then look at the rest of the artist’s work and think it is crap – keep looking. Horses abound in art. You can have it all.

To me, buying a piece and then realizing that the artist is not someone you find talented or care to support is like putting the bumper sticker of a one-hit-wonder band on your car before you buy the album. One of the other panelists argued that although Pure Prairie League is a one-hit wonder, “Amie” is still a fabulous song. I can’t argue with that, and so I agree there is room here to consider other factors (if the piece is not that expensive, has a quality that just hits you a certain way, etc), but as a general rule I would rather have an R.E.M. bumper sticker than Chumbawumba.

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How A Collector Was Born: Michael Werner

Michael Werner, the renowned art dealer and collector, recently gifted 130 pieces of art from his collection to the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. In reading this article on artdaily.org, I was struck by the explanation he gave for choosing this institution for the gift. He described a visit to this museum early on in his career to see an exhibit that had a profound emotional impact on him. He said, “Although I had been working in a gallery for a few years at that point, I had not really been touched by art in a profound sense. The effect of this exhibition constituted my real entrance into the art world and it defined my way. I am not a religious man but it was like a religious conversion.”

If I have said it once, I have said in one hundred million times – it’s about having an emotional connection to the work. Bam. You’re hooked.

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Wallace Foundation: The Hearting Continues

You read all about my love for Wallace Foundation here, and thought – wow! Give me more of that! Well, I listened. As I mentioned before, a major tenant of the Wallace study was the need for arts education. Research shows that education level is the most important characteristic in predicting arts participation. “On average, the more education one has, the more one values the arts, supports government funding for arts institutions, supports school arts programs, and engages in a wide variety of creative activities (DiMaggio and Useem, 1980).” (Wallace study, p. 18)

Looking beyond general education level, arts learning in particular and early education about and exposure to the arts strongly influence the level of adult participation in arts activities. To fully understand and appreciate individual works of art, it is often necessary to have some sort of context in which to view it – factual knowledge about arts creation or the historical evolution of artistic practice. Yes, we should focus on educating young children so they may grow up to be arts patrons and collectors. But what about the generation – my generation – of relatively ignorant would-be arts enthusiasts? Where do we fit in?

The lack of background knowledge is a huge perceptual barrier we face to making an attempt to be involved with art. Educate us, so we can nurture our children’s art education. We are ripe for the picking.

Here comes the big idea. Brace yourself. Let’s develop a hands-on, experiential, arts survey curriculum that could be replicated from city to city. (And by “let’s”, I’m thinking “you”, because I have a bus to drive.) A small group of people would sign up for a year-long class that met twice per month and was led by a local art curator or educator. One session per month would focus on the history and overview of a particular medium, and the other session would involve a field-trip to experience that medium, supplemented by a guided tour, discussion, etc. by a local expert/curator/artist. Throughout the year, participants would learn about and experience all types of art, from modern dance to sculpture. Having this familiarity would lower the perceptual barrier to entry for experiencing other arts events and give participants a taste for a wide variety of cultural experiences – a taste that could develop into a passion.

According to the study, “relevant factual knowledge is essential to understanding and appreciating art forms and specific works of art” (Wallace Study, p. 22), and this knowledge can help people approach art with more confidence and insight, leading to a greater connection to and understanding of the piece. Also, having a group to discuss individual works of art and performances with provides a community and a sounding board for impressions and opinions.

A potential criticism would be that this course would appeal to people already interested in the arts, but I feel that is a solid start. It’s broadening audiences (increasing participation by those who already are inclined to do so) more than diversifying audiences, but hopefully one would lead to the other. Although I know a good bit about photography, I know virtually nothing about opera. I would love to participate in this course, and maybe opera would really appeal to me. Then I would start attending performances and drag along some friends, who may then become intrigued. It’s a slow build. But it’s important.

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Collecting Week: Why Photography Is a Good First Choice

Photography is the perfect medium to appeal to the would-be collector. It is contemporary, and it is accessible (both in price and in technique). We understand photography. We know how it is done, and we appreciate its fresh, modern, and visually stimulating takes on our world. We can look at an image and be amazed that someone was able to use a camera – a piece of equipment we all own and use – to create something that moves us so powerfully. Because photography is so young in the spectrum of the arts, many legends are still alive. We are able to meet them, hear them lecture, and attend exhibits of their work. And just below the “legend” level, there are many well-known fine art photographers who are interested in connecting with the people who collect their work. They are out in the world and easy to follow and communicate with. It is like being able to email the lead singer of your favorite band – and have them write back and want to meet up for coffee.

Most photography is also affordable. A painting or sculpture by a mid-career artist would be significantly more expensive than a photograph by a photographer with the same level of recognition and exposure. It is possible to really make a significant investment at a reasonable price point and watch the value of your work grow.

