Pièces de Résistance, the art of collecting art
The art of collecting art
By Cheryl Alexander
Photos by Gary Huff Photography
Typically when I have the opportunity to write about art, the articles spotlight artists and their work, and during the interview we will discuss their passion, their training, their style, their evolution. This time, however, my assignment was to interview David Horn, a collector who’s amassed a substantial collection over a span of three decades. I was no less enthralled at his story than I’ve been when discussing art with its creator. The elements were the same: passion, training, style, evolution. The difference was the perspective.
David resides in a contemporary townhome in the Memorial area of Houston. His interior design and art collection reflect the same aesthetic as the exterior: modern, abstract, sleek. The walls of his home are white and the floors a charcoal carpet, together with gray and white marble. The contemporary furniture is grays, blues, neutrals and black lacquer. These sophisticated and minimalist choices in décor are to ensure that the artwork is the star. Dramatic lighting, too, has been installed by Lighting Inc. to properly showcase the collection, which is abundant in color, shape and texture.
Highlights of our conversation are included in this Q&A:
Cheryl Alexander (CA): When did you develop an interest in art?
David Horn (DH): I took art classes throughout elementary and secondary school, so I was exposed to and began learning about art at a very young age. I once imagined that I’d be an artist or an architect, but due to family finances and the location of architectural schools, I went in another direction: business school at the University of Missouri, which led to my becoming a CPA and holding various executive positions. But I never lost the fire or appreciation for art.
CA: So at what point did you become a collector?
DH: It happened in phases as my finances allowed. I started my career in the late ’60s with Ernst and Young, so my budget would only permit me to collect prints. Filling my empty walls was my motivation, and prints were what I could afford. There was no real rhyme or reason to what I bought as far as style was concerned. If I liked it and it didn’t cost too much, I bought it.
As my budget and my knowledge of art grew, I moved into collecting numbered lithographs. These were all contemporary, affordable pieces.
Finally, I reached a point where I began collecting originals. By this time, I understood what a good art collection consisted of, at least for me. I’ve been careful to make sure that my selections will stand the test of time. I know what I like when I see it. The two questions I ask now are, “Can I afford it?” and “Will it fit?”
CA: What do you mean, “Will it fit?” On your walls?
DH: Yes, well, that. But, too, will it fit with my collection? For instance, my anthology is obviously contemporary. There are tons of color and abstract shapes, but you’ll find very few recognizable forms, people or places, etc. So, for example, I have an original piece that is very good of a man and woman, but it’s in the closet because it doesn’t fit with other pieces in the collection.
CA:What about particular artists? Do your pieces represent specific artists?
DH: Not at all. I only have two pieces by the same artist, and they are both sculptures: blown glass works by the artist Dale Chihuly. All the others 35 works are by different artists and in a variety of mediums.
CA: Do you have a single curator or have you acquired your collection from a variety of places?
DH: My collection comes from a variety of sources. Some I found by flipping through the pages of Art in America or Art News; some from auctions; some from art fairs; some from commissions with artists; many from galleries. Each piece is very personal to me and tells a meaningful story about where I was or what I was doing at the time I acquired it.
CA: Do you have a favorite?
DH: It’s the large work “Wind River” by Margit Omar that is hung in my living room. I like the color purple, which was what initially drew me to the piece — aside from the size of it. Then I enjoy looking at the layering/scraping technique that reveals the multitude of colors underneath the purple oil paint. I never tire of looking at it, and I’ve had it since 1987. Alden Mason’s abstract “Superman Shooting the Breeze” is a close second.
CA: What advice would you give to those who are interested in collecting but don’t necessarily know where to start?
DH: If you are a young person with a small budget, start like I did with prints, then progress as the budget grows. This will help you determine what your tastes are without you having to spend a lot of money on things that you may grow tired of. For a more mature collector, I’d say always buy what you like, but not for investment; buy to create a meaningful personal collection of pieces that you really like and that will stand the test of time. And research each artist, especially if you are commissioning their work or buying it without seeing it first.
Call on a professional to hang your art. I use DCM Art Services. Additionally, if the art is shipped, I have it sent to them, so that when each piece is opened, I have a representative with me to inspect it for damage. Then they deliver and hang it. Some pieces are heavy and easily damaged, so this can be an important step.
Consider that lighting your art collection is important. This can be an expensive process. If the art is not well-lit, you won’t enjoy it nearly as much, and much of the drama of the piece will be lost, especially once the sun goes down. If well lit, many works are more impressive at night.
Get to know the gallery owners to establish trust. Typically, once a gallery owner realizes you will be a collector, they will help educate you and offer you a discount on your future purchases. And don’t forget to ask to visit the back of the gallery to see the work that is NOT currently on display. Once the gallery owner knows and understands your preferences, they can be an excellent resource for helping you find pieces you will like and can afford.
Don’t clutter your art. Let your pieces stand alone. This way, they can each get the attention and appreciation they deserve.
Lastly, a good collection does not have to cost a fortune or be terribly expensive.