Category: At the Home

At The Home: Lucinda Bunnen

At The Home: Lucinda Bunnen

 

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with photographer, collector and true Atlanta legend, Lucinda Bunnen in her Atlanta home. We spoke about her spectacular career, world travels, and what she thinks is in store for the future of photography

*This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

Atmos: Thank you so much for meeting with me today. How did you get started in photography?

Lucinda: I got started in photography by becoming a photographer.  My sister and I were talking about how to celebrate my upcoming fortieth birthday, and to make a long story short, I talked fifteen family members into going to Peru.  Prior to that trip, I had been working on the Arts Festival of Atlanta in Piedmont Park with Tulio Petrucci, who was a noted filmmaker. So, inspired by him and others, I bought a Super 8 movie camera to take to Peru. I filmed our trek through Machu Picchu; I shot footage of indigenous Peruvians in their native dress, and I was even able to film some of the small local villages along the Amazon River, where we traded belts and hats for dart guns, animal skin bags, and purses.

After that trip, my filmmaker friends really encouraged me to take a photography class. I enrolled in the first photography class that the Atlanta College of Art offered.  The first class of my photography course conflicted with our family’s annual beach week. So when we went to Pensacola beach, I borrowed my husband’s camera. I ended up taking one of my most iconic images there: four nuns wearing their habits on the beach.

I still remember my husband’s horror when I chased the nuns down to get the photo , while my husband said to me: “You can’t do that.”  I said “Well, it’s public domain and they don’t seem to mind.” That photo was literally my first and it has become one of my signature images.

From the moment I started studying and practicing photography, I discovered that I liked making images of what I had actually seen; I was hooked.

A: Tell me more about that first photo.

L: It was the first picture my first roll of film. I made mostly small prints of that image, the largest was maybe 16 by 20.

A: What triggered your desire to not only create images but also to be a collector of photography?

L : When I started making original work, it was like I had been shot out of a cannon. I was fascinated by the entire photography process.  I was learning about everything for the first time. My teacher also urged me to study famous photographers’ work. At that time, I was in New York City fairly often to check on my ailing mother, and the Lee Witkin Gallery was around the corner from my mom’s. I saw a number of exhibitions there, and Lee Witkin encouraged me to start collecting.  Remember, this was in 1970, when not everyone even considered photography to be a true art form. Atlanta’s High Museum was not collecting photography at that time.  Of course, I thought even spending $100 for a photograph was expensive — and my husband said you can get a print for 25 cents at the drug store. Even so, I began collecting. The first photo I bought was an Edward Weston. Shortly after that, I convinced the High Museum to start collecting photography. I’m proud that the High started early and now has one of the top photography collections in the country.

A: You’re really involved with the High Museum still.

L: Yes. I’m thrilled to have had so many opportunities to work with such a wonderful institution.

A: When did you start collecting?

L: I started collecting objects when I was little and lived on a farm and milked cows before I went to school.  I think my first “collection” began when I got a small figurine of a cow.  My dad had the same one.  They weren’t really valuable but they were the beginning.

A: What do you look for when you’re collecting?

L: I’m really not collecting anymore. I’m 87 and I don’t have any wall space for more art!  But most of my collecting has been like that first Edward Weston.  It was a photo of a tree, and it was double the cost of all the other Westons in the gallery, but I ended up buying it because it spoke to me.  I donated it to the High Museum’s collection, which is fabulous.

A: What’s your favorite place to shoot?

L: Wherever I am.

A: That is a good answer. Do you prefer to shoot in color or black and white?

L: I shot mostly in black and white in the beginning.

A: And was that a preference or just what film you could find?

L: No, my original preference was black and white, and then I shot with two cameras, one black and white, and one color. And then of course digital came along and I could…

A: …do whatever.

L: …do whatever. I came into the digital age in 2007 with a Canon camera, leaving behind my Leica film camera.

A: Has your style changed over time?

