OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE OLD, ACCORDING TO THESE YOUNG COLLECTORS
This Thursday evening, I had the distinct pleasure of mingling at the young collectors party for the always-glittering Winter Show at the Park Avenue Armory with a bona fide fleet of ambitious youngsters who’ve taken it upon themselves to become the next generation of art and design collectors. I don’t mean to play favorites, but I must confess that I had some of the more genuinely engaging conversations with these whippersnappers than I’ve had with any group of collectors, writ large. There’s a lot to be said for a coterie of people who opt for upholding the old in an art market obsessed with the new, new, new.
The party was invite-only, but as a voice of the people (or, at least, the people who subscribe to Artnet News Pro), Wet Paint would like to introduce you to some of these budding intrepid collectors.
“People are always talking about how millennials value experiences over objects,” said one such collector, Michael Diaz-Griffith, who focuses on collecting Americana (specifically watercolors of interiors and portrait miniatures). “I’m, like: owning true vintage silverware, which is not crazily expensive, and using it every day is an experience.”
Diaz-Griffith is one of the co-chairs of the Winter Show’s Young Collectors Committee, and has worked with the Winter Show for eight years, beginning when he was 28. He explained the history of the committee to me: “It was started in the ’90s by younger people who kind of just wanted any space they could find around the show. It was in a tiny room in the front of the Armory, so the young people were corralled there and it was kind of raucous and fun.”
Since then, he explained that the show had added programming for burgeoning collectors, including a sticker system that denotes which objects are below $10,000, $5,000, and $2,000, respectively, and have moved the committee’s dinner to the main floor. “This sort of reflects the sort of expansion of the opportunities for collectors. In the secondary market in antiques, it’s actually a lot more buyable for young buyers than it was in the ’90s.”
Diaz-Griffith told me that his home combines the old and new, and is filled with art like watercolors dating back to the 1750s made by a German medical student named Christian G. Gross, and his most recent purchase, a drawing by 33-year-old artist Cynthia Talmadge, who has a new show up now at Bortolami.
Another collector who combines the old with the new is someone you may already be familiar with: 33-year-old Emily Adams Bode Aujla, whose fashion brand Bode has become a New York City staple—and whose clothes, she estimates, are 40 percent composed of antique textile. She came to the party along with her husband Aaron Aujla, a former Maccarone employee and co-founder of the buzzy Green River Projects.
“It’s a perfect alignment,” Emily told me of the show, for which she is also a co-chair. “It’s nice to hear stories from all the dealers, even if it’s just for experience’s sake. Sure people want to sell, but they also want to show people what they have.”
When I asked Emily how she got her start in collecting, she referred back to my own hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, and an antiques market I also grew up visiting: the sprawling Scott’s Antiques Market. “I picked out my own high chair from Scott’s,” she said, nearly causing me to spit-take. “That was an old American high chair from the early 1800s. Another purchase that was really early on when I was maybe six years old and I bought this 1940s fold-up grocery store that had all the food and the shelving made of tin. I still have both of them!”
If that isn’t testament enough to her taste, she and her husband described their current collection of contemporary art in their house: several pieces from JTT, including work by Bill Walton and Charles Harlan, a large-scale Tyler Mitchell photograph, work by Nate Lowman, some Ryan McGinley photos, and a painting by Alex Hubbard.
Another co-chair of the committee is the 37 year-old New Orleans-based collector Jeremy K. Simien, who has dedicated his collecting pursuits to finding art and artifacts that help him learn more about his African, Choctaw, and Creole heritage.
“I began 10 years ago and my collecting was fueled by trying to understand my own family history, but in finding my family history, I found what is my own future, which is collecting,” he told me. Since then, he’s taken a particular liking to portraiture, and was even able to find a portrait of a direct ancestor—a free man of color who was born in New Orleans in 1760. His most prized find, however, is the infamous , attributed to Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans and painted sometime around 1837. For those unaware, the painting has the fraught history. Depicting three white children in the foreground, the painting was seen as a sweet piece of Americana until a 2005 restoration after being sold at Christie’s—which revealed a fourth figure, a Black child named Bélizaire, the family’s slave, leaning against a tree behind the children.
