By Karen Stokes
Art lovers, collectors and the general public have a unique opportunity to see art from the homes of local collectors at the Milwaukee Collects exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Taking the tour through the maze of rooms, tourists enjoyed an exhibition comprised of paintings, photographs, drawings, fluorescent lights, portraits of parking lots and even a gear table from A. O. Smith. All were inspired works of art that reflect our city’s unique artistic tastes.
The exhibition is a collection of approximately 150 private pieces of art lent from 45 Milwaukee area lenders.
According to Margaret Andera, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the idea of this exhibition came from the new director, Marcelle Polednik, meeting people in the community and being impressed by the way people collected and thought it would be a good way to establish relationships with Milwaukee collectors. Also, curators recently completed the museum’s permanent collection renovation so collecting was top of mind.
“It was a good way to focus on how individuals collect and what a strong collecting community exists in Milwaukee,” said Andera.
Milwaukee Collects features pieces of art from Early American and European Art to contemporary sculptures and Art Deco.
“This was a collaborative effort from all the curators at the museum. We each knew certain collectors in the community. Then as the word got out about the museum we were made aware of other collectors. It was a discovery process. We wanted to create a narrative throughout the exhibition and the narrative kind of revealed itself to us,” Andera said.
Several African American artists are represented in the exhibition including Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Josephus Farmer, Carrie Mae Weems, Bill Traylor, Tyanna Blue and Simon Sparrow. African American collectors Sande Robinson and local artist Evelyn Patricia Terry lent their private collections to the exhibition.
“I heard they were having this exhibition and I’m a collector so I was hoping that something I had would fit in here someplace,” said Terry.
Even though many believed you need to be wealthy to collect art, an unlimited budget isn’t a prerequisite to be a collector.
“Look for artists that are up and coming, familiarize yourself with the art world,” said Andera. “Art farms, websites and local galleries are great places to find affordable artwork.”
Terry shared a story, on how working within a budget, she acquired artwork from Wisconsin artist, Simon Sparrow to add to her private collection.
“Writing articles about Simon Sparrow, I often visited in Madison to interview him,” said Terry. “One day traveling to Madison for one of my exhibition openings, I took my son, Fonde Bridges. I decided to visit Sparrow again, this time I had $100. He spoke to my son for several minutes and abruptly turned to me and said that I could have any piece I wanted. Shocked, I randomly pointed to the piece I now own and said ‘I only brought with me $100,’ which I gave him. He invited me to take more, but the piece I took was priced at several thousand dollars.”
“Collector after collector had a story on how they bought their first work of art. It all comes down to this passion for collectors,” Anders said.
“Milwaukee Collects” opened to the public on Friday, March 10th and the exhibit runs through May 21st.