Hollywood Art and Culture Center curator Jane Hart moderated a Saturday afternoon talk, “Collecting, Community and Contributing: A conversation with leading art collectors”.
South Florida’s power art collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl, Kathryn and Dan Mikesell, Estelle and Paul Berg came together surrounded by over 120 works of art displayed in the centers main gallery. The works were all donated by local artists in support of the centers annual fund raiser ABRACADABRA.
The afternoon was a great opportunity for the community and local artists to hear from major art collectors and for the collectors to discover new works, most of which are produced here in South Florida. The art center will benefit, when they all come tother again for the Annual ABRACADABRA Art Auction on March 13, 2015. “It is a win, win, win,” said Hart.
Talking in a casual forum, the collectors gave insights into their personal stories of collecting contemporary art, the enthusiasm, rewards and difficulties that come along with this passion.
Collecting art is a lifestyle and the three couples agreed that it is the glue that keeps them together. But the couples styles of collecting, are as different as their individual collections.
Kathryn and Dan Mikesell look to establish a relationship with artists through their Fountainhead residency program and the Fountainhead artists studios , which provide low cost flexible studios to Miami-based artists. In their efforts to support visiting artists, who may be setting up an exhibition or working on a local project, Kathryn and Dan have on many occasions, invited those artists to stay in their own home.
Debra and Dennis Scholl prefer to distance themselves from the artist and let the work speak for itself. Debra explained that she doesn’t want her relationship with an artist to influence her judgement on the work. “I may like an artist but not necessarily like their work, or I may like the work but not have a relationship with the artist.” Dennis added “We collect art not artists; relationships never impact our buying”
On giving back to the community, Dennis Scholl expressed his theory that it takes an ecosystem of collectors, institutions and artists to support the vibrant art center that South Florida is becoming. Citing the “Miami Model” of major art collectors, opening their collections to the public as a significant reason for the “Miami Renaissance” he also admitted that it will take generations of collectors bequeathing important works of art to local museums and institutions to complete the world class art scene that is now developing. Well known both nationally and internationally as influential leaders in the art world, the Scholls recently gifted over 300 works of art to Miami’s newest art museum PAMM.
The Bergs have also made important gifts of art works to major museums and were instrumental in the development of Locust Projects, a once dilapidated art space in desperate need of an air conditioner, that has now become an internationally recognized not for profit experimental exhibition space. They also know first hand about the difficulties of working in the community. Paul served for many years on the Board of Trustees at MOCA where the couple had donated major works of art, only to see the Museum embroiled in controversy that had to be settled, as reported in Miami NewTimes, by courts of law, and resulted in the Museum’s assets being divided, akin to a messy divorce. The good that came out of this split, is that there will be a new art space for the community, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami has established itself at the Moore Building in the design district, just north of Wynwood. “MOCA will be ethnocentric whereas ICA will be strictly contemporary art” explained Estelle Berg.
These three art collecting couples are very enthusiastic about the evolving art scene in South Florida, which is growing exponentially, but the one thing that they all agree is still missing, is a world class MFA program that would draw the best teachers and artists from around the world to inspire the next generation and secure South Florida’s status as a world class art center.
The collectors had some sound advice that will serve both future collectors and artists. Look at 10,000 things before you buy, talk to people, get involved in your community and educate yourself. Dennis Scholl added “Curators are your secret source”