Profiling the modernist collector, from experts Jim Reinish and Ann Phillips at James Reinish Inc.
JAMES REINISH & ASSOCIATES HAS ESTABLISHED ITS GREATEST FOLLOWING IN THE AREAS OF LATE 19th CENTURY AND EARLY 20th CENTURY AMERICAN PAINTING AND SCULPTURE. IN RESPONSE TO BOTH A SHIFT IN THE COLLECTOR PROFILE AND THE MORE LIMITED AVAILABILITY OF FIRST-TIER WORKS OF THIS PERIOD, THE INVENTORY AT JAMES REINISH, INC. HAS EXPANDED TO INCLUDE WONDERFUL EXAMPLES OF POST-WAR MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY ART AS WELL. ON VIEW IN A BEAUTIFULLY DETAILED TOWNHOUSE SETTING ON EAST 73rd BETWEEN MADISON AND FIFTH AVENUES, THE GALLERY ALSO PARTICIPATES IN SELECT ART FAIRS, A DOMINANT SOURCE OF EXPOSURE AND ACTIVITY IN THE CURRENT ART MARKET. WHETHER YOU VISIT THE GALLERY TO SEE A BEAUTIFULLY CURATED GROUP OF WORKS OR VISIT THEIR BOOTH AT AN ART FAIR, JIM REINISH AND ANN YAFFE PHILLIPS, THE GALLERY DIRECTOR, ARE WELCOMING AND WELL-VERSED EXPERTS ON THE WORKS ON VIEW AND THE PERIOD IN GENERAL. http://jamesreinish.com/
THE GALLERY HAS PLACED SIGNIFICANT WORKS BY ARTISTS SUCH AS MILTON AVERY, THOMAS HART BENTON, MARSDEN HARTLEY AND EDWARD HOPPER, IN MAJOR AMERICAN MUSEUMS AND IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTIONS AND CONTINUES TO REPRESENT A NUMBER OF INSTITUTIONS IN THE DEACCESSONING OF WORKS FROM THEIR COLLECTIONS.
TODAY, WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY OF EXPLORING THE GOALS AND FOCUS OF THE CURRENT COLLECTOR OF MODERNIST ART AS WELL AS THE WORKS THEMSELVES.
ANN AND JIM, THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE BLOG. IS THERE A PROFILE THAT PREDOMINANTLY CHARACTERIZES THE COLLECTORS OF THIS PERIOD? WHAT DO YOU FIND ATTRACTS THEM TO MODERNISM?
There’s not a standard profile, but they are a more serious, cerebral and passionate group than the contemporary collectors I used to work with at Zabriskie Gallery. Generally not pretentious or trendy in any way, and willing to do some independent research on their own. Not necessarily scholarly research, but going to exhibitions and finding the catalogs for important exhibitions in the field.
I think collectors of older material enjoy engaging with the work of art as an object and its formal qualities. That to me is the big dividing line between collectors of contemporary art who relate on a more conceptual or philosophical level with the art work and collectors of earlier material. Our collectors are involved in a more historical exploration of modernism and 20th century art, the crosscurrents between Europe and America, the development of these groundbreaking artists, the influential early collectors, and the legendary dealers of this period. The history and the aesthetics of the individual works go hand in hand.
DO YOU FIND NEW COLLECTORS EXPRESSING AN INTEREST IN MODERNISM? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE COLLECTOR WHO IS JUST STARTING TO EXPLORE THIS AREA AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?
30 years ago there were a number of Modernist buyers who wanted encyclopedic collections. Some are still around and still collecting. There are very few with that profile today who are following in their footsteps. Art has gotten more expensive – the major household name artists and the more esoteric artists — and the attention span of most collectors has dwindled. Except for some new, young collectors interested in 1930s and 40s abstraction, most of our clients are over 50 years old.
