Sunday, July 4, 2021

Inspired to be Collectors

Starting where I left off in my last Missive: “Art could never be commercially explained. Why do people fall in love with a piece of art. Unfortunately, in recent times some think of it as investment or fill in the blanks like a stamp collection, but most people still buy for the thrill of discovery and love of the work.”

Since I closed my gallery in New York in 2014 I have called myself an art consultant. Not that I am averse to my former profession and, every once in a while, might sell something! Most of the time, however, I simply encourage people to love art and collecting. This Missive is a prime example.

I guess I should be charging for these consults but since I do not depend on them to eat, I often do it without charge. I believe the one advantage to growing old is all the experience and knowledge we have gained along the way.

Here in Santa Fe, I have a very small office in a small office building. You can imagine my surprise, or possibly not, when a very beautiful woman, a model, came in and sat down opposite me. She was just coming through Santa Fe with a group focused on its art and especially the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the artist’s home.

She had seen my name possibly from “Missives from the Art World” or the provenance in an auction catalog and mistakenly thought I had a gallery here. I had disabused her of that thought before she arrived, but she wanted to see me anyway. She had bought some paintings in a sale from a former clients of ours, Jayne and Charles Wrightsman. Charles died some time ago but Jayne lived on to 2019 as a powerful trustee of the Metropolitan Museum. She left most of the art in their homes to the Metropolitan but some of what remained, possibly pieces that were already duplicated in the Met, went to auction.

Jayne Wrightsman
(Cecil Beaton/Condé Nast, via Getty Images)

My visitor was a new collector who wanted to learn more about Mrs. Wrightsman and the art world. She asked a very intelligent question, which few ask “Can you recommend some books from which I could learn more.” I was thrilled, here was an individual who wanted to get involved in an area that she clearly had not been able to spend much time studying being very busy with her career.

Another great experience I have had in recent months was contact with a lawyer who is in my children’s age group, and lives in Valentine, Nebraska. Was there really a town by that name? Well, it seems it is very popular around the time of a holiday by the same name as people can send cards with the Valentine post office stamp on their envelopes. My new friend had found me on the web and was interested in the same collector as the model. He turned out to be seriously interested in French 18th century decorative arts, the field in which my gallery had been preeminent. I could not believe it. He was also intrigued by many other kinds of older art, and we began corresponding about the art world. He had particularly enjoyed my missives on the clients we have had over the years. So, to make what has become a very long story short, I have a pen pal and we correspond on a regular basis about art, auction sales and other related subjects.

I am going to end with a story I recently saw online about a couple who live in another small town, Minot, North Dakota. What sparked their interest in art in the first place I have no idea but a trip to a New York art fair sold them on collecting. In my opinion they did everything right learning from the most qualified dealers in vetted art fairs and going on from there. Read their story and let me know what you think.

Mentorship is the most rewarding endeavor whether you give it or take it. Not sure if you would think of it In that way, but after collecting Native American art for about 30 years there is so much that I do not fully comprehend about Native American life and culture, and I am so excited to have a few Native Americans in Santa Fe who are willing to teach me as we go along.

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