How to Become an Art Collector: It’s Easier than You Think!–Part 2

[This is the second of a five-part series by Seabrooker Barbara Burgess. The first installment was “Getting to Know the Artists”–Ed.]

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Part 2: Develop a Theme

Becoming a resident of the South naturally led to the works of Southern artists where I found the light, lively objects I wanted to display in my home. My collection quite naturally became one of Southern Art as my overall theme. The artists I collected shared common themes, such as love of the land, powerful colors, old run-down buildings, old cars, music, hats, baptisms, as well as a myriad of activities related to a church.

I feel having an over-arching theme for a collection makes everything that follows much easier, from displaying the art to telling its stories. There is debate on this point. It is not to say that disparate pieces of art telling mostly different tales cannot make a striking presentation, but it is much harder to do so. If your art is a jumble of art worlds by artists of uniquely different backgrounds, with vastly different messages, you run the risk of totally confusing your viewing audience, no matter where that audience is, either in your home or in a museum.

In addition to the overall theme of Southern art, I was also building a theme within a theme. Not only was I showing the art of Southern artists, I also showed the development of one of the artists within my collection by illustrating how his style emerged from his early art to his more current works.

Richard Weedman let me pore over the early paintings of Jonathan Green, J Greendone when he was just a young man finding his way as an artist. Green attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which was an institution firmly in the mainstream of modernism and the then current vogue for abstract expressionism. While his teachers wanted him to go forward rather than backward in time, Jonathan had an urgent desire to express his Gullah heritage.

My collection, which showcases pieces like, “The Ambassadors”, “Reflections of a Shadow”, and “The Sentinel” display Jonathan’s art in his developmental stages, while he was still a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. My collection is able to show the juxtaposition of his early pieces alongside many of his more current ones, so you can see the artist developing his style as a chronicler of Gullah history. Jonathan once told me, “That man you see in a painting I did in my 20’s is the same one on my easel today. The difference is that in today’s’ painting, he has found his essence; today, he knows who he is”.

Finding a theme that resonates with you will help you stay disciplined in your search for fine art and help build a collection for which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In Part 3, we will discuss the third guideline of how to become an art collector; namely, Train Your Eye.

—Barbara Burgess

Barbara Burgess


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