The Ever-Changing Art of Collecting
From high-profile collectors commissioning works for four digits-plus to $3 magnets at the indie market, art collecting remains a personally tinged endeavor that has grown into an everyday cultural imperative.
Motivated by a patchwork of psychological associations — the circumstances around an event, spheres of influence, or a fetish for a shape, color or time period — purchasers of original art reveal intimate details about their lives through their home collections. Their choices “give voice to completely hidden, previously unsuspected facets of their inner selves,” wrote 19th century author René Brimo in The Evolution of Taste in American Collecting.
“Art is a lifetime engagement,” says Susana Weymouth, director of the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts and Pass-a-Grille resident. Her nonprofit provides scholarships, promotes cultural engagement and acts a conduit from patrons to local artists. The Cuban-born, D.C.-bred Georgetown grad deals with art in every nook and cranny of her personal and professional life. She’s married to famed architect Yann Weymouth, the visionary behind the Dali Museum and the in-progress James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art (and brother of Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth) and her son, Wells, is an artist.
For TBBCA’s 2016 Impact Awards, Weymouth commissioned St. Petersburg-based artist Carrie Jadus to create works for and inspired by each of the award recipients, including Kent Lydecker, former director of the Museum of Fine Arts; prolific businessmen and arts patrons Mark Mahaffey and Bob Glaser; and internationally renowned installation artist Janet Echelman. Weymouth says that TBBCA has facilitated connections for Ya la’Ford, Katee Tully and other prominent and/or emerging local artists, helping them elevate their profile and sell art at those coveted four-figure-and-above price points. For her, collecting art conveys the joy of discovery she’s experienced her entire life, from her first date with Yann at a Rothko exhibition to her first gift for him — a painting by Eric Orr — to lunches with a young, school-age Wells in the courtyard of the Louvre.
“It’s never too late to start collecting and appreciating art and learn about art,” she says. “We’re still learning. We’re still discovering facets of our art. It’s still revealing itself to us. We live with the works like we do with living, breathing human beings, hoping to share them with others; that fulfillment, joy that develops.”
Jadus agrees that bridging art and local businesses has helped both artists and the community at large. “Many businesses benefit from having a strong arts community,” she says. “These businesses may also have the funds to procure local art as part as their collection and to help sustain the artists. The TBBCA is an organization that recognizes this symbiotic relationship and nourishes it within our community.”
Certainly, art collecting has evolved from a pastime affordable to the elite to one with availability to the masses, thanks to computer software advances, shop-local events, a broader spectrum of price points and social networking. But has this increased accessibility compromised the acquisition of art and profits for artists?
“Social media has allowed for a new direct relationship between artists and collectors to develop,” says Katherine Pill, Museum of Fine Art’s Curator of Contemporary Art. “This can be especially helpful for artists without gallery representation, and it can be less intimidating for new art purchasers.”
Fortune recently reported on results of a study commissioned by Invaluable, which investigated art commerce today and found that nearly a quarter (22.7 percent) of art buyers find new works of art via social media, which edged out museums (20 percent) and galleries (15.9 percent) as buyers’ primary source of discovery. Given the accessibility of online tools such as blogging interfaces, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, local DIY artists have a new weapon in their arsenal to thrive alongside artists with higher profiles and ateliers doing their bidding.
“In addition to viewing art as a good investment,” the Fortune story says, “most of the millennial art buyers surveyed (92 percent) cited ‘some kind of feeling; as a motivating factor to buy art.”
“The internet is definitely a good way to sell things,” says artist Gianna Pergamo, 28, and owner of Pergamo Paper Goods. “Most of us — or at least the people I know — buy most things that way. Before internet, TV and radio, people used art as a form of entertainment in their homes. I guess it’s not necessary for that purpose anymore. I think young people create collections of things they like — usually reproductions — as decoration and inspiration.”
Pergamo designs a wide range of decor and accessories for her prints which depict richly detailed human-animal hybrids in historical attire and settings.
Pergamo’s contemporary and delightfully twisted reworkings of vintage motifs can be enjoyed on a affordable variety of goods, available at the St. Pete Indie Market, the Moonlight Market and other local events — and online.
“I do use my own website and Etsy to sell prints, stickers and cards,” she adds. “I haven’t sold any originals online yet. Selling online requires a whole different set of skills and knowledge from selling in person, and I’m just starting to figure that out, so my online sales are slowly growing. I also use my website and Etsy as a showcase so get my work into stores in other states.”
Real-life social networking is proving to be effective in new ways, through hip market events popping up in cities across the U.S. In our metro, Rosey Williams, founder and organizer of the St. Pete Indie Market, has curated original art vendors for her markets, creators who bridge the gap between affordable and fine art with making edgy, youthful contemporary imagery that comes in a variety of formats.
“I think the market makes art extremely accessible,” Williams says. “Emerging artists are able to experiment and test the waters while established artists are able to diversify their product lines with smaller, more accessible pieces. Selling prints is the perfect example because it allows artists — such as April Seelbach and Brandon McLean — to expand their lines to magnets, coasters, journals, block prints, pins and stickers. We try and create a platform for street art to thrive, by connecting the artists to buyers and collectors that attend our markets.”
Exposure to local art at Pinellas happenings such as the Indie Market, Dunedin, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg’s art walks, the Pinellas Park and Gulfport art villages, and just walking around local downtown streets have made collectors of both art connoisseurs and everyday folks.
“Art collecting is changing for sure,” says Tracey Schnabel, St. Petersburg resident and owner of two Nathan Beard original works. “I think art in all of its forms is becoming more accessible to everyone. St. Petersburg is full of artists of all media. I think everyone has a chance to appreciate art even when we walk down the street and enjoy our murals. I feel art collecting is not only for the wealthy anymore. There are so many ways to support our local artists, but the most important way is to actually buy their work.”