Summer Collectors Interview: Kelly Hayes

Updated: Mar 16


As part of our regular series of interviews with collectors who collect Rosalux artists, we got together with one of our bigger supporters Kelly Hayes. Kelly has been collecting art since the 1970’s and has also been a fixture of the Minneapolis art scene since that time as well. Kelly’s collection of sculptures, photographs, paintings, poster, fine art prints and art books don’t seem to follow any sort of organized method to collecting art, but as we discovered in our conversation, each piece tells a story that is important to Kelly and taken as a whole, tells the story of his life in the Twin cities.


Antique bronze with Jerry Richards photos and lithograph by Jim Lee

How would you like to be described?

Kelly Hayes- style maker or maybe man about town.


What's the first work of art that you ever bought?

Actually, I don't have it anymore. The first really good piece art I bought was a Maxfield Parish photograph. My boyfriend and I collected his work in the 70’s and we had tons of them. They were all originals, real prints, our house was filled with them and of course we sold all of them. We were in our 20’s….


1930's era Rolls Royce hood ornament with unidentified photo

Were you thinking of them as an investment at that time or is just Something to do?

No, we sold them because we split up. We bought them at antique stores, some of them came from California but that was the first time I actually felt like I was buying something real.


Was that experience with made you continue buying art, or was it something else?

No, it wasn’t a conscious thing, it just kind of happened, we were obsessed with them, and I didn't keep any of it. I regret that, but I have sold so much art over time. I've made terrible mistakes by purging my house.


A wall of found photos set a masculine tone in Kelly's bathroom

Do you still sell your art or do you tend to hang on to it?

I keep things now because there were so many that I regret losing, I just thought I was moving on and it was stuff I loved at the time I wish I’d kept.


Is there a particular thing that you are looking for when you are buying art?

No, it looks like there is but there really isn’t.


So you've been collecting since the 70s…

Yes, but I don't have anything from that time. I have one piece of furniture from the 70s and that's it. It was the first piece of furniture that I ever bought on my own, a little Art Deco Table by the front door. I would clear my whole house out and not have anything at all, no furniture or art or anything and I'd start over. I did that quite a few times.


Small paintings by Elaine Rutherford and David Benrud accompany art books and ephemera

One of the reasons that we asked to talk to you is because you have such a cool variety of work. You have a lot of sculpture, 2D work and art books too which isn’t as common. Do you use your books for reference when you're collecting?

I did at one time, but I don't look at them all that much anymore. I do enjoy them and I never have sold my books and I'm glad of that. I tend to look at them when someone else wants to see them and then I take them out to share.

I can’t afford the work that’s in the books obviously, but it does make you look at your own artworks differently. If I see a way that art is hung in one of my books that is interesting, I will change the way that I display the work in my home.


A Denny Kemp photo overlooks the sitting room

Some of your stuff is kind of heavy in terms of content, but it also functions really well as decorative forms. Is there a preference for one or the other that you might give more weight to when considering what to collect and display?

Both at different times, but sometimes it is more of an emotional decision. The works from Denny Kemp, Rob Beckon, Elaine Rutherford, Shelly Mossman and Terrence Payne are all friends of mine. If I like my friends art I’d rather hang that. It makes me think of the person, you buy it emotionally sometimes, but you have to like the art also not just because you know who made it.


Do you ever think of the works you are adding to your collection as an investment financially?

My mind doesn't work that way. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I don’t know what anything’s going to be worth in the future. It’s all so subjective, it’s not fair to put that kind of pressure on an artist asking what it might be worth in ten years. I have bought things from MCAD and people go,” Ooh that's going to be a good investment!”, and I wonder why that would be the case? I suppose it’s because they think because you are getting it at a bargain basement price and that’s just not what I am thinking about. That’s not how I think of the value of my art.


1920's art deco painting by Wolfe

You are also very visible in the art scene you go to a lot of shows is that part of the experience of collecting that you enjoy?

That’s always been something that I’ve liked. I like the people who go to the shows, I like to see the art. Even if it is something that isn’t to my particular taste I still like to go and look at it. I don’t go with any assumptions on what I will see, I just go to exhibitions in hopes of finding something that I might like. Some things I like, some things I really love, sometimes I form an emotional attachment to something. I have a lot of photography but it is paintings that I get more of an emotional attachment to, that make me feel something. When I first saw that small 1920’s Art Deco painting in the hall I was walking through an antique store and it was in a cabinet when I first noticed it and immediately it took my breath away. I thought, “I have to Have that!”


There are pieces that you have mentioned that you regret letting go, are there any that you regret buying?

Actually, no. I have regrets for trades of paintings that I have made, I end up missing the pieces I let go.


Bronze, books and jazz

Do you think about where a piece of art is going to fit in your home before you buy it or do you just buy it and make it work?

Yes, but this place is super easy to buy art for so I don't have to think about whether it'll work or not. Mostly I just think about if it will fit into my home, I am running out of space. Some of the pieces I have are really big and I worry that if I take them down to make room for something else I’ll have nowhere to put them.


Do you ever give art as a gift?

Not often, but it is really hard to do. Unless you really know someone its hard to know what to give. Sometimes I find something that someone should absolutely have in their house and I give it to them.


Plaster casting sculpture with Denny Kemp photo in background

How would you describe yourself as a collector?

I wouldn't know how to describe myself that way really. My tastes have changed so much over the years that I can’t really say that I have any specific style. Sometimes I’ve had people come to my home and say that my house is really gay, but i don’t see it that way.


How would you describe the artwork then?

I can’t really say, I kind of felt like I was heading in kind of a crusty direction for a minute and I so I abandoned that. I've regretted it because some of the paintings that I had were beautiful the way they were.They were old school paintings and they were all very beautiful. I felt Like I wanted to get away from that and I wish I wouldn't have, I wish I would have kept them. I never thought of myself as having a collection. I didn’t even realize how much art I had until I took everything out of storage and hung it all up.


What do you enjoy more: the finding, the hunting or are they having?

I like the hunt for it. I do


What is it about the hunt?

It’s like an addiction. Actually going out and looking for it, I even get excited if I start looking at things online. As I find something new that I really like, I get this really Peak feeling and then it's over. I want it, I can’t wait to get it and then the minute I get it and put it in it’s place I’m over it and then I move on.


Antique movie poster for the film Blow Up

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of collecting artwork?

The best advice on buying art is…. Actually find a good piece of art make sure that it is framed properly. Seriously, presentation changes everything. Things can be framed horribly and it is so distracting, it can ruin the piece. This movie poster from Blow Up is an original print, so I had it framed pretty extravagantly. I thought it warranted it, it makes all the difference in the world. I think a lot of times people skip over things they see merely because they are presented so poorly. For me, if an artist has done something where the art is framed in a way that works, and it’s done well, it say’s everything to me because they thought about it. It has to be finished looking.



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