What does it mean to be an “art collector”? In this series, we meet people from a range of industries and backgrounds that share a common thread – a love of collecting art. These are their Stories.
Tell us about yourself – what led you to complete a MA in Art History, and what are you up to now?
I grew up in a small town just outside of Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was very shy and decided I needed to leave my hometown in order to come out of my shell. I applied to various universities and began studying biogeography at Queen’s University in 2013. However, I was not feeling creatively fulfilled. I had taken a first-year art history course as an elective and ended up liking it more than my major. In second year, I took another art history course with the late Dr. Allison Sherman and knew instantly that this was the field I wanted to study. I took a particular interest in modern European art, especially the Viennese Secessionists. By the beginning of fourth year, I knew I needed to continue to pursue my passion and decided to apply to the master’s program in art history, ultimately deciding to stay at Queen’s! During my graduate degree, I visited New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Halifax, getting to see many of the works I was studying. I completed my thesis titled “Art’s Bad Boy: The Scandalization of Egon Schiele.” Today, I live with my partner Derek and our dachshund named Duchamp in a two-bedroom apartment in Kingston, Ontario. Like so many people my age, I am trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. A Ph.D. in art history? Maybe. Teacher’s College? Maybe. Find a good career job? Maybe.
Why is it important for you to have art in your space?
I collect art as a representation of who I am. I also collect art because it is a way of escaping everyday life. Life can feel incredibly mundane and in the political and social climate that we live in right now, everyday life can seem scary. When I get home, I can look at my walls and be drawn into the art I have collected, bringing back amazing memories. I can look to specific works and be transported to the times that I brought them into my collection. The memories attached to the works and the works themselves bring me joy and that is really important. I look at the works every day and they continue to inspire me and make me smile even on the worst of days.
What were your early days of art buying like? How did you first start your collection?
Confusing. Initially, I was buying cheap prints and reproductions from stores like HomeSense. I learned that for me this was not the collection I wanted. I didn’t want anything mass-produced. While this works for many people and there is nothing wrong with mass-produced reproductions, I was more interested in original art with personal and meaningful attachments. I knew of a studio downtown, so I went there with 60 dollars in hand and was disappointed when I found I couldn’t afford anything. So, I messaged one of my friends who is a practicing artist and she gave me the friends and family discount. She painted me three canvases in the styles of my favourite artists and my collection began. Since then I have collected art by friends as well as local, national, and international artists.
What are your favourite spots in Kingston?
Kingston is an amazing city. From September to April it is bustling with students and from May to August, it is a busy tourist town. My favourite spot in Kingston is Ontario Hall, a university building on the Queen’s University campus. The building houses the Department of Art History and Art Conservation and the Department of Art. Thus, the walls are often covered in art from the fine art students. It is really fun to see what young artists are creating and it gives you the opportunity to write down their names and contact them now or in the future to inquire about purchasing their work. I also love visiting the many art spots downtown. Studio 22 and Open Studios are two of my favourites.
How would you describe your art collection in 5 words?
Stimulating, diverse, meaningful, lively, and bold.
When seeking new art for your collection, what are key things you are looking for? Do you follow any “rules”?
When seeking new art for my collection I try to not have any premeditated ideas of what I want to purchase. I allow myself to visit a couple of galleries and websites to see what works are available. The only two things I consider regarding the works themselves are space and money. I make sure that I have room to house the work and I make sure that I do not spend more money than I have. If I cannot pay for the work upfront, I cannot pay for the work at all.
What medium are you most interested in right now?
I honestly love all mediums! I have tended to collected paintings the most in the past. However, lately I have been drawn to and collecting drawings! In the past month, I have purchased a pen and ink drawing and a drawing made of crayons (proof that art doesn’t need to be a grandiose oil painting in order to enter your collection)!
How do you build confidence in feeling comfortable within the art world?
This is a question that I still ask myself. I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in art history, I have curated an art exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, I am working to publish a collection of essays with two of my peers, and I am actively involved in many art circles. I should be comfortable in the art world based on how immersed I am in it. Yet, I am not always comfortable. I think much of this discomfort comes from the fact that the art world is always changing. Just when you become confident in what you know, suddenly the focus is on something new. To build confidence ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask why a bicycle wheel sticking out of a stool or an upside-down signed urinal (see Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel” and “Fountain”) are considered fine art. If you do not ask questions you will not learn about the uniqueness of the art world and you will never feel comfortable. Not knowing may also make you hate works or movements. For example, I love Duchamp’s work (I mean my dog is named after him after all) but many people do not, and that hate can be translated into discomfort, but the hate may stem from a misunderstanding.
About how many works do you have in your collection? Any favourites?
Currently, I have a total of 47 works in my collection. As of right now, 39 of the 47 works are on display in my apartment. If I had to pick a favourite, I would choose “Autofellatio” by Lexie Braden. Lexie is a practicing artist and was one of the students I taught during my first year as a Teaching Assistant! The work is intriguing and holds a special place in my collection. I also love “Sculpture I” by Danuta Sierhuis and “Swimming Pool Boys” by Walter Segers.
What advice would you give new art collectors?
I have four pieces of advice for new art collectors. The first is to research where you are buying your art from. Make sure that the gallery, website, or studio is paying the artist fairly (i.e. not taking a large portion of the sale price as a service fee). The second is to research the artist. Make sure that the artists’ values line up with yours. Often artists will provide an artist’s statement that will tell you all that you need to know! The third is to not listen to the age-old saying that “art is an investment.” While this can be true, try not to purchase art just because it could be worth a lot one day. Buy art because you love it and want to have it displayed in your home! The last piece of advice is to not be too disappointed if you cannot find art that you like and can afford. Like I said, I found nothing for $60.00 when I was first buying art. However, today I have original works in my collection that only cost me $10.00. There is so much art out there priced at so many different price points. Keep looking until you find something you love in your price range!
Do you want to be featured? Join Partial as an artist and e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to share your work.