An art advisor and an art patron discuss how to build a world class art collection.
The ladies sit underneath a two-story Rudolf Stingel
Art adviser Meredith Darrow spends an afternoon with her friend, contemporary art collector Allison Kanders, talking art at Kanders’ Aspen home. The subject comes naturally to Kanders, whose serious lifetime assemblage includes works by Ruscha, Koons, Grotjahn and Stingel.
MEREDITH DARROW: How did you first get interested in contemporary art?
ALLISON KANDERS: When I was a kid, in the late ’80s, we would spend a lot of time on 57th Street and in Soho [in New York City] on the weekends, just cruising around. My friend’s parents were collectors. We just loved going to shows and seeing the art. It was like through osmosis; it wasn’t even a conscious thing.
MD: What inspired you to buy your first piece?
AK: After many years of being exposed to it, I couldn’t imagine my life, in my home, without wonderful things on the wall. Even in my college dorm room, I had cool art posters. Then, when I was 21 or 22, I bought my first piece, which was a Louise Lawler. I just took it out of storage, and it’s hanging in our new home in New York. It looks phenomenal.
MD: Who do you rely on to bounce ideas off of about collecting?
AK: I rely a lot on museum curators. Here in Aspen on Heidi [Zuckerman] at the [Aspen Art Museum]. In New York, I work very closely with many of the curators at the Whitney. I do a lot of studio visits with curators. I just love the friendships that are forged, and just learning about so many artists. Young artists, midcareer artists, artists that have been around that I just never really focused on. I think it’s really valuable.
MD: How would you say your collection has evolved over the years?
AK: Well, I mostly like to collect from a show, as opposed to from a fair, because I really like to see the whole story of what the artist is presenting at the time. Then I try to pick what I think is the strongest piece in the show. If I can get it, then that’s the best thing for me. If I can’t get the number-one piece, I will take my second or third choice, you know what I mean? I’m very passionate—I usually respond to the piece, and then want it. I don’t necessarily think about where I’m going to put it.
MD: Right. You don’t think about it like decorating; you think about it as just building an art collection.
AK: Exactly. I just think about how the piece fits into the collection, not how it fits in over the sofa. I also like to collect an artist’s work indepth. I usually don’t have just one of something.
MD: The contemporary art scene in Aspen is really flourishing. What are your favorite art exhibits and art events here in town?
AK: I love the show that you have installed each year [at Performance Ski]. I love how it evolves and the way that space is completely transformed. I mean, who would think that some cool ski shop can turn into the chicest art show in town? Quite frankly, I love how it’s an intimate setting, and it’s not in a gallery setting. Then you can see, ‘Oh my God, that piece is so beautiful, and it looks almost like a home, domestic setting.’ I think that’s really interesting.
MD: Thank you.
AK: There are so many great shows. I just love to see artists come to the town, and what they bring, and there are so many collectors here, too. Summer is just a very exciting time to be in Aspen.
MD: Any advice for young collectors just starting out?
AK: Follow your instincts. See a lot of art, and maybe don’t rush to buy anything so quickly. Talk to people, talk to advisers, talk to museum people. Talk to people that collect. Then, over time, you see what you gravitate toward. Just study and enjoy it.
MD: I do think an important thing for people that are starting to collect to realize is that you’re never going to bat one hundred.
AK: You do make mistakes. I have a lot of triple-A, and I have some firewood. That’s how you learn.
MD: You just need to educate yourself and buy what you love, most importantly.
AK: I agree. Also, it’s important to have a good mix. Not everything can be big, bold, fabulous; I like quieter pieces, too. It’s really important to have a dialogue between the pieces.
A Sol LeWitt wall drawing adorns the double-height living room wall, framing a Rachel Harrison sculpture
MD: Even, I’ve noticed, on your mantel right here, you’ve got a nice eclectic mix of different types of works. You’ve got ceramics, you’ve got paintings, and it is cool how it works in the space.
AK: I love ceramics because you don’t need a wall to hang them on.
MD: I think that’s an important point because a lot of people, when they first start thinking about collecting, can only wrap their head around buying an oil painting.
AK: I think that the more you take risks, and the more you explore, the more interesting the collection is. I never thought in my life that this is what my passion would be, but it really has become that.
MD: Another thing that happens in Aspen are great artist talks at the museum. I’ve seen you there with your husband and your kids, and I’ve seen your kids ask questions and be really excited.
AK: It’s so cool when a 16-year-old kid is bold enough to raise their hand and ask a great question.
MD: Yes, it’s really neat.
AK: Aspen is a magical community in so many ways, especially in the summer. It’s like a hotbed, between the Ideas Festival, ArtCrush, WineCrush, the [Anderson] Ranch. There’s just a freedom, and there is something about being in nature that relaxes people, and they come together in a really nice way.
Meredith Darrow is the founder and owner of Darrow Contemporary, an art advisory firm. The firm’s third annual group show, Sky Above Clouds, is themed around Georgia O’Keeffe and interpretations of Western landscapes. July 14-Aug. 5, Performance Ski, 614 E. Durant Ave., darrowcontemporary.com
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMIE JAYE FLETCHER