“The piece had been deaccessioned by the New Orleans Museum of Art,” Simien told me. In fact, the museum’s negligence to have the piece restored led to his decision to resign from the museum’s accession board. He eventually tracked it down last year after a 10-year hunt, and had it restored once again. “There’s so much more in Bélizaire’s face. His face is beautiful.”
Simiens’s collection now features several portraits that deal with New Orleans’s history of slavery and racism. “It’s incredibly inspiring, but also incredibly complicated,” he said. “But that’s okay, that’s what history is. It’s tangible representation of this history that otherwise might only be as real as a print on a page.”
OF COURSE THE $200 GEORGE CONDO IS PROBABLY, UM, NOT
Probably some of the best advice I’ve ever received and upheld is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. These days, we can barely go one week before a new scammer is introduced to us—and this week’s reveal of recent Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree Charlie Javice’s scam on college kids was pretty alarming. In the art world, I feel like I run into small-scale scams all the time, whether its the fine print on a convoluted NFT startup or faux Nicolas Party paintings at Dover Street Market.
Most recently, I overheard an advisor laughing off a listing on Spanish auction website WOA Auction Gallery, which allegedly was selling a George Condo painting on paper with a starting asking price of $200. On most other auction websites, acrylic paintings on paper by Condo sell for, quite literally, 100,000 percent higher prices than that, coming in within a range of about $25,000 to $35,000.
As I learned from reporting on Particle, it is indeed always important to read the fine print. The website states two competing facts, in one place saying that “George Condo appears in Upper Right of the painting” and in another that it is “rendered in the style of George Condo.” All other lots in the sale clearly indicate in the title that the paintings are in the style of Frida Kahlo, say, or Fernand Léger, or Remedios Varo. The Condo however, does not.
However, Condo’s gallery, Hauser & Wirth, would not confirm to me whether the painting was a fake or not (to be fair, most galleries don’t do their own authentication). In response, they simply informed me that “we always advise that collectors carefully verify the provenance of works offered for sale. If necessary, this could involve reaching out to the artist’s studio or the estate representatives.”
At the time of reporting, the so-called Condo had one bid on it. Happy hunting!
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There were more than a few flare-ups between some of downtown’s most prominent personalities this week, with KJ Freeman taking it to Instagram over the racial implications of a Jamian Juliano-Villani painting made in collaboration with Mykki Blanco on display at Lomex Gallery. The back-and-forth resulted in Freeman launching “Race Court” for Housing‘s subscribers, where she will act as the judge every Sunday night on a live stream… Management Gallery owner Anton Svyatsky also had some public discourse with artist Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov over alleged homophobic remarks and an upcoming show (it’s all been since deleted, but I’ll drop a screenshot below)… The Metropolitan Museum of Art has acquired Julie Mehretu’s painting Conversion… Nicodim has picked up representation of painter Nadia Waheed… A pop-up gallery has sprouted up on East 3rd Street called All ST Gallery this week, hosting a show of sculpture and paintings by Alina Yakirevitch and Anna Sofie Jesperson… Ice-T is a bit of an art collector, and recently purchased work by techie artist Vincent Peters… A new edition of the beloved Wet Paint hats are currently being cooked up and may be ready in time for Frieze Los Angeles…
The year of the rabbit started off strong with a series of Lunar New Year parties, including a joint party thrown by Sandy Liang and Danny Bowien, where pineapple buns were served to Sasha Melynchuk, Losel Yauch, and Mina Le, followed by a rave thrown by Alice Longyu Gao at a Chinatown loft that had Genevieve Goffmann, Angel Frost, and Mike Crumplar dancing into the wee hours *** Simphiwe Ndzube, Joel Wachs, Naima J. Keith and Betye Saar at Roberts Projects’ opening for Kehinde Wiley in Los Angeles *** Nan Goldin is selling a delightfully affordable print of an old self-portrait, Nan as a Punk to benefit her advocacy group P.A.I.N. and harm reduction group OnPointNYC through her gallery Marian Goodman **** Cooper Hoffman rifling through the sale section at Dover Street Market *** Many people are raising their eyebrows at artist/chef Laila Gohar’s recent culinary endeavors, which look a little… undercooked? Shall I say? ***