by Rome Celli
Reprinted with permission from Art House Press | Copyright 2018
There are probably as many ways to collect art as there are collectors. Collectors bring unique goals, methodologies, biases, predilections, responses, backgrounds and budgets to their endeavor. Some art collectors are mindful while others end up with a collection more‐or‐less by accident. Many collectors discover the theme(s) in their collection long after they’ve begun buying art. Most collectors – including me – buy the work so they can enjoy it in their most intimate space: home. Only one of the people I interviewed for this article told me they think of themselves as art collectors even though all have purchased countless works of art over time. I wasn’t surprised. Most people who own art don’t self‐identify as collectors. They told me they buy art for personal reasons as though actual collectors are motivated strictly by calculated financial, intellectual, professional or academic interests. This isn’t surprising either. Not many mere mortals can live up to the stereotypical image of Art Collector.
When the average person thinks of collector‐types they conjure one or more of the classic caricatures: Those select few with money‐to‐burn piling up expensive art objects alongside other extravagant hobbies; investors with hermitically sealed storehouses of art treasures ready to cash in or pay out when the auction gavel falls; obsessive art hunters armed with tightly clenched lists of works prized for their incremental contribution to a body of related collected works; social climbers who slather their lives with high profile artworks to impress. Put another way - most people don’t think they own enough art, spend enough on art or purchase art for the right reasons to be considered a REAL collector. However, if you ask me, whether or not you are willing to admit it, if you own original artwork, you are a collector in some form or fashion.
I have collected for more than thirty years. The objects in my collection were chosen because they stimulate, challenge or provoke me. They engage my aesthetic sensibilities. They evoke meaningful memories and deep emotions. Most also bring to mind my relationship with the artist. I believe the objects I own have something important to say that will be revealed over a lifetime.
Artwork may be found throughout my home and office. Pieces are placed on horizontal and vertical surfaces where I can experience them. Some pieces are set carefully aside nearby so that they may be rotated into view when I’m ready to re‐engage, while others are taken out of rotation when other works call. A work of art rarely remains in one spot for long. When I move a work – even from one area to another in the same room ‐ it comes to life again and the relationship is refreshed. These works are not decorations; they are part of my everyday existence.
I have many rules around collecting, too many to chronicle in detail here. I’ll share one rule: I never buy a work of art I see for the first time unless I am familiar with the artist and I have seen their work over time. I process slowly. It takes time for me to build a relationship with the work; to find out if it resonates. I usually like to meet the artist in person at their studio or wherever their work is on display so I can get a sense of the artist’s methods and ideas. (Sadly, some artists don’t respond to my inquiry and that makes it hard for me to feel comfortable purchasing a work of art.) In addition, I’ll also do some research. If the work stays with me, I’ll go back to see it at least one more time before I make a final decision. Occasionally, I find myself drawn to the artist’s vision, but I’m not ready to buy – for whatever reason. Then the artist goes on my wish list. The process from first contact to completing a purchase can take anywhere from a few days to a few years. On the other hand, when I know the artist and I am familiar with their work I can move quickly.
If you are an artist reading this article, I encourage you to respond promptly to all inquiries. Don’t be afraid to engage non‐artists. Invite them into your world. Share your ideas and your passion freely. You don’t have to “sell” the work. The more people who know about you and your work, the more they will appreciate it. Appreciation for your work will lead to sales. Don’t be discouraged along the way. Each inquiry, each interaction, is a new opportunity.
For the past several weeks – at the request of this magazine ‐ I’ve talked to other art collectors about their collections, why they collect and how they collect. I also asked them if they had any advice for emerging collectors. The following is what I learned.
Amanda Chestnut is decisive.
She doesn’t have to linger long in an exhibition before she knows which pieces rise above the others. She has a trained eye resulting from advanced degrees including an MFA from the Visual Studies Workshop. Beyond her formal education, she has on‐the‐ground experience as an arts administrator and years as a practicing artist – added together, you get a well trained eye. Her professional life and her private life are suffused with art. It’s always on her mind. She doesn’t have to work too hard to find opportunities to experience art let alone to be exposed to art buying opportunities. Her art acquisition budget is modest and her wall space is limited, so new pieces have to be pretty strong to make it into her collection.