We do have new and younger collectors entering the modernist market, but of course not in the numbers that are moving into contemporary and emerging artists. As we also deal in post-war and some contemporary art, we have a wide range of interest among our clients. The new modernist collectors are self-confident in that they don’t need to follow the hordes (and probably some of their friends) into the contemporary market – they have looked there but found the art does not resonate with them. They also realize that our market is less speculative and could prove to be a sound long-term investment – as it doesn’t have the sudden upswings and bubbles of the contemporary market. Our advice is always to learn the market, read and explore, get to know the dealers, expose yourself to the best museum and private collections, and buy what you love.
I ASSUME, GIVEN THE CALIBER OF WORKS IN YOUR INVENTORY, THAT YOU HAVE BOTH PRIVATE AND INSTITUTIONAL COLLECTORS. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES AND WHAT ARE THE SIMILARITIES OF THE TWO?
Of course, it is hard to generalize. Private clients who are beginning their collections have different needs from those who have been collecting for some time. More mature collectors, as well as institutions, are more likely to be looking to fill in a specific gap. Museums, in particular, often require a work of art to “check off a lot of boxes” for them to move forward with an acquisition. But for that reason, there is sometimes a museum interested in a particular, not necessarily characteristic picture that happens to fill a gap or work on several levels for them more than a private collector might be — who may be interested only in signature works.
YOU PARTICIPATE IN SOME OF THE MOST HIGHLY REGARDED ART FAIRS, SUCH AS THE ONE HELD BY THE ART DEALER’S ASSOCIATION AT THE PARK AVENUE ARMORY, ALWAYS WITH A WONDERFUL BOOTH, FILLED WITH INTERESTING AND MEMORABLE WORKS. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE PLACE OF THE ART FAIR IN THE CONTEXT OF THE ART BUSINESS AT PRESENT? WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS WHEN EXHIBITING AT THE FAIRS RATHER THAN WORKING ON A MORE PRIVATE LEVEL IN THE GALLERY?
Art fairs are becoming increasingly central to the art market. The way collectors engage with and buy art has changed substantially since we started in this business. Collectors used to visit the dealers frequently, form relationships, search for the best works on the private market and at auction, read, visit museums and come by frequently. Collectors were always stopping by the gallery unannounced to look around, and leisurely explore the inventory. Now collectors see works via email; they come to an art fair or auction and rarely stop by the gallery except for a specific appointment or when they are in town for an event such as auction week. Everyone seems much busier, with less time to engage in conversation and study. The art market, as has been widely noted, is much more event driven now.
Our goal for the art fair is always to put our best foot forward – to find and exhibit the best quality works we can find that are fresh to the market. We spend a lot of time “curating” our booth – to find works that complement each other and are visually appealing and well installed.
WHAT EXHIBITIONS MAY WE LOOK FORWARD TO AT THE GALLERY?
We don’t have any specific exhibitions in the works at the moment. We continually re-install our exhibition space at the gallery as works move in and out of the inventory. From time to time we have a critical mass of works that inspire an exhibition idea, and we go from there. That is how our recent exhibition, “The Modern Still Life 1910-1970” evolved. We do have some ideas in the pipeline – so stay tuned!
WE CERTAINLY WILL! THANK YOU BOTH FOR YOUR WONDERFUL CONTRIBUTION TO THE LRFA BLOG.
IN OUR NEXT POSTING, I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF SPEAKING WITH ELIZABETH BEAMAN, SENIOR SPECIALIST OF AMERICAN ART AT CHRISTIE’S, NEW YORK. LIZ WILL SHARE HER KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE ABOUT AMERICAN ART AND INTRODUCE US TO THE FORTHCOMING HIGHLIGHTS IN CHRISTIE’S STELLAR SALE TO BE HELD ON DECEMBER 5, 2013, AT CHRISTIE’S NEW YORK, 20 ROCKEFELLER CENTER. MASTERWORKS OF AMERICAN MODERNISM ARE THE CORNERSTONES FOR THE EXCEPTIONAL GROUP OF PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURES THAT THE DEPARTMENT WILL OFFER.
WE WELCOME ALL COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS, SO FIRE AWAY!
WE CERTAINLY WILL!