L: Oh yes, absolutely. My first book was Movers and Shakers in Georgia. It was 1976, Jimmy Carter was running for president.  Frankie Cox and I were able to talk a number of the Georgia politicos into letting me take their picture. I have been lucky to photograph Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King Jr.  I even got to travel with the Carters, and they are down to earth and really normal. But after that, my photography started to become much more international in focus.

A: You’ve traveled all around the world to take photographs, right?

L: I have been so lucky to travel to Haiti, Beijing and many other places.  I was invited to join Carol Thompson, Curator of African Art at the High, to travel to Burkina Faso in Africa.  I went to Bosnia twice as part of an art therapy group to demonstrate photography to help the children who were suffering from years of war and ethnic cleansing — it was art therapy. I’ve been to Cuba. I like to travel to places that will challenge me as a photographer.

A: Have you ever thought about doing any other medium or was photography just always it?

L: Not really. I enjoy the immediacy of photography and I can operate without constraints or a team, and there are amazing techniques that one can use to create images. Recently, I put some old Kodachrome slides from the 1970s out on my deck to see what nature would do to them. They turned into incredible images and they became one of my best projects ever.  Marcia Wood Gallery had a show for me called “Weathered Chromes.”  A couple of the “chromes” are in a show at MOCAGA right now

A: You just put them outside to see what would happen?

L: Yes. They changed colors, and when they changed, even I didn’t know what they were to start with. Some of them you can tell but some of them you can’t tell at all.

A: It’s better that you don’t know, I think. They were perfectly good until you put them outside?

L: They were perfectly good slides. They just weren’t ones I needed, so I thought I would experiment, see the real impact of nature.

A: Art working for social change has been a big thing recently, such as Agnes Gund selling her Lichtenstein for a net of $165 million, which she is using to start an Art for (criminal) Justice fund.

L: Isn’t that incredible? There are fascinating new directions for collectors to go.

F: What do you think the future of photography is?

L: Photography as an art form is alive and well.  More and more schools have photography classes as part of their curriculum.  Mainstream urban and regional art museums are embracing photography and are more prominently displaying it.  The High Museum finally has a permanent place designated in the museum to show photography.  We have come a long way from the early days.  I am so proud of that.

A: Amazing. Thank you so much for meeting with us today Lucinda!

Images Courtesy of: Fernando Decillis

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At the Home: Fay Gold

At the Home: Fay Gold

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with gallerist and collector, Fay Gold, in her Atlanta home. Read along for a chance to hear about her friendships with art legends, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe. 

*This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

Atmos: Everyone has their own kind of path towards an art career. Do you want to talk a little bit about yours and how you got here?

Fay Gold: I came here in 1966 from New York and four years prior; I’d been studying oil painting with a protégée of Hans Hoffmans. She taught in my building in Riverdale. So my three kids would go to sleep and I would go upstairs on Wednesday nights and take art lessons. She taught us how to do pointillism and surrealism and color theory. So I had all these charts in an envelope when I moved to Atlanta. I had a little studio built in my backyard so I could continue painting when the kids went to sleep and people in the neighborhood asked me to teach their children. I said, ‘well I don’t teach’. But I had a school with me: I had four years of charts and all of the instructions….I decided once I saw what was going on in Atlanta that was so lacking in the kind of cultural I had come from, the restaurants, the food. I created Fay’s world in the backyard and I’ve been creating Fay’s world ever since. I’m too thick skinned to care what anybody thinks of me. I just keep walking through doors as they open. I always say that if I ever figured out what I’m doing I’m in trouble. I don’t have any five-year plans, I don’t even have a five day plan. I see something and I know it’s right and I trust my instincts. Sometimes I’m wrong but most of the time I’m pretty right.

A: I think most the time you’re pretty right too. I think so many people now, especially a lot of younger people; your life is so mapped out for you. You know what your next step is going to be and I don’t think a lot of people anymore really decide with their gut.

A: I had no idea that you were a painter though. Do you have any of your work here?