Amanda grew up in Binghamton, New York ‐ about 60 miles south east of Rochester where she currently lives and works. She’s of African and European descent. Hang around her long enough and you’ll probably hear her refer to herself as a “little Italian grandma.” She has a big welcoming smile and a compelling personality. She speaks with confidence and conviction. It’s easy to be drawn into a deep and often intellectual conversation with her.
It’s rare for Amanda to pro‐actively seek out new work for her collection. She tends to see exhibitions during the normal course of her life. When she sees a particularly strong work by an artist she respects that is priced in her range she’ll take out her wallet. On occasion she’ll trade works with another artist. A personal connection to the artist is nice but it’s not required. The work needs to stand on its own and because space in her home is so limited, it must be “wall worthy”.
Her collection doesn’t have a particular focus in one area or another, one medium or another or one style or another. When a new work comes into her collection it isn’t usually installed right away. Once a work is hung it tends to stay where she puts it. So, she’s careful before she starts measuring and hammering. Amanda’s advice to emerging collectors: Trust your judgement. Don’t buy a piece of art because you expect it to go up in value. Buy art because you are engaged by the work, because you are provoked by the work and because you are inspired by the work. If you do this, you will never regret your decision.
Jennifer Miglioratti is impulsive.
Jen’s been plugged into the Rochester music and art scene for decades buying work off the walls of clubs, galleries and arts organizations. Certain works will grab her attention and she buys based on impact and instinct. She doesn’t so much acquire a work of art as pounce on it. Jen is a native Rochesterian and grew up in the southeast area of the city near University Avenue. Educated under the watchful eyes of nuns through high school, she studied graphic arts and communications in college. She currently leads the communications department of a prominent real estate development company, LeChase Construction, Inc. Jen is a single mom working in a male dominated environment. She thrives because she has a take charge personality. She works with photographers, writers, graphic artists, and performers. In addition, Jen is responsible for choosing the artwork displayed at the LeChase Construction offices. Making sound, effective and creative decisions is an everyday occurrence for her.
We met recently at Fifth Frame Brewing Company in downtown Rochester on St. Paul Street at just about the same coordinates as a former bar called Club Zero where we crossed paths thirty years earlier. Jen is an animated conversationalist and she engages with a forward momentum that melts time. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her as she bobbed and weaved her way through the answers to my questions. While her art acquisition budget isn’t as restrictive as some, like most people the size and configuration of her living space imposes a harsh discipline on her collecting inclinations. Normally once a work is installed in her house it stays put. However, she recently moved into a new home and that has given her the opportunity to rethink and then rehang her collection. In the process, she identified some prime display space for new acquisitions. She’s in the hunt!
Jen’s collection includes paintings, weavings, drawings, photography, prints, as well as functional and fine art sculpture. Her aesthetic impulses lead the way. Jen has at least one hard and fast rule about buying art that she was willing to share, “I don’t negotiate the price of artwork with artists. I can either afford the work or I can’t.”
Jennifer’s advice to emerging collectors: Instead of buying impulsively (like me) take your time. Think deeply and look at a lot of art before you buy. Enjoy the process of finding the right artwork for your wall, your collection and your life.
Jeana Bonacci‐Roth Is emotional.
For Jeana collecting is all about the emotional connection she feels to the work and to the maker. It can take her awhile before she purchases a new work of art. She needs some time to allow the work to seep into her – to get into her heart and under her skin. If she doesn’t know the artist, she’ll reach out to the artist, whether the artist is local or not. However, if the work or the artist is local, she does give it special attention. When she buys a piece of art it’s a lifetime commitment.
Jeana is a graduate of SUNY Purchase with a master’s degree in literature. She’s married to a restaurateur, an artist and a collector in his own right, John Roth. In recent years she has been exploring her interests and skills in the visual arts realm by making and collecting art. The very first public exhibition of her own artwork was this past fall at Lovin’ Cup in Henrietta near the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Jeana has collected aggressively for the past three years or so. During that time she has accumulated quite a bit of art, buying mostly from artists directly. She does not feel at all constrained by the available wall and floor space in her home. If she feels the emotional connection, she buys. It is not her goal to accumulate some particular number or type of artworks. Her collection is growing and happening organically; she loves that fact.