You can use the “good investment” angle to help you take the purchasing plunge, but at the end of the day, you should buy what you love. You should buy a photograph that makes you feel something. You do not have to be able to identify that something or even be able to articulate what appeals to you. You just have to love it.

Trust your gut. There are no wrong choices. And if you are working with a gallery with a strong reputation, you cannot go wrong.

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Collecting Week: Where to Start?

You are going to do it. You are now looking at your walls and are embarrassed to have bought that large flower canvas that is pretty but insignificant to you in every other way. But what to do now? Look at art. Buy what you love and learn why you love it. You do not need an art history degree to confidently put together a thoughtful and tasteful art collection.

The more art you see, the better understanding you will have of what you are drawn to and why. If you are concentrating on photography, which is a great and affordable medium for a first time art collector, there is a huge range of subject and style. Do you like landscape, portrait, documentary? Are you drawn to photographs with a lovely, ethereal quality, or do you prefer more of a straight representation of a subject?

Working with a gallery that has a strong reputation for showing quality work is a great first step to helping you figure out your likes and dislikes and will serve you well throughout your collecting career. The gallery owner/director is your go-to expert who can help you recognize connections between the pieces you are drawn to and suggest other photographers to explore. They can explain the background, context and significance of a particular image to give you the opportunity to create a deeper connection to the photograph.

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Collecting Week: Demystifying the Terminology

People often say that to attract a younger generation of art enthusiasts, the term “collector” needs to be dropped. It is too stuffy. It makes people think of a crusty old man, smoking a pipe, dripping in money. Not so. Anyone can be a collector. Being a collector means you buy original art and acquire pieces in a thoughtful way. It has nothing to do with the price-tag or the pedigree. It is all about intention, connection, inspiration.

Collecting is cool. It is amazing, in fact. Over time you pull together pieces from all different places and they each speak to you in a different way. From an expensive photograph you fell in love with and could not stop thinking about to odd flea market finds that just touched you, you build a group of pieces that become a reflection of who you are.

Be a collector and be proud.

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Collecting Week: The State of Things

When our parents or grandparents wanted to put art on their walls, they had a few options. They could buy from an artist directly, they could buy from a gallery, or they could patch together an assortment of family photographs, paintings from friends and relatives, and found or folk art. If someone today wants to put art on their walls, the options are nearly limitless. The accessibility of home décor is astounding. From websites to Target and IKEA to home furnishing stores, you can buy mass-produced pieces masquerading as art at every turn. You do not have to think much about having an emotional connection, supporting artists, or building a meaningful and potentially valuable art collection. Art is presented as décor. You find it next to the throw pillows and picture frames. You buy it for a splash of color and to make a room cozy. Art is an afterthought.

This is a sad state of affairs that, if continued, will not end well for artists trying to make significant contributions to the art world. If value is not placed on originality, if we do not cherish the unique and authentic, we will let art fail.

But all hope is not lost. The generations of today have an unprecedented curiosity and desire for original experiences. We care about the things in our world. We are foodies and we take classes to learn about wine. Our coffee needs to be roasted in a particular way and freshly ground moments before brewing. We want to be the first of our friends to know about the next new thing. Let’s make that next new thing art.

Real art. Original art. Art that is one of a kind or in a limited edition (500 is not limited. . . be one of a few to own something) and signed by the artist.

If you stopped someone who was about to buy a mass-produced canvas art piece at Z Gallery or Urban Outfitters and said, “Wouldn’t you rather spend the same money and buy something original? Wouldn’t you rather find something that you connected with and knew the story of? Wouldn’t you like to buy a piece of art that has value, both monetarily and to you personally?” most people would stop and say that yes, of course they would. They just had not thought about it like that before.

So think about it. You do not need to have thousands of dollars in your art budget or even hundreds. Being a collector just means buying an original piece and being thoughtful about that choice. There are a hundred million pieces of art that will match your throw pillows – buy one that matters to you.

 

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Angel Investment

Hilary Harkness wrote an article for the Huffington Post called “Why You Should Collect Art by Emerging Artists” that of course, got my attention. She talks about her experience with her first art purchase and how as a struggling artist herself, buying a piece from an unknown artist was in her price range at the time, but still engages her today. She describes collecting works by emerging artists as a form of angel investing – “a way to identify and nurture talent at its earliest stages”. I find it interesting to think of collecting in this altruistic way, because it may add an additional incentive for making that step to support an artist without an established reputation.

But what you receive is so much more than what you give. You give money and support, but in return you get something beautiful. You get something that began with imagination and talent and ends with your life-long emotional connection.

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