Andy Brown, who now lives with his husband Roberto Silva in Bed-Sty, Brooklyn started to collect artworks around 2007. I asked Andy if I could come over and photograph some of his collection, and ask him a few questions about being a collector. Questions and answers I find very interesting being a working artist myself. I was interested to find out what he was looking for.
How important is the investment value in what you collect?
Collecting fine art is as much about beauty and desirability as it about the investment value, but when I asked Andy how much weight the investment potential had at the time of purchase, he said he did listen to friends and people in the art world, but usually it was the visual elements of the piece itself and not it’s ability to generate investment income. That said, the majority of works in his collection were purchased when the artists not as well known as they are today. Much of the artist’s work in his collection has appreciated both in value and in social notoriety. Many of the artists he collects who were considered “emerging” at the time are now well known, and have been included in large museum exhibitions both in the US and Internationally.
Andy’s apartment is filled with artwork of all kinds. He doesn’t seek out one genre or medium, but feels like something is right when he sees certain works. Andy had worked in technology and advertizing, but was also an amazing photographer, and now practices professional photography full time. Being in these creative fields, Andy has met and became friends with artists working in a variety of different mediums. And yes the art world is a small world- there are connections between the artists and subjects in his collection. People go to openings and see their friends work, and then meet like-minded people.
How did you get into collecting?
Where do you go to find the art you collect?
And so when I asked Andy how he got into collecting, he told me it was basically because he was surrounded by a group of friends who were all creative types, and were either artists themselves, or worked in art related fields. A good example of this is a portrait hanging in the in the bedroom which is a wonderful photograph by Jayson Keeling. Andy became friends with Jayson Keeling because they both work in photography, and Jayson had a history of doing a lot of fashion photography. The photo, Untitled, from 2007 is of Derrick Adams, who is also an artist and a close friend of Jayson Keeling.
What was the first work you ever bought?
Also in the bedroom is a wonderful painting by the Spanish artist Mercedes Gonzalez de Garay, Chotis & Buitres, 2007, spray paint and acrylic on canvas, 20 x 48 inches. She writes “Change, move, experiment, try … I believe those are important basis in the work of an artist. The last years I have been living as nomad artist, trying to explore new cultures and artistic movements. Alexandria, Beijing, Bahrain, Barcelona, Florence, Lisbon, Istanbul, Berlin and New York have been some of my working-living laboratories.”
This was the first painting Andy ever bought, and he was drawn to its graphic quality, color and size. He was looking for a larger painting, and was introduced to this work at Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NY in 2008. A private dealer, Emily Welch had rented a space and was displaying works of art for the public as a pop-up gallery. Bushwick Open Studios in an annual event talking place in early autumn where artists open their studios to the public over a weekend. Artist usually display and sell their own work, but there are also private dealers and galleries who rent the space for the event.
In the living room, works 3 and 4 from a series of 6, The Importance Of Smiling in Pictures, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches by the Columbian artist Jorge Julian Aristizabal hang seemingly watching you. The artist signed the back of the works noting their original placement in the series.
Aristizabal is a very prolific artist working in painting, sculpture and installation. Andy bought two of the series of six at his friend Jason Irwin’s gallery Privateer. Privateer also doubled as Jason’s art studio, and Andy had met Jason first as a fellow artist.
Also hanging in the living room is a great collage piece by Mickalene Thomas. You’re Gonna Give Me The Love I Need, 2010, collage, handmade paper with silkscreen, 24 x 30 inches, 1/40. The artist silk-screened and cut shapes and composed 40 original “prints” using this technique. On her website she writes, “Mickalene Thomas makes paintings, collages, photography, video, and installations that draw on art history and popular culture to create a contemporary vision of female sexuality, beauty, and power. Blurring the distinction between object and subject, concrete and abstract, real and imaginary, Thomas constructs complex portraits, landscapes, and interiors in order to examine how identity, gender, and sense-of-self are informed by the ways women (and “feminine” spaces) are represented in art and popular culture.”
What is your favorite piece in your collection?
Hanging in the dining room behind the dining table is Andy’s favorite and largest piece. This painting, Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 2007, and titled in reference to the famous work by Pablo Picasso, was done by the young artist Jacolby Satterwhite. He is now represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash. On their website they write, “Jacolby Satterwhite is celebrated for a conceptual practice addressing crucial themes of labor, consumption, sex and fantasy through immersive installation, virtual reality and digital media.” The reason this is Andy’s favorite work in his collection is because it is a painting, a medium the artist doesn’t usually work with. The painting was done while Satterwhite was at an artist residency. Andy met the artist through his friend Edwin Ramoran who worked at various arts organizations including the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, the Bronx Museum, and the Studio Museum Harlem before moving to California.
Andy was surrounded by people who were immersed in the arts, and this is what gave him the impetus to start collecting.
Andy owns two works by the celebrated artist Jeffrey Gibson, who is currently in the Whitney Biennial. Needless to say, Andy is extremely happy he bought the work when he did. Artsy describes Gibson as “part Choctaw and part Cherokee, Jeffrey Gibson produces abstract sculpture, painting, and prints that carry an autobiographical cultural inflection. Gibson, whose influences range from 19th-century Iroquois bead work to contemporary street art, says that part of his practice “was a reaction to a nostalgic and romantic vision of pre-colonized Native American life.” Gibson works in Hudson, NY.
Do you collect with your partner and agree on what to collect?
In the kitchen you find three wonderful plates by Todd Oldham from his Felissimo Tribute 21 Plate Project, which belong to Andy’s husband Roberto. Roberto is a fashion designer. He has a number of original clothing runway designs by Todd Oldham Collection, in beautiful lush silk fabrics. They each have their own collections of pieces they like, but have similar interests and admire each other’s collections. When I visited to talk about their collections, Roberto was in his studio sewing, and brought up a few original runway garments from the 1990’s.
Hanging in Roberto’s studio are a few more great works by Marc Pelletier and Kevin Darmanie. Kevin Darmanie’s work is inspired by graphic novels and he works in a wide range of media. Marc Pelletier works with oil and ink on paper as also has a distinctive graphic style, he writes “The challenge to interpret and describe one's life through the medium of oil painting is still vital for me as an artist today. I create oils on canvas, graphic works on paper, etchings, and collages that express a personal iconography through experimental techniques.”
Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection? How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
When asking Andy if the works he likes and collects has any central theme, he said it might be about identity, and how the artists see themselves in our society. He appreciates works that engage him visually, but also draw him in with their back-story. He first responds the presence of the object, but wants to know how and why the artist made the work. Finding out more about the artist’s personality and feeling closer to them it ultimately what encourages him to buy. A lot of the work collected was purchased because he met the artists and became acquaintances.
What do you enjoy the most: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?
Andy never hunts for work. He goes our and looks at the types of works that interested him, and then meets people and artists and establishes a social connection. After he has this connection, he has a sense of pride and joy in an artworks ownership.
What is a favorite work or show you have recently seen?
I asked Andy what has left a lasting impression on him, and without hesitation he said The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum. He said he had seen numerous images of the work, but in person he was blown away by it’s scale, craftspersonship and sheer audacity.
What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of art collecting?
“Go with your heart…” –Edwin Ramoran
Questions asked by Amelia Biewald, artist, curator and member of Rosalux Gallery in Minneapolis, MN.