The work in her collection is hung salon style: floor‐to‐ceiling. She has a fair amount of work stored around the house as well, waiting for her to choose the best spot for its display. It can take her a fair amount of time to choose the right place to hang work. How does she decide? She considers the relationship between the individual piece and the available spaces, the surrounding works, the purpose of the space, the light in the space and so on. Once the work is hung it’s there for good unless, heaven forbid, she moves.
Jeana’s advice to emerging collectors: Allow yourself the space and time to get to know a work of art before you buy it. Don’t be afraid to talk to the artist or visit the artist’s studio. If you’re in a gallery and the artist isn’t available, talk to the gallerist. Give yourself permission to buy art. You’ll love it!
Rebecca Rafferty is sentient.
To be more accurate Rebecca is acutely sentient and profoundly verbal. She is an art critic as well as the Arts & Entertainment editor at City Newspaper in Rochester, New York. One would expect these traits from a professional art critic and editor. Still, when in the presence of Rebecca discussing art and Collecting, it was easy (for me) to become a bit light‐headed. I was out of my depth and I admit I’m a fan ‐ a huge fan ‐ of her writing. I nearly swooned.
Rebecca was raised in Rochester. Her mom, Bev Rafferty, is a well‐known painter who has exhibited extensively in the region. Rebecca graduated from Nazareth College. She was taught by the likes of Ron Netsky, Kathy Calderwood and Maureen Brilla among other notable and accomplished artist‐educators. She reached an academic crossroads at one point and chose a path focused more on writing about art than making art. Yet, she is an avid maker as well as a gifted writer. Some of the work in her collection comes from trades and co‐commissions with other artists.
Although by her own admission Rebecca experiences darkness on occasion, there was a playful sparkle in her eyes when we sat across each other in front of Cure restaurant at the Rochester Public Market. She thinks of herself as a “punk‐rock‐beer‐and‐whiskey” sort of person. This is apparent in her general affect which I see as an updated mid‐1960s SDS/Velvet Underground vibe. The pall itself is only vaguely present in the way her cigarette hangs from her mouth and it dissipates quickly whenever her trademark impish smile emerges.
Rebecca has what she describes as a fairly large collection of art. Multiple interests drive her collection. She is drawn to work that depicts wolves or other wild animals – particularly when the animals engage or are otherwise in conflict with humans. She is also drawn to mysteries of the moon and dark fantasies akin to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. Her political interests are never far removed from her mind or her collection. So, it’s not surprising to find out that a good bit of the work she collects is either explicitly or implicitly political. The spirit of David Bowie is also a presence in her collection. Like Jeana, she hangs the work salon style in her home. Lately, she’s looking forward to an upcoming move that will give her the chance to reassess and then reinstall her collection.
Rebecca’s advice to emerging collectors: Art is not a frill. It’s an essential element of the human experience. Owning art – living with art – will enrich your life.
Rome Celli is a co‐organizer of RochesterArtCollectors.org along with Sarah Webb.
Over the course of this year a number of venues that exhibit and sell art opened while others closed. Some venues went through a metamorphosis of one sort or another in 2018. Here are the highlights.
This article was revised and updated on Saturday, December 26, 2018 at 11:16 am EST.
Rochester: Makers Gallery is in transition.
Over the past several years artist and gallerist, Alex Gruttadaro, developed one of the more exciting and successful hybrid commercial art galleries in our area on the third floor of 34 Elton Street in Rochester. In addition to running the gallery he also ran a coffee bar and an event venue out of the same space. Sales in the gallery were strong. His event business was so good he suspended the coffee bar business to make more room in the calendar for events.
His business successes, however, came at a price. According to Alex, the demands of running an active gallery, coffee bar and event space consumed all of his time leaving very little for his own creative and personal pursuits. As a result, at least for the time being, Alex has recently returned the Makers commercial gallery space back into his private art studio.
Alex has not ruled out re-imagining a new sort of gallery informed by his experiences with Makers or even re-launching Makers Gallery. While a new gallery may appear before too long it won't be before Alex has had a chance to immerse himself in his art and his family. Stay tuned!
Rochester: RIT City Art Space is open.
RIT's new City Art Space, at 280 Main Street (in the former Sibley's department store building), opened with a large private celebration on Thursday, December 10th. The new gallery opened to the public on Friday in time to take advantage of the December "First Friday" exposure.
