Elizabeth Fazzare: How did you start to create your own collection?
Marc Giambrone: I would like to have a definitive moment in time. For some reason, I love art, and it’s the feeling or the interaction with a piece that really engages me. The pieces that appeal to me are normally very colorful and capture movement and depth. My interest in collecting started when I moved to Dallas and started working for Barrow Hanley. The two founders, Jim Barrow and Tim Hanley, are great art collectors and I was constantly surrounded by art. Tim was the president of the Dallas Museum of Art, which inspired me to engage with local institutions. I now sit on the Dallas Contemporary Board of Directors and the Nasher Sculpture Center Program Advisory Committee.
The piece that started my collection was a large print by Roy Lichtenstein purchased from a gallery in San Francisco. It was installed in my office in Barrow Hanley because it was just too big to fit in my apartment at the time. I remember Tim telling me that I will know when I become a true art collector when I take something that I love from the walls and put something else that I love even more. Now I realize that wall space is a really valuable commodity for an art collector. After 20 years of collecting and external storage, I wish I had more wall space!
EF: What pieces inspired you to continue?
MG: The colorists, the classics, that’s really what first spoke to me. Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Piet Mondrian, although I couldn’t collect them, they were artists who first caught my attention and piqued my love of art. I first met some of these artists through the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, where I grew up. The museum, which is undergoing major expansion, has always been an important institution for me, and I am delighted to soon join its Board of Trustees as an external member. Over the years, my interest in art and culture has grown rapidly. As I got more involved in art, visited more museums, visited fairs like Art Basel in Miami Beach, and attended auctions, I became more and more fascinated by contemporary artists. and I started to search for the art that I liked. I am also interested in public art; the three-dimensional and interactive aspect of sculpture has always intrigued me.
If an artist is alive, I always try to meet him. I’m a numbers guy, so I can’t think of like artists. I appreciate their work, but I cannot conceptualize it. When you talk to an artist you hear the basics and reasons behind what they do and that captivates me completely. Anish Kapoor is a good example. Her work is so colorful, vibrant and interactive. I used to live in Chicago, and it was monumental when he set up Cloud gate in Millennium Park. Later, I went to visit Anish’s studio in London. Going to his studio was like going to a vacation home. There is nothing more special than an artist opening his studio and directly engaging in the work.
My two works by Peter Halley, for example, were commissioned directly from his studio, which is also a unique and special thing to do. I have an earlier painting by Peter that showcases his characteristic prison and cell style, as well as a more recent grid painting, such as those that will be featured in his upcoming exhibition at Dallas Contemporary. One of the reasons I’m involved with so many galleries and institutions is to have that kind of access to artists. These relationships can only help individuals as they begin to collect and develop their own interests and style.
EF: Which designers / artists inspire you at the moment?
MG: Lehmann Maupin recently introduced me to artist McArthur Binion, whom I didn’t know and immediately fell in love with. There are so many wonderful artists and even the best collector will know only a small percentage of them. Galleries and institutions can certainly help point you in the right direction. I bought two works by McArthur, one that I donated to a museum and another that hangs in my bedroom. The room at home is a black and white grid that fascinates me every time I see it.
I am also interested in artists who use different media. I recently bumped into Gabriel de la Mora, a Mexican artist who builds visual works from found, discarded and obsolete objects like feathers and eggshells. It always amazes me how people can use non-traditional materials to design and make art. There’s also Cory Arcangel, a great exponent of tech-based art who studied in my hometown of Buffalo. One of its gradients, where the colors almost radiate, is my latest purchase. It just blew me away.
Finally, I am always interested in the work of Sarah Morris. He is a person I keep coming back to and actively collect for his incorporation of various media, but also for his interest in architecture, perspective and color.
EF: Does the marketplace help your discovery process? Why or why not?
MG: Yes, I think this is the case for several reasons. First, auctions help frame a certain mood or trend. They are privileged places to discover new artists, in particular through the marketing materials and the catalogs that accompany them. As I browse, I find that some works really resonate on the page, which then inspires me to research the artist and see if I can add their work to my collection. In this way, auctions nurture a systematic way of looking at what’s going on in the market, which artists are participating in the auction, and what works are being sold. Entering and selling auctions is a testament to his career. The big ones are always consistent. With a full-time job and a father of three boys, these catalogs are an effective resource.
The market also helps with pricing. I’ve always believed in buying what I love rather than investing, but I’m a market person, that’s what I do for a living so it’s important that I know what that the market says of labor to assess its overall value and achieve a fair price.
EF: What’s the next piece on your radar?
MG: Something I always try to do – which doesn’t always work – is collect more than one piece from an artist I love. I only have one McArthur Binion play at home, for example, and I would like more. Sean Scully is also doing some really interesting sculptural things right now, which I’m very attentive to, and I’m more and more fascinated by the work of Mary Corse. There are a million interesting things by so many amazing artists that are all happening at the same time. It’s really hard to pin down which artists will truly stand the test of time, but in the end, you’re still hoping to find the right pieces for your collection.
EF: What is the piece that escaped?
MG: This question makes me laugh! I think the more we collect, the more this list grows. You just don’t know how unique or awesome a piece is that you are looking at. Sometimes you need a historical perspective after not being able to afford it, not getting it in time, or seeing an artist become famous.
If I were to reduce it to one piece, however, it must be a work by Gabriel Orozco. It was offered to me I don’t know how many years now, but I hesitated. Everyone has to go through a first discovery process, and the work was not insignificant in value. But I took too long to make a decision and the work was sold to someone else. It was one of the best Orozco plays I have ever seen, and I wish I could watch it every day. But I think that’s only part of it. If you are not actively pursuing specific work or are not active in the market, sometimes parts will leak. I imagine every collector must have a really long list!
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