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|Simon Says: Collect
by Simon Watson
|The work of emerging artists can often be purchased for a modest amount of money. For the artists, the purchase may be one of the earliest affirmations of their work. A collector's patronage can change a life, and quite possibly shape art history.
Dean Valentine -- media mogul, collector, art patron and board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles -- is increasingly focusing on emerging artists. He was particularly passionate about his recent purchase of Tom Friedman's 1,000 Hours of Staring. "I can't tell you how crazy I am about it. It's a 33-inch by 33-inch piece of white paper and the artist did just as the title says, stared at it for 1,000 hours. It's both performance art and conceptual art. I love it. And its sense of humor is something that I find very attractive at the moment."
"I own several works by Martin Kersels, an artist with a great sense of humor, whose work deals with issues of isolation and alienation. For example, I own a kinetic sculpture of his called MacArthur Park in which a prone, sculpted figure rises up and then slumps down in time to the artist's tape recorded version of the song MacArthur Park. He's making work with a strong emotional pull, that moves 'body art' into a new realm."
"Part of my interest, on the board of MoCA and as the head of the museum's acquisitions committee, is to encourage the acquisition of work by younger artists for the permanent collection. And now with the arrival of our new director, Jeremy Strick, we've set aside acquisition funds that make it possible for the MoCA curators to go out and buy works of art without their always having to go through approvals from committees. I think we've missed opportunities along the way because we didn't make timely purchases of emerging artists, and now we're having to go back and make purchases at much higher prices. It's a much more aggressive acquisition policy than we've had in the past, and allowed for the purchase of one of the Kersels pieces from his recent show. After all, we hired these curators to help the institution define an esthetic vision in exhibitions, so I think its important that they be given some room to follow through on their judgments in acquisitions as well."
* For more about Tom Friedman, visit Feature (530 W. 25th St., New York, N.Y. 10001 • 212/675-7772). Friedman's prices range from $500 to $35,000.
* For more about Martin Kersels, contact Dan Bernier (recently gone private • 323/936-1021).
Deborah and Patricia Say
Deborah Kass and Patricia Cronin, a couple who are both painters, also collect, and own more than 50 art works. Hung salon-style in the bedroom of their Tribeca loft are works by Rosa Bonheur, Romaine Brooks, Carroll Dunham, Elizabeth Murray, Roy Lichtenstein, Adrian Piper and Andy Warhol. And in the living room, arrranged around two dramatic Philip Guston prints, are their latest acquisitions -- works by a crop of emerging artists.
"White Columns is 'ground zero' for emerging artists at the moment," says Kass, referring to the well-known alternative space now located on West 12th Street in Manhattan. "They're always showing interesting work -- that's where we first saw Christina Mazzaluppo, Eric Parker and Karen Heagle. We own works by each of those artists, and they've all been seen in White Columns group shows or solo shows."
And as for commercial galleries, Cronin says "the place we're hottest on is Andrew Kreps Gallery -- he's fantastic for finding young work. We've just bought a Hiroshi Sunairi collage -- they read like paintings from afar . . . they're so narcissistic, so silly, so decorative and so original. And we just finished paying for a Ruth Root painting ($2,000 over time). I'm very interested in young people who are using the language of formalism and subverting it. And I was very struck by Ruth Root's originality . . . its the color and the composition, not just the tiny cigarettes painted in. It's kooky work, it doesn't follow the rules."
Asked how they make collecting decisions as a couple, Kass said, "On our way up to Hiroshi's show we agreed we weren't going to spend any more money. But then we walked in . . . and immediately looked at each other, we knew. We have to agree, and we seem to. We've got the bug."
* For more about Ruth Root and Hiroshi Sunairi, visit Andrew Kreps Gallery (529 W. 20th St., New York, N.Y. 10011 • 212/741-8849). Ruth Root paintings are priced at $400 to $3,500; Hiroshi Sunairi collages are priced at $300 to $4,000.
* And, to check out the emerging artist scene, be sure to visit White Columns (320 Worth St., New York, N.Y. 10014 • 212/924-4212 • www.whitecolumns.org).
* Karen Heagle's work can currently be seen at www.studiovisit.com.
We asked Laura Hoptman, assistant curator in the Museum of Modern Art's drawing department, what recent contemporary acquisitions had been made. She prefaced her answer by discussing the significant role that "The Friends of Drawing" plays in supporting the museum's acquisition process. Begun four-and-a-half years ago, Friends of Drawing is a MoMA affiliate that includes 30 collectors who, through the payment of dues and special events, raise funds for MoMA acquisitions. Hoptman says that "the works are chosen by the curators of the drawing department and the Friends of Drawing participate in the purchase of the work. The lion's share of contemporary drawing purchases -- more than 60 works, including those by Peter Doig, Paul McCarthy and Raymond Pettibone -- have been funded by the Friends of Drawing."
She went on to say that "there are a lot of 'Old Master' clichés around collecting drawings, but almost all artists today -- whether they are primarily known for making video installations, paintings or sculpture -- make drawings."
The MoMA drawing department's most recent contemporary drawing acquisition is a pair of works by Katy Schimert (one of which was a direct purchase and the other a donation from one of the members of the Friends of Drawing), and a huge Gary Simmons installation drawing entitled Boom (which was purchased with the help of both Friends of Drawing and another MoMA group called Friends of Education).
"Simmons is one of several artists who concentrate their artistic output in drawing, generally white chalk on a blackboard-like paint. The purchase was important to us because we've wanted one of his works for a long time and we wanted a work that was central in his body of work -- something that is installation-sized. Exhibited in the 'Recent Acquisitions' show at MoMA in the spring of 1999 and shown in an earlier version at Metro Pictures in 1996, Boom is spectacular, registering a development from his signature cartooning style to a more expressionistic one in which the explosion almost becomes an enormous flower."
* For more about Gary Simmons, visit Metro Pictures (519 W. 24th St., New York, N.Y. 10011 • 212/206-7100). Simmons drawing prices range from $1,500 to $5,000, and $30,000 and up for wall drawing installations.
* For more about Katy Schimert, visit David Zwirner (43 Greene St., New York, N.Y. 10013 • 212/966-9074 • firstname.lastname@example.org). Schimert drawing prices are approximately $2,000.
SIMON WATSON is editor of Simon Says, the monthly guide to contemporary art and experimental performance in New York City, and director of Downtown Arts Projects, an arts education nonprofit that produces the annual Downtown Arts Festival and L.A. Edge Festival.