City Art Space is a significant upgrade in exhibition space combined with a dramatic re-branding as compared to prior iterations of RIT's "Gallery R" spaces - first on Park Avenue and then on College Avenue near the Memorial Art Gallery. The new gallery has large windows that look out on Rochester's famous Liberty Pole sculpture, designed by James Johnson, as well as main street giving the space a big city feel.
According to their press release, City Art Space is a premier exhibition venue for RIT students, faculty, alumni and more. It is also a site for experiential learning for students across RIT’s College of Art and Design and beyond. The gallery will serve as a preeminent venue for the College Art and Design, which houses six schools: Art, American Crafts, Design, Film & Animation, Media Sciences, and Photographic Arts & Sciences. RIT faculty, staff and students from all six schools contribute their time and talent to sustain the gallery’s exhibition programming, and students gain valuable experience working in a professional gallery setting.
City Art Space is open to the public during regular hours. Although I didn't see any notices to this effect, if City Art Space follows Gallery R's policies, there will be no admission fee to get into the gallery. As in the past much of the work shown in the gallery will be offered for sale.
Rochester: 1975 Gallery has re-emerged in a new format.
After a three year hiatus 1975 Gallery re-emerged in pop-up form in the fall of 2018 with a sizable Halloween themed group show titled "Dearly Departed". Both the location on South Avenue next to Surface Salon and the theme were carefully chosen to reflect back on the gallery's roots. 2018 marked ten years since gallerist, Erich Lehman, launched 1975 as a pop-up inside Surface on the opposite side of South Avenue from this year's exhibition. 1975 Gallery gave up their bricks-and-mortar commercial retail location on Pitkin Street behind the Harts Local Grocery after five years in 2015.
Lehman says Dearly Departed was successful. Hundreds of patrons packed the gallery on opening night and sales were brisk even though the exhibition lingered only six days and had very limited hours. Sales from the show continued even after the exhibition officially closed. He may post some or all of the unsold works from the show on 1975's website before too long.
In addition to holding down a full time day job at RIT Lehman is also the co-curator and core organizer behind Rochester's internationally renowned public art project Wall\Therapy. Given his time limitations It's not surprising he thinks about 1975 Gallery's future strategically. While another traditional retail location isn't in the picture for 1975 Gallery at the moment other plans for the gallery are apparently in the works. We understand Lehman is working on an even more ambitious 1975 pop-up exhibition in the first half of 2019.
Honeyoe Falls: Fleuron is open.
Fleuron opened their doors at in the center of the Village of Honeoye Falls at 10 North Main Street in June of 2018. This new retail venture has it's home in a charming early twentieth century storefront with big windows. Fleuron is what we think of as a "hybrid" commercial gallery. In this instance the fine art gallery is nestled between a botanical boutique at the front of the shop and a small graphic design work space tucked away behind the gallery, up a small flight of stairs.
You might ask, why the name Fleuron? Well, fleuron is a French word meaning, “horticultural ornament”. It comes from the centuries old typographic and printing traditions that date back to the Renaissance. When you learn more about the owner, Lisa Mauro, and her vision you'll understand why that particular word is a perfect descriptor.
Mauro received her BFA from Parsons School of Design and an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to operating the gallery she has a graphic design business and she teaches graphic design at Nazareth College. That's not all. She is not only an avid maker she is also an avid grower. The front of the shop features her own organically grown, fresh specialty cut flowers available from May–October. So, she has married her advanced education in the arts with her passion for graphic design and gardening.
The gallery will mostly focus on contemporary artists living in the Rochester-Finger Lakes region. Exhibitions will rotate on a more-or-less monthly basis. Some shows will feature one artist while others may have a theme with the sort of call-for-work, jurying and curation that goes along with group exhibitions. In addition to living artists the gallery also offers fine art prints by notable national and international artists from the mid-twentieth century.
Pittsford Village: Sylvan Starlight Creations is open.
Sylvan Starlight Creations, open since the summer of 2018, is an artisan gallery and fine art shop located in the Village of Pittsford at the eastern end of Schoen Place.
