Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In Praise of Patronage

In Praise of Patronage

By Tom Wachunas

    When considering how, basically from day one, Translations Gallery has been consistently successful in presenting eye-popping art shows of a deeply engaging nature on both formal and conceptual levels, the current exhibit is for the most part a comparatively conservative, quiet, even intimate affair. This is not to say that the raison d’etre for the show is unimportant, or that the pieces on view are not deserving of our attention.

     From the Collection Of: A Celebration of Art Patrons is a gathering of ten local art collectors, each of them presenting three pieces from their personal collections. The patrons represented are: Clare Murray Adams, Tim Belden, Anthony Claris, Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Robb Hankins, Christian and Ashley Harwell, Craig Joseph (Translations curator), Dan Kane, Patricia Zinsmeister Parker, and Scott Trenton.

    I imagine there are many art collectors who view their pursuits largely from an economic vantage point – art as investment, art as estate-builder, art as marketable commodity. And then there are those who might well be the next Guggenheims or Gettys, planning to eventually bequeath their dearly acquired collections to humanity. But neither of those motivations seems to be at the heart of this exhibit.

    Clearly, the primary beneficiary of a collected work of art (be it through outright purchasing or as a gift) is the artist. Beyond financial remuneration there is the reward of being remembered, appreciated and otherwise acknowledged as significant in what he or she creates. The motives and intentions of, and rewards for the collector, on the other hand, can be variables which have been known to thrust the entire notion of collecting into stratospheric realms of absurdity. In 2007, Jeff Koons’ nine foot-high, red stainless steel kitschware Hanging Heart set the all-time record for a still living artist when art dealer Larry Gagosian purchased it at Sotheby auction for $23.4 million. Laughable? Sure, as in laughing all the way to the bank.

    But for this show, let’s forget about such ridiculously elitist extremes. Nor is this a review of the works themselves. In the statements posted with their displayed objects, the collectors tell us more or less plainly enough what prompts them to collect art and why the specific pieces we’re looking at are important to them. Not too surprisingly, it all comes down to their simple, honest declarations of aesthetic taste, and the pleasure taken from adorning their lives with meaningful art. What resonates most consistently throughout is their personal passion, or love, if you will, for a particular kind of content, or art’s ability to elicit emotion as well as edify the intellect. There’s no self-aggrandizement, no pompous promoting of the next Great Artist, no heady pontificating about contributing to or preserving art history per se.

    And yet these collectors, and I’m sure many others like them, are indeed contributing to and preserving what might best be called the ethos of life enhancement through art. It’s a vital continuum of call and response. Art calls us to be engaged, and collectors respond by choosing to enter into its life-affirming embrace. Like a thriving marriage, it’s a mutually rewarding relationship.

    Photos: (Top) – “Bravado” by Beth Nash, from the collection of Craig Joseph; Chinese wood carving from the collection of Tim Belden; “Pink Trouble” by Mark Winter, from the collection of Anthony Claris.

    On view through September 1 at Translations Gallery, 332 Cleveland Avenue NW in downtown Canton. Gallery hours are Wednesday – Saturday, Noon to 5 p.m.

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