A premiere gallerist, a specialist at Christie’s, and now an executive at New Art Dealers Alliance–all three interviews comprising our Young Collectors Series provide a lens through which we may examine the biggest question facing the art world today: what exactly appeals to the younger generations of art collectors, and why are they buying the art they’re buying?
In an industry filled with some of the most, shall we say, colorful personalities concerned only with realizing their vision of aesthetic beauty, it is easy to forget that there is a practical side to the business; and NADA’s VIP Relations Manager, Emily Counihan, is here to provide just that. Counihan’s invaluable knowledge of contemporary art fairs in addition to her own, personal experience as a collector grants us a thoughtful conclusion to our Young Collectors Series.
We’ve seen a ton of amazing works in each of the featured interviewee’s collections, and we’ve talked shop with three of the driving forces behind the ever growing art industry. But these interviews do not simply provide a cursory glance into some esoteric world of multi-million dollar auctions for artists who have been dead for two hundred years; rather, they show that a little research, a bit of patience, and a few hard-earned bucks can rapidly garner an art collection to be proud of, both emotionally and fiscally. Finally, these interviews shed light on the importance of art on a personal level. Ogden, Zimmerman, and Counihan each display a collection built on a foundation of passion for the artists that resonate with them and affect their daily lives. For you aspiring millennial art collectors out there: we here at AZ hope the Young Collectors Series encourages you to invest in a future filled with visual art that you cherish.
Read on to enjoy Counihan’s perspective on art collecting as well as a sneak-peek into her own art collection.
Art Zealous: Tell us about your background in the art world and your work at New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA).
Emily Counihan: I studied art and worked in museum and gallery settings before managing art fair production and earning an MA in Museum Studies. At NADA I have the opportunity to build upon my experience with commercial art fairs in the setting of a mission-driven, non-profit organization. It’s the best of both worlds because I enjoy the fast pace of fairs, and I am passionate about NADA’s mission. As VIP Relations Manager I oversee our program to accommodate the collectors, curators, museum professionals, advisors, and others doing business at NADA fairs. I am also developing programming for those wishing to engage further with contemporary art and NADA Members throughout the year.
AZ: How did you begin as a collector?
EC: I have had the privilege of getting to know several galleries and talented artists, and to surround myself with art at home. But I’m very much still an aspiring collector!
AZ: How has your relationship with the works you collected early on changed over the years?
EC: I enjoy observing artists’ work over time, and inevitably gain insight into it this way. I love this small drawing Tessa Perutz gave me as a birthday card years ago because even though it’s so simple, I’ve come to see that it contains the visual vocabulary of shape and color found in her more recent paintings and larger body of work.
AZ: Tell us about some of your particular favorites of your collection.
EC: Neenee by Swoon is a very special print depicting a young woman and neighborhood scene from Braddock, PA. Artist KT Tierney, head ceramicist at Braddock Tiles, introduced me to Swoon and their work in Haiti with Konbit Shelter. This print reminds me of what these amazing artists accomplish through creative collaboration, and it really inspires me every day.
Jeremy Deller created a custom rubber stamp for his exhibition English Magic at the British Pavilion of the 2013 Venice Biennale, and visitors (myself included) were able to make our own prints to take home. The image refers to a large mural in the show entitled “We sit starving amidst our gold,” which depicts William Morris preparing to dunk Roman Abramovich’s superyacht.
AZ: Are there any pieces from your collection that were works you specifically sought for a while, as opposed to simply happening upon them while shopping and deciding to get them right then and there?
EC: Working at NADA has allowed me to learn about many contemporary artists whose work I now follow, continue to learn about, and hope to acquire one day. One of the great things about NADA galleries is that much of the art they show is very accessible.
AZ: When looking for art to add to your collection, is the motivation behind a purchase purely aesthetic in nature, or is there a bit of financial practicality in mind? In other words, do you see collecting art as a sound investment as well as an emotionally driven action?
EC: It’s probably smart to approach any purchase with financial practicality, but to me, if the art speaks to you in a meaningful way, that’s where you will ultimately find its true value.
AZ: Do you think that finding a piece that you like online is very different from actually going to a gallery and being drawn to a work in person?
EC: The Internet provides amazing opportunities to view a wide selection of art and make new discoveries, but the actual experience of encountering art objects can’t be replicated online.
AZ: Do you notice a difference in the general attitude toward appreciating and collecting art between Millennials and, say, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers?
EC: New technologies are reflected in art, and the way we interact with art is often guided or enhanced through technology. People from many generations bring their unique perspectives, but younger people may be more likely to expect technology to be part of the experience in some way.
AZ: How do you think art collecting will change in the near future? What about the art market in general?
EC: There are always ups and downs in the market, but we need funding sources such as the National Endowment for the Arts more than ever. Removing public support for the arts would have a devastating effect and place greater strain on the market.
AZ: Any general advice for young and aspiring art collectors?
EC: Go to galleries and art fairs, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be open, and trust what speaks to you.
AZ: The Mission statement for NADA states: “Through support and encouragement, we facilitate strong and meaningful relationships between our members working with new contemporary and emerging art; while enhancing the public’s interaction with contemporary art.” Has the burgeoning online arts industry helped or hindered the achievement of this goal? Is the “interaction” enhanced when it takes place over, say, Instagram, or is it weakened?
EC: Social media is fun, and it’s an amazing tool for discovering and keeping up with galleries and artists. At NADA we use social media to share our members’ programs, and we also go beyond that to provide unique experiences and special opportunities to engage with art more deeply than you can do online.
AZ: What are some of the ways NADA has made “contemporary arts more accessible to the general public,” as the organization states on its website?
EC: Contemporary art can seem esoteric, but NADA presents a careful selection of art in a fun and non-intimidating environment. NADA appeals to established and new collectors by offering a range of art from emerging to highly sought-after, as well as historic works being presented to the market in newly relevant ways.
AZ: Have you had any experience with purchasing art for your own collection online? What sites do you use when searching for a work to add to your collection?
EC: Online art sales platforms are great places to see a large selection of works and start conversations with galleries. Artsy is the largest, and I also really like Artspace for its selection of artists, partners, and limited editions, and 1st dibs for furniture or decorative objects.
AZ: Do you have any advice on finding and exploring the underground art scene (especially for those who aren’t professionally involved in the art world in some capacity)?
EC: Paying attention to “artist’s artists” can be a good way to discover art that may be under-the-radar. I once worked with collectors of Chris Martin’s work who learned that he was inspired by the self-taught artist Joe Light. I helped them locate a great selection of Light’s work and they ended up acquiring a wonderful painting. I loved the initiative they took to investigate this artist even though he was not well-known in the mainstream art world, and they (and I) had fun doing it!
Additional reporting Alice Oh
Top image, Emily Counihan, Purvis Young Untitled
All images // courtesy of Emily Counihan