The Collecting: A Critical Perspective; the Changing Market Roundtable, at photo l.a. was filled with useful information about collecting contemporary photography. The panelists provided insightful commentary on their own collections, questioned what makes a collection, and considered other relevant issues for the serious collector.
Collectors on the panel were Keith Davis of Nelson-Atkins Museum; Gloria Katz Huyck; Dan Greenberg; Carol Vernon; Jerry Sohn; Michael G. Wilson; and Kevin Moore, an arts consultant. The room was completely filled, and there were plenty of collectors in the audience contributing their own questions and comments.
Well-moderated by Weston Naef, curator emeritus, Department of Photography, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the collectors and other experts each disclosed specific purchases made (or recommended) recently with their reasons for the acquisition accompanied by a slide of the artwork and some comments touching on purchase rationale.
Nuggets of collecting wisdom were dropped by Naef, including a few tips for collectors of photography:
•Buy what you don’t like (make it difficult).
•Always collect in depth (more than one work from the same photographers).
•Never buy a photograph from someone who traveled to take the picture.
•To be a collector you must reach the point where there are more pictures than can sit on the walls.
Collectors each had their own sets of rules, and common thread was that sharing of the passion for collecting. Technology entrepreneur Daniel Greenberg, who confessed to being a former wine collector who now collects ceramics, handkerchiefs, wooden bowls, and pre-Columbian art, showed a picture purchased from a gallery by Richard Misrach (born 1949), which is a landscape containing a manipulated figure (an exception to his own collector’s shibboleth of not wanting to acquire pictures with manipulated figures), perhaps making this purchase difficult for him–but supporting Naef’s suggestion of not buying what you like, meaning that which is easy, comfortable, and predictable for you.
Jerry Sohn, a publisher who collects contemporary photography and art, 19th Century tintypes, and 19th-20th Century frames among other objects, showed a recent photography acquisition that took courage: An older polaroid of a young Andy Warhol with painter Jasper Johns. While the slightly out-of-focus photograph is pretty much an candid shot perhaps by an anonymous New York party-goer (my God, it could have been anyone!), it is compelling. He bought it at an Andy Warhol Foundation auction, and commented on its obvious charm: It is a rare photograph of a wide-smiling Andy Warhol. Naef pointed out that the photograph derives further authentication from now being part of Sohn’s collection.
Carol Vernon, a real estate entrepreneur, said she had the good fortune to be born into family of collectors and that she selected her first object at the age of 12. Now she collects contemporary photography and showed a recent acquisition, a large color photograph of the San Francisco Ferry Building in still ominous, after-storm weather, and from a fresh southern angle. The photo, titled Canaletto, by Ira Kahn (born 1950) ,does evoke the Venetian landscape painter’s mood. In response to the question about running out of space for new things, Vernon replied,
It never stopped us!
She continued to say that her collecting is based on passion and not on a possible increase in value. She pointed out that
Image itself is an unlimited edition.
Screenwriter Gloria Katz Huyck, who collects contemporary Japanese photography and representational and metaphorical artworks related to birds, said that she and her husband really narrowed their focus after selling their earlier collection of paintings. She said that an important point of collecting is the collector’s ability to express his/her own eye and imagination.
Every collector in the room, and most probably the panelists themselves, learned something new about collecting; and panelists shared information of value and applicable to a collector of any type of art.