Deck the Walls: Art Collecting 2010 – Part 2

Yesterday, I read this great blog by local DC artist Sean Hennessey and thought about how establishing a relationship with an artist that you admire enhances the collection process. I am fortunate that 90% of my personal art collection are from artists that I know well or at least met.

So how does one establish a relationship with an artist that you admire? Well, if you are talking about someone who is internationally famous, lives in a totally different part of the country and has agents/galleries as their official spokespersons, chances are that it will be difficult to establish such a one-to-one relationship. BUT, if the artist you admire lives in your community, shows in local galleries and maintains a studio in the area, you can find a way to get to know him or her. First, do your research….where does this artist show their work on a regular basis? Do they have a website? A blog? A Facebook Fan page? When is their next exhibition? Do they have their own art studio or a part of a larger studio complex with other artists? Who collects their work? You can learn a lot from other collectors regarding the artist’s style as well as their personality.

Start an email dialogue with the artist. Introduce yourself, tell him or her how much you love their work and ask to be placed on their personal email list, Get on the email list of the galleries that represent them. Keep up with their news and if he or she receives a grant or is honored, send them a quick email or better yet, a note to congratulate them.

After you’ve done a little homework, get out and view the artist’s work at exhibitions where they are showing. It’s good to go to the opening receptions, however, I personallly find these events a bit crowded, noisy and almost impossible to really dialogue with the artist about their work. These events are good if you want to talk to other collectors but that is probably about it. If you are really serious about an artist’s work, my recommendation is to attend the Artist’s Talk, especially if it is an event seperate from the Opening Reception. These events are designed more for collectors to actually hear from the artist about their work directly. Because the “bling” factor is not there, these events are usually less crowded and the artist is more available to talk “art” with one-to-one. Another suggestion is to arrange studio visits directly with the artist, which is the best way to learn more about what they do and how they do it.

My relationships with the artists I collect began in various ways…naturally since I curate shows I have met and established relationships that way. Others were the result of being in shows as an artist with them. And just hanging out in the arts community provides opportunities to meet and establish friendships with a variety of visual artists.

Anyhoo, below are more works of art that I collected this year that I am truly thrilled about. With the exception of one, I have met the artists and proud to have them among my friends.

Untitled, mixed media on canvas, by Gwen Aqui-Brooks

On a studio visit to select artwork for the Millennium Arts Salon’s Ten Artists for Ten Years in September, I came across this piece, which I fell in love with instantly.  On one level, as an artist, I was fascinated with Gwen’s use of tissue paper and other media to achieve the effect of movement and energy behind the figures.  As a collector, I find Gwen’s multi-talented work intriguing .   She’s also just a delight to know (a simple hour studio visit ended up 3 hours of talking and laughing). 

Gwen Aqui Brooks  is  a native Washingtonian that has been a practicing artist for well over 30 years. Not only is she a gifted painter, she is also a talented  art quilter and a doll designer. Recently, she has futher developed her talents by producing a line of handbags called, “Razzle Dazzle”, and a line of broaches called, ” Wee Qui”. Finally, she is busy putting the final touches on children’s stories which she is planning to publish in the near future.   Gwendolyn is the product of the D.C. public school system. She received a BFA in art education from Howard University/MA in education with a concentration in guidance and counseling.

She and her husband recently had a duo exhibition at Parish Gallery in Georgetown.  Two of her quilts are part of the national traveling group exhibition entitled Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition, which will be on view at it’s final destination at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco next month.


“Connection”, silkscreen print, limited edition, by Billy Colbert

Billy Colbert is one of those rising DC artists that has a multi-generational appeal.  His unique style of art with a focus on photographic imagery, words, juxtaposed with mixed media and illustration seems to be popular with young “hipsters” and Boomers alike.  This super hot local artist is destined to be a force to be reckoned with for a long time. I was thrilled to be able to work with him as a part of the Ten Artists for Ten Years exhibition presented by the Millennium Arts Salon this Fall.   This provided me  an opportunity to not only to meet him in person, but also learn more about his work and specifically, his philosophy about art and the artworld in general.

The print above is one of 40 limited editions that Billy developed for the Millennium Arts Salon last year as part of a special collaboration with Pyramid Atlantic in Silver Spring, Maryland.  It was offered for members of MAS and I instantly fell in love with it and reserved one.  This year, I was able to finally add it to my collection.

(Far left wall) “Dressed for OP Success”, acrylic on canvas by Jessica L. Sims (photo by Jessica L. Sims)

During a business trip to Richmond, Virginia this summer, I discovered the work of a local artist by the name of Jessica Sims.  Jessica’s work was featured in an exhibition at a local organic coffee shop in downtown Richmond (see above) and I was intrigued by her work.  It also happened to be the last week  of the exhibition and as I continued to visit the coffee shop each day, I felt compelled to purchase the piece above. 

Jessica met me at the shop on the last day of the show (and my last day of my trip) and was very  gracious and open about her work and art career.  She most recently participated in a two person show at Artspace Gallery in Richmond, Virginia this fall. I think her unique abstracts  would be a great addition to anyone’s collection!

In my next post, I will  share my Wish List of art from selected artist  for  2011 (including some that “got away” from me this year) !