The business features the fine artwork and exquisite craftsmanship of more than 60 of the area's top local artists. There is always a lot to see inside the shop: from fine art & paintings to jewelry, metal art, home decor and so much more! They offer a wide range of mediums, styles and prices, There is always something for everyone in this lovely village shop.
One or more local artist/artisan will be highlighted monthly with an exhibition and an opening party to kick off the show. The retail space will be shared with dozens of other local artists and artisans day in and day out so you don't have to wait until you see an artist of interest. Stop in anytime.
Rochester: Rochester Fantasy Art Gallery is open.
The proprietor, Thomas C. Chaffer, saw a "fantasy art" niche and decided to fill it. Chaffer had been doing Art Instruction for over 6 years based out of a space in Fairport before moving to the new location in the City of Rochester at 873 Atlantic Avenue. He opened his doors about a month ago.
His plan is to show artwork that falls between "fine art" and fantasy/science fiction illustration. He is beginning by showing Rochester-based artists and that will certainly continue. However, he also plans to expand the scope of art on exhibit to include works made all over the United States; including work done by widely recognized masters in the fantasy/science fiction genre. Although the exhibition space itself is fairly modest in size there's a congenial outdoor area for warm weather entertaining. Chaffer's studio is located just behind the public space.
Before too long the gallery website (www.rochesterfantasyartgallery.com) should include lots of additional information about the new venue.
Nan Miller Gallery has re-emerged in a new format.
One of Rochester's longest running commercial galleries, Nan Miller Gallery, closed it's only bricks-and-mortar storefront near the end of 2017. At that time gallerist, Nan Miller, indicated she was retiring from the business after decades of service to corporate clients and individual collectors across the globe. We recently learned Nan Miller has decided to re-launch without the burden of a full blown commercial retail location so that she can continue to represent artists and act as an art advisor. Nan has retained her former website and domain name to more easily reconnect with her long established client base.
As of 2018, Miller represents a select stable of her favorite artists who encompass a broad range of styles, mediums and price points. She educates clients about artists’ techniques and how their artwork relates to collecting in today’s market, as well accommodating their specific needs. Nan specializes in artwork not readily accessible to the area, such as images by Modern Masters, renowned metal sculpture, cutting-edge glass, wood and mix-media designs.
Nan has served as a key player in the art industry for 45 years. Her former retail location was the longest running family-owned art gallery in Rochester.
Kristen Campo Fine Art has opened.
When the Nan Miller Gallery closed its bricks-and-mortar retail location late in 2017 Kristen Campo, one of Nan's longtime employees, decided it was time to step up. She had worked under Nan for more than a decade. Kristen knew the business from the inside and she had a good base of experience to draw from as she set out in 2018. In addition to working in a gallery Kristen is an established interior designer with an active client base, Incorporating artwork into her design practice has been a mainstay.
Kristen Campo Fine Art does not have a retail location. Instead Campo has focused on bringing a wide array of established and emerging Contemporary artists to her current design clientele and to the art buying public through art fairs at various locations around the country.
Campo realized a visionary goal in 2018 by organizing and presenting what she referred to as the first Contemporary Art Fair of Rochester in November at the Strathallan on East Avenue. By her count near 1,000 people filed through this the Fair over a three day period. She is currently planning a follow-up for 2019.
Canandaigua: Jeanne Beck Art Gallery & Studio is in transition.
Jeanne Beck opened her gallery and studio in June of 2017 with a vision: to combine a her own art studio with a pubic gallery & exhibition space in the City of Canandaigua. She also wanted very much to help to make non-objective, non-representational and abstract artwork more accessible to the public and to collectors. It seemed to her that representational art is more widely accepted and abstract art is less well accepted in our region.
Her second floor unit, located on Main Street between Phoenix and Beeman Streets, was notable not only because of it's beautiful exposed brick walls and views of downtown Canandaigua but also because her studio work space was entirely open into the public exhibition space. Visitors were commonly treated to both works in progress as well as finished works created by many local artists.
As time went on Jeanne expanded the scope of her endeavor beyond mere exhibitions into the realm of workshops and demonstrations on topics such as encaustic painting. In addition, she hosted "residency" programs for local artists that resulted in collaborative artworks that were then displayed.
Late in 2018 Jeanne decided she was no longer able to balance her own creative interests with running the gallery. She will retain the space as her studio in 2019 and may well offer exhibitions in the future but she will not operate as a proper gallery for the time being.
