Can you start an Art Collection in the Midwest?

On September 17, 2015

Can you start an Art Collection in the Midwest?

I can’t believe it. Our gallery officially opens tomorrow morning with Frank Louis Allen’s show, and now that all the endless paperwork, meetings, and promotions are out of the way, I can finally share a little bit about the person I have the pleasure of working for every day.

I’ll explain a little bit about what we hope to accomplish at JF Art in another post soon, but for now, let me start the introduction process.

Tell me about why you are qualified to talk about starting an art collection?

Along with helping countless other people in the world with their art collections, I am also an art collector myself. I think that my first job in the art world at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, in the Arts and Education department sparked my desire to understand the more detailed nuances of what makes a groundbreaking art collections. There, I was  also able to learn about how larger institutions talk about artwork. At my next job working at an art gallery, I became very familiar with how people look for art, what speaks to them, what moves them, and how it relates to their family and home.


Jennifer with close friends and colleagues Chino Taylor and Robert Gundel at a Romero Britto exhibition at the Louvre.

What are some ways you can tell an artwork can stand the test of time?

It’s a weird thing to say–because not a lot of people believe in it– but it really has to capture the Zeitgeist of the time, and when I say Zeitgeist, I mean there’s that imperceptible movement towards something that isn’t quite obvious right in the moment, but it’s how society is moving. It’s speaking to an underlying philosophy or discourse that’s going on in greater society. As an example, I would say if Keith Haring is talking about pop art, or the AIDS epidemic, even on the cusp of it becoming a national conversation.

Have any artists caught your eye that capture this Zeitgeist?

Back when I was working in [the art world], the British kids were up and coming, like Damien Hirst. But, I really love female artists like Tracey Emin– she is really charismatic. Tracy represents the Zeitgeist of the late 90s early 2000’s because she represented a form of art called shock art. Artists were trying to get their voices heard and they understood the media’s insatiable desire for scandal. Shock art was a way of bringing important issues to the forefront, sometimes in a very crude way but because of the way the media was sensationalizing news items at the time they were able to capture some of that attention for their artwork and also political and civil issues.

My personal style is the grotesque, so anything like Lucien Freud-esque or Francis Bacon… anything deep and dark is what I gravitate towards personally, but that doesn’t have to do where things are going.

Tracey Emin’s installation My Bed, 1998 at Tate Britain

Tracey Emin’s installation My Bed, 1998 at Tate Britain. (Tracey Emin)

Well, I think that darker themes that suggest our eminent death as humans do kind of stand the test of time.

Yeah, no matter what happens–whether it’s globalism or the internet takeover or whatever, that will always be there. Birth, death, sexual relations… those three themes will be constant in art history.

Can you start a valid art collection in the Midwest?

You can absolutely start a collection in places like Fort Wayne. It’s almost more meaningful, because it’s a little more of an effort to find artists. You can still find artists through the traditional way by traveling so, you might have that special attachment because it was on to your trip to New York or Miami, but when you find somebody here that’s special, it’s something that you’re going to want to talk about, lift up, and have firsthand access to, especially if you want to have a hand in their career. It’s hard earned having a collection in the Midwest, but it also makes it more special. But that’s how we do everything in the Midwest anyway– we work really hard and cherish the work that we’ve done.

We know that people in the Midwest do not make important decisions lightly, so we want to provide an atmosphere where they can enjoy the art but also have as many educational opportunities surrounding that work of art to appreciate it before they take it home.

As the President of Interior Design firm Choice Designs, Inc., you also have experience selling decorative art. How does that work?

It’s really sad that in the last 60 years, the art of interior design and art consulting has grown apart. It’s almost taboo for interior designers to suggest fine art in homes, or for art collectors to put decorative art in their homes. But people like Bernard Berenson entered homes. One of my missions is to close that gap again. Even after the 1950’s when people came home from the war, that they wanted to quickly decorate their homes– and there was a big income gap between those moving into row houses and those with old established money collecting art from galleries in New York– so now there is this big gulf. But I think if interior designers, and I’ve met only a few of them, have a fine art background they can really make an entire home around a fine art collection that feels comfortable and ready to live in is really exciting.

-Bridget, Gallery Director at JF Art

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