Focus on Art – April 2011

Focus on Art

By Rob Mohr

The Art of Collecting Art

Great art collector Peggy Guggenheim wrote, “As a collector, I took advice from none but the best.” In sharp contrast, George Ortiz, noted collector of classical art imparted, “One can know too much and feel too little.” Ortiz understood successful artists convey emotion using metaphor, symbol and visual elements to reach into the depths of the human condition.

For astute collectors feeling, not analysis has proven to be the right response. A good collector is “like a mule that can smell fresh water ten miles away.” Significant art has a mysterious power that is sensed and not rationally explained. Collectors journey to an understanding which convinces them that they have found a pearl of great price – one that unveils a world and an emotional context that speak to the interior person, awaken hidden realities, uncover memories, and draw the viewer into the world of dreams through their analogical formation.

Bud Gallagher, local collector of lakeside-art, shared, “I come out of my bedroom in the morning and find a house full of old friends. Sometimes I pat the bottom of the woman painted by Isidro Xilotl hanging across from my door.” His wife Sandy added, “They make me smile – glad to be alive.” With backgrounds in the legal profession, the Gallaghers are uncharacteristically emotional when it comes to art. As we talked, Bud caressed an Eskimo stone carving of a bird as Sandy lovingly looked on. His smile conveyed the depth of his feelings. Being in their home was magical. (Rooster, by Victor Alcazar)

When Elizabeth and Marvin Kline opened their home to me, every surface was covered with art. The environment was alive – the rooms sparkled. The art had taken on a life of its own. “They give us a deep sense of satisfaction – and have become old friends. Marvin was quick to say that “Elizabeth has a good eye,” a reality evident in the collection that consist primarily of works done by university art professors. It was clear that both were sensitive to art’s emotional impact. (Painting by Peggy Thompson)

Collections frequently form cultural, stylistic, or historical groupings (Bud and Sandy had an extensive collection of indigenous art in Canada) but for most – as with music and books – personal enjoyment and enlightenment were their primary motivations. In contrast, many wealthy collectors fortuitously preserved art for humanity and eventually shared their collections with museums.

Dr. Albert Barns invested everything he had to collect 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, and 60 Matisses, but still understood that, “art history stifles both self-expression and appreciation of art.” Echoing this sentiment, Paul Gauguin earlier maintained, “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” Revolutionary works alone make collectors both emotionally and monetarily wealthy. Insightful collectors avoid works that mimic past genres, lack emotion, or that are decorative clichés.

Unnoticed, John and Dominique Menil went into debt to assemble an astounding collection of contemporary art , while for years Dorothy and Herbert Vogle spent half of their monthly income to establish a collection of minimalist pieces. Anthony d’Offay, a gallery owner, surprised the world when he donated his extensive collection valued at 125,000,000 GBP to establish “Art Rooms” throughout Great Britain. http://www.theartroom/ Paintings of women selected from Steven and Alexandra Cohen’s collection (exhibited by Sothebys) included twenty masterpieces ranging from Edvard Munch’s Madonna and Pablo Picasso’s Le Repos to Willem de Kooning’s Women III and Andy Warhol’s Turquoise Marilyn.

The art of collecting is ultimately a chase for the truly original and incomparable, one which requires a melding of the artist’s sensibilities and emotions with those of the collector, and, in a mystical way, seeks to overcome the restraints of time and social conditioning. As Bud Gallagher shared, “Collectors are always want-to-be artists.”


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