Clifton Springs: Main Street Arts has converted into a nonprofit arts organization.
Main Street Arts was created in 2013 as a for-profit art gallery in Clifton Springs, New York; a thirty-five minute drive from downtown Rochester. The Main Street management team developed a strong business selling art and then added a range of community-based arts programs including everything from workshops for area students to full-on artist residency programs alongside programs for non-artists. Over time it became clear to the director, Bradley Butler, that in order to fill the enormous needs/interests they uncovered Main Street would best serve their community by converting to a nonprofit arts organization.
In an email to it's customers and friends on Monday, December 24, 2018 Main Street Arts announced the conversion to nonprofit status has been completed. Effective immediately Main Street Arts is a legally recognized nonprofit arts organization. As a result, donations to the new organization will be tax deductible, if you qualify and itemize your charitable donations. In addition, Main Street will be able to apply for grants from the government as well as other sources that require nonprofit status.
Main Street Arts has had a strong regional orientation from its inception. On occasion the gallery supplemented it's regional offerings with artists from all over the United States. Looking forward, based on their new mission statement, it appears they expect to reach even further to include artistic works from all over the globe.
Ten artists from the region are listed on the Main Street Arts website as being represented by the gallery: Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Patrick Kana, Meredith Mallwitz, Robert Ernst Marx, Lanna Pejovic, Jody Selin, Mike Tarantelli and Sylvia Taylor. It's not common for nonprofit arts organizations to represent individual artists. We'll have to wait-and-see if Main Street continues to represent these artists under it's new auspices.
Have Hope Tattoo and Gallery has opened.
There's a new alternative art gallery at New Hope Tattoo and Gallery. The tattoo parlor opened in August of 2018. The first art art exhibition was held in September. To get to the dedicated gallery space inside New Hope you go past the reception area and down some stairs to the lower level.
When you walk into the gallery you'll be impressed by the look. There are no white walls in this gallery. Instead New Hope has designed the space with what looks like reclaimed barn wood to match the finishes upstairs in the reception area.
The business owner, Zach Wheeler, says he'll either curate what's shown in the gallery himself or collaborate as well as invite outside curators to plug in. He expects exhibitions to cycle in and out every couple of months or so.
Even though Rochester Art Collectors has only been in existence for nine months our group has offered twenty-one programs with the help of seventeen partner organizations. All but two of the programs were free to attendees. "Lure Of The Local," a panel discussion developed in collaboration with the Memorial Art Gallery, and "Think globally. Create, experience and collect locally," done in partnership with Rochester Contemporary, both required an admission fee to those who were not already members of those institutions.
We don't have an exact count but we believe our programs exposed attendees to several hundred artists' works for sale over the course of 2018. Generally speaking we try to hold our events inside of galleries during group exhibitions so attendees can both see and purchase works of art as well as pick up a little education. Event attendees were informed on a wide array of topics at our events including understanding and collecting glass, ceramics, and photography to printmaking, and more. All but five of our programs were open to the public.
Our five member-only programs in 2018 fell into two categories: "Collectors Circles" and "Collectors Previews". Members participating in a "Collector Circle" event may bring a piece of art from their collection created by someone other than themselves to talk about with the group. In addition, we have a guest speaker present information of interest to collectors. Usually we hold "Collectors Circle" events in a gallery during a group show. Members were also invited to three "Collectors Preview" events. Every so often we are able to gain access to exhibitions BEFORE the show is open to the public thereby providing members an opportunity to see and purchase works of art before the general public.
Here's the list of program events held in 2018. The most recent events are shown at the top.
When RochesterArtCollectors.org launched its website unofficially in December, 2017 we set goals around what we wanted to accomplish and then took a shot in the dark designing the site.
Before the organization's launch on April 1, 2018 we tweaked the website layout and much of the content adding pages describing the organization's mission and vision; plugging in a reservation system for our programs and adding a members only section.
Over the past couple of months we have evaluated our results, considered feedback from members (as well as non-member users) and started to edit and update the site to better match our goals and the expressed needs/interests. This process will be ongoing.
Here are some of the most recent updates:
We are still working on revisions and upgrades in our "members only" section. More on this in a future post.
Header image © Roy Sowers 1999
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