The Art Files

Maybe it’s the holiday season that makes me contemplative. Maybe I’m just prone to it after viewing modern art. After viewing "The Societe Anonme: Modernism for America" at the Frist Center, I was haunted by the large photographs of the artists assembled on a wall in the gallery.

It was like that scene in Dead Poet’s Society when the instructor (Robin Williams) whispers to the students “Carpe, carpe diem, carpe, carpe diem." I wonder what, if anything, will be collected for viewing 75 years from now from Nashville artists.

According to the Frist, the Societe Anonyme was founded in the 1920s by artists Katherine Drier and Marcel Duchamp and May Ray, this group was intended to be an “experimental museum” for modern art, created to promote avant-garde art to American audiences. The artists themselves collected art they liked and showed it. It became one of the great collections of modernist works in America. Over 240 paintings, sculptures and works on paper make up the collection. The collection was given to Yale University Art Gallery through the Katherine S. Drier Bequest in 1953.

Much like Gertrude Stein’s collecting, the collection of art has come to light at the Frist. This season we have been repeatedly reminded to become proactive with our love of visual art. There is great energy in Nashville visual art. I hope that someone will step up and collect the beginnings of this, our own new beginnings simply for the purpose of collecting it. It may even be done so anonymously.

How do you start an art collection? The answer is clear: buy what you like! Part of your journey will be in the discovery of what you do like and don’t. This can only happen by looking and looking again. If you think you know what you like, it will begin to change the more you look. You may have the experience of buying a piece of art or even a poster and learning that after a few months you don’t like it anymore or become bored with it. 

Start going to galleries and reading reviews. I like taking notes about what I do and don’t like about thing that I see. Set your budget; it may take some emotion out of it, but you will be happier in the long run. One of the pure joys of buying local art is being able to talk to the artist directly  Many of the artists I know don’t think they know how to talk about their work, but once you get them started, it's very worthwhile.

Sylvia White of Contemporary Artist services offers an excellent blog on how to be a responsible collector on her Website I agree with her on all points. One excellent thing she points out is to keep good records on provenance. As a courtesy to the artist, it is always a good idea to contact them when you move or sell the art. Artists need to have access to their work for retrospectives or survey shows. It is also interesting to note that California State Law now requires sellers to pay a five percent royalty to the artist on sales over $1000. How wonderful if Tennessee would require the same. Feel free to do this on your own regardless of legislation.

Remember, when you buy original art you become part of art history. Hopefully, one day the collection will be has honored and revered as The Societe Anonme.

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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