Contemporary art is a hot topic. Collecting contemporary art has never been more in vogue. Record-breaking prices and mobbed art fairs make the daily news. Starting a collection can seem daunting, however. Where to start?
By Kenise Barnes
Contemporary art is a hot topic. Collecting contemporary art has never been more in vogue. Record-breaking prices and mobbed art fairs make the daily news. Starting a collection can seem daunting, however. Where to start? Baffled by the hundreds of galleries in New York? Does the prospect of buying art online leave you cold? Does the History of Art survey course that you took in college leave you feeling underprepared for the task?
A trip to The Rye Arts Center is the perfect place to begin. “Hot Ticket,” curated by Margot Clark-Junkins, offers approachable artwork on paper by 19 contemporary artists. The very premise of the exhibition is aimed at making you a collector: “The whole point is to offer collectors access to new art of the highest caliber, at affordable prices” says the curator. And to this end she has assembled a beautiful selection of artwork by both established and emerging artists. Most collectors begin with purchases of $1,000 or less. When you walk into this show, tuck the reassuring thought in the back of your mind: All the artwork is priced between $160 and $1,100. Nice to know.
Printmaking is a favorite medium for artists because of the variety within the technique and the endless opportunities for experimentation. For collectors, prints have always been the most affordable collecting segment. If you are thinking that prints equal a large run of flat-looking art on paper, think again. The fine art prints in this exhibition are complex and unique. Many of the works are monoprints indicating that they are one-of-a-kind. “Hot Ticket” includes linocuts on Japanese mulberry paper by Rye’s Katherine Dufault, a carborundum aquatint with monoprint, collographs, and a photopolymer intaglio with viscosity monoprint. If this sounds complicated, it is. Art collecting is also an education. Learning about process and material is another exciting part of the journey.
Among the prints is work by Roxanne Faber Savage, a mid-career artist with an impressive CV. Farber has three large multi-media prints in the show, any of which would be a significant addition to a collection ($500-900 each). Rubbing shoulders with well-established printmakers such as Michael Thornton-Smith and Michael Torlen is SUNY Purchase student Mar Lopez. Lopez contributes a stunning mixed-media print (inkjet, screen print, and string). In addition to the alluring price tag of $900, the artwork comes with the privilege of watching young and evident talent blossom.
Three watercolor scrolls by Laurie Olinder anchor a large wall. Comprised of hundreds of individual marks, their soft-edged geometry pulses on a field of pristine white paper. The human scale of Olinder’s work (72 x 21 inches each) contributes to how a viewer approaches and interacts with the art. Another large work by Garrett Vandervoort, an MFA candidate, uses perspective to engage the viewer. In contrast, other paintings and drawings in the show are small and invite the viewer in for closer inspection. Three 9 x 12 inch ink drawings by Josette Urso are packed with information, intimate observations from the artist’s Brooklyn rooftop. Photographs by Nadia Valla are alluring. The artist focuses on the drama of nature in the singular images of vegetable forms on a velvety dark ground. French artist Capucine Bourcourt’s 10 x 10 inch pair of pattern studies is a wonderful find; her use of tone and value is masterful ($450 each).
Artists express themselves in what they make. Art collectors express themselves in what they collect. Finding connections in art with mood, subject or color are among the ways to build a deeply personal collection. For example, the mysterious tone of the inky brush strokes in Kellyann Monaghan’s work relate to the luxurious graphite surface of Sarah Cecil’s drawings. The color and pattern in Mardy Luppold’s work play wonderfully against paintings by Pamela Stoddard. Bridget Spaeth’s minimalist work is about form and space; a perfect launching point for an abstract art collection.
Art brings you pleasure in ownership: It transcends trends in decorating, it outlasts home furnishings, and it engages your intellect. The process of collecting is part of the pleasure, and it need not be intimidating. Clark-Junkins’ presentation of top-notch, unframed work on paper is straightforward and without pretense. As she aptly illustrates with this exhibition, an excellent art collection can be started on any budget and any salary.
The author has an eponymous gallery in Larchmont.
Photos by Melanie Cane