Collecting art - Fine Art Connoisseur
Will Wilson (b. 1957), "Canary Watching," 1994, oil on panel, 14 1/2 x 13 in., as seen in the art collectors profile on Ray and Lori Allen

From the Fine Art Connoisseur March/April 2023 Editor’s Note:

Collecting Art for the Right Reasons

Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, March/April 2023
On the cover: Mark Pugh (b. 1979), “An Unsatisfying Ending” (detail), 2021, oil and ink on linen mounted panel, 36 x 24 in.

My favorite issue of the year is the one that highlights real-world collectors of contemporary realist art. This is that issue, and we hope you will enjoy “meeting” the individuals and couples who have so generously opened their doors. These folks now join 87 others we have profiled since 2015, and we are honored and grateful to welcome them to this community.

Why do we do this? First, people need role models, in any walk of life. We play tennis better after watching Naomi Osaka, and we cook more effectively after Bobby Flay demonstrates the recipe. It’s harder with art collecting because there is no single way to do it, and unfortunately the best-known collectors are financiers and movie stars paying millions at auction for a Hirst or a Koons. Good for them, but that’s collecting warehoused-investment-assets with your ears, not art-to-live-with with your eyes. I’m far more intrigued by celebrities who collect items of comparatively low value: just for example, Tom Hanks buys antique typewriters, Angelina Jolie goes for medieval and Renaissance knives, and Claudia Schiffer seeks out mounted beetles, butterflies, and spiders.

Great, but this is a fine art magazine, and besides, buying anything when you’re a hundred-millionaire is not particularly difficult. The real trick is to buy wonderful “unbranded” art on a regular budget, away from the limelight and the art advisers who think about this stuff all day. The folks highlighted in this issue buy art with their eyes and hearts, living with and enjoying it, sometimes enhancing their lives further by getting to know the artists who made it.

The hardest step in this issue’s preparation is asking the collectors to choose just two artworks to illustrate in their profiles. That’s like choosing among your kids, but the collectors do it bravely, and they understand why we ask them to. It’s simple: we can dedicate only two pages to each collector, and if we were to fill them with seven or eight “favorite” images, there wouldn’t be room for the words. Besides, each artwork would look more like a postage stamp than a painting. And so we go smaller (in number) and bigger (in photo size), reminding everyone that these two images don’t represent the whole collection, only evoke it.

Our work on the collector profiles never stops, so it’s already time for us to plan next year’s edition. There are great collections — many still being formed — in every region of this country, and no one person could possibly know all of them. Though our research is well underway and we already have some terrific names in sight, I hereby invite you to send me suggestions or nominations of other collectors. Our criteria are simple: they must be U.S. residents (still living) who have collected, or are continuing to collect, superb contemporary realist art created any time after 1980.

Ideas are welcome from everyone: the collectors themselves, their friends, families, dealers, advisers, curators, etc. Please just send me an e-mail ([email protected]) and I will move it forward. Rest assured that our team is discreet; all communications with collectors will be virtual, and we will not turn up unannounced at their homes to take photos! The individuals selected will have an opportunity to fact-check everything, and in fact they themselves will provide the photos to be illustrated. That said, it’s our editorial team’s decision who goes in, and who doesn’t.

Thank you as always for your incoming suggestions, and please enjoy learning about this year’s fascinating collectors.

What are your thoughts? Share your letter to the Editor below in the comments.

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