Art Collecting For AllArticle by Lisa Howie, Black Pony Gallery
The BTA has launched its first Art Month and the island appears to be abuzz about art. It is a perfect time to consider building or augmenting one’s art collection.
Recently, I assisted a collector with the arrangement of her treasures that have been collected from experiences around the world. Photographs, historical prints, original paintings on canvas, and beautiful antique objects in wood, glass, and ceramic. The opportunity to rethink placement of the objects was an opportunity to experience the collector’s life in a small way. To retrace family steps and personal journeys, all conveyed in the decisions to purchase, store safely, and, in some instances, make the trek home with the object in luggage or in hand.
Thirty years ago, I carried a handcrafted wooden stool from The Gambia, West Africa, using it as my convenient sitting perch along the long trip home. Initially I sketched the design in the sandy floor of the market, asking the artisan to fashion a seat that I thought was common to the region. They liked the design so much that they had added engraved details of village life and created many others for sale at their stall. Today it reminds me of my fascinating experience as a young educator and continues to function as designed.
Although I have a passion for design, our art collection doesn’t lean in that direction. Instead, my husband and I have focused on contemporary artwork that connects with some of our own heritage, from the Caribbean mid-Atlantic. That means that the artists are, for the most part, from the islands of Bermuda, Cuba, Cayman, St. Lucia, and The Bahamas. We have original paintings, works on paper, a few limited-edition prints. There is artwork in every room, which feels like we are living amongst old friends. Art is much more than décor.
Meredith Andrews (Bermuda), Hands of a Gombey, 2022, digital photograph. Unframed 20 x 16in. Limited edition run of 50 prints.
Our artwork was collected following exhibitions I helped to produce at Bermuda National Gallery during my tenure there, as well as on our travels to biennials, art weeks, and national exhibitions. Excluding one or two random beauties purchased online, we know the artists and have visited their studios. This type of intimacy is not always available, but it does add a certain quality to one’s collection.
Black Pony Gallery is an online entity with an ‘outpost’ at Cambridge Beaches Hotel. Many of my sales are to people I may never meet in person. We are in a new era of art acquisition, where technology gives us wide access to the global art markets, whether we can attend in person or not.
I started the Atlantic World Art Fair in 2021 to further the vision of the gallery, and it has been presented entirely online for the past three years. Other fairs, like I:54, offer their catalogue of artwork for sale following (or during) the physical experience. This is so advantageous for all involved, especially the collector, who can review the online catalogue and source artists, artworks and styles of expression.
Nasaria Chollette (Cayman), Woman Whose Children are the Fish, 2022, acrylic and collage on wood panel. 24 x 20in. Original.
For those considering entering the art collection arena, searching online is a great place to start. Of course, I push Artsy.net as my own entities live on that platform, but be forewarned, there is so much content you may find yourself overwhelmed. I would suggest starting your search thinking about place—where the artists are from, for example—versus a general category like painting. It is also important to be thinking about your budget from the outset. Knowing what you can invest makes the decision to purchase easier and more enjoyable.
My first painting cost $500 and I paid it in two installments. It was a big deal for me at that moment, and it meant a lot to the artist who was selling the artwork to generate capital for a film. I appreciate that the costs of living in Bermuda continue to escalate, however investing in artwork offers added value to our life experience. And a workplace with art feels uplifting and fresh. Check out the Butterfield Bank on Front Street, Hamilton to see how we placed local visual artists’ works in the renovated main branch.
My most recent purchase is from an artist whose work I have come to know and love thanks to my art tours at the Hamilton Princess Hotel. I started following her online, receiving her newsletters, and so was alerted to her studio sale. Although she is British, the object refers to Cuban culture, so it was an excellent fit. We are lucky to have access to such a refined global contemporary art collection at a local hotel. If you haven’t taken time to explore it, please do. It’s inspiring.
For those traveling west, my gallery space in the reception of the Cambridge Beaches Hotel features artists from Bermuda, Cayman, and Cuba. The refreshed décor in the hotel helps to create a homelike setting that may inspire too.
Teresa Kirby Smith (Bermuda), Fan Palm, 2023, digital photograph. Unframed 15 x 15in. Limited edition run of 5 prints.
If this article is encouraging you to create (or augment) your art collection, please reach out to say hello. I can give guidance on purchases, placement, and framing, and share my relationships with artists and regional galleries. And if you want to uplift your office setting with artwork, I can also provide didactics, such as informational labels, professional development for staff, editorial or tours to your VIP guests.
Let’s talk soon about developing your art collection.
Lead Picture: Osmeivy Ortega (Cuba), A Part Reality, 2018, linocut, 27.5 x 19.6in. Two prints available on Japanese white paper.
Visit Black Pony Gallery Online at: www.blackponygallery.com
About Lisa: Lisa Howie has over 25 years of education and community engagement experience. Following successful tenures as an educator of English Literature, then Director of Education & Programming and Executive Director of the Bermuda National Gallery, where she repositioned the Bermuda Biennial as a contemporary forum, she is now an independent curator, consultant, and cultural entrepreneur. In 2019 she launched Black Pony Gallery, which presents a perspective on the contemporary art world of the Caribbean mid-Atlantic by featuring emerging to established artists who reside in the Azores, Bermuda, Cayman, Cuba, The Bahamas, and Turks & Caicos. The intentions of Black Pony Gallery led Lisa to create the Atlantic World Art Fair, an online marketplace that casts a wide net around the mid-Atlantic while anchoring to the continents that informed the region’s complex socio-historical narratives. Both the gallery and fair reside on the Artsy platform with the aim of raising the economic value of the visual art talent in the region.
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