F: In fact I taught painting in the backyard for the next fifteen years. I had sixty students a week. I had ten to twelve children every afternoon. Ladies on Tuesdays and Thursdays and eventually a men’s class on Wednesday nights. In fact, two months ago MoCA acquired one of my paintings. The archives of my galley are at Emory at the Rose Library. About ten years ago I started writing my memoirs. Right now based on the memoirs I have written, a play is being written about my relationships with the artists and it’s called Basquiat’s Cat. Because Basquiat sent me his cat. I can’t tell you more about it but that’s an interesting project in the works and I’m very excited about.

A: I’m very excited about that. If you get a play, I’m going to go see it.

F: So I taught art for fifteen years and from the age of eleven Amy (daughter) was my assistant. Gina and Jason (daughter and son) painted every afternoon; they had twelve kids coming over. So Jason ended up being an architect.

A: And Amy works with you. What does Gina do?

F: Well Gina is a fabulous artist, but right you know she works on art on her own. She’s married and takes care of her husband… she’s very happy taking care of her home and husband. She has a fantastic garden called Donald’s Garden. And Amy is an art dealer so you can say they all got the bug.

A: Yeah I think growing up around art and your mom being an artist…you catch the gene of being visual I guess. Take my family for example all of us are so visual

F: So I started collecting pop art. I had a ten-foot Basquiat.

A: Where is that now?

F: Probably Zürich. (It was) from the first show. I paid $5,200 for it. I sold it for $750,000 and I didn’t want to sell it. My husband said to sell it. Now…

A: That one that just sold was…

F: $120 million.

A: That’s wild. How big was it?

F: Mine was ten feet. It was beyond. It was the best painting from the first show. $5,200.

A: How did you meet him?

F: What happened was…I made friends with Holly Sullivan, in the seventy’s she was a New York. She started a decorative school. Warhol did a portrait of her and Lichtenstein. She invited Amy, Jason and I to the gallery. It had just opened. She invited us to our house and to the parties of all the artists. I asked to do a group show and she said yes and she was  (going to) come down. I couldn’t believe it. This was 1982. She’s sitting and we’re having coffee. I said, ‘you know, it’s my birthday I’m going to New York. What should I see?’ She said, ‘Well, you should see Keith Haring. Ever heard of him? It’s his first show. You should see Basquiat.’ And Donald gave me five thousand dollars to buy a bracelet.

A: You didn’t buy a bracelet did you?

F: So I said, instead of going to 47thth Street, maybe I’ll drop in to see those shows. I went into the Basquiat show and bought the painting for $5,200. I called Donald and I said, ‘no I think I’m buying a painting and I’ll pay the extra $20.

A: No bracelet for you.

F: That’s how I got my Basquiat and while I was there Annina took me

downstairs to the basement and introduced me to him.

A: What was he like?

F: He…wasn’t overly friendly. He’d knowledge that you were there but it was like painting. And then after he left Annina and after he left Mary Boone I called him and said I want to buy some drawings. I went to New York, it was winter, and he was living Andy Warhol’s little duplex. And the door had graffiti on it, no number. I had on a fox coat and in those days you know, you’d get hit over the head. I had $20,000 in the bank I’d saved. And I said I wanted to buy some drawings. There were paintings on the floor and out came this Maine Coon Cat. So I’m making nice on the cat because I had a Yorkie at home and I had a Persian. And he talked to me, ‘should I cross this list out?’ The drawings were $1,100 each, that he picked out himself. He sent someone out for a tube. $16,500 (all together) and I had $20,000 in the bank. I walked out with a tube of 11 Basquiat drawings under my arm.

A: That’s insane. And over time they’ve just been sold?

F: Yes. I was building a gallery.

A: And it’s art, you never know…

F: I knew.

A: Did you know that about Mapplethorpe too? When did you meet him?

F: Of course I knew that. I’m a founding member of APIAD, The Association of International Photography Art Dealers. There were 30 of us and we met in 1980 and we had a table of photographers….that was the first I had laid my eyes on that work. It blew me away. Did you ever hear of Harry Lunn? He was king the photographer. Lunn did a show and Mapplethorpe did his photograph for the invitation. At that time his photographs were fifteen hundred dollars. I got forty off. And I said I wanted to do my photograph for my invitation and then I met him. It was just the two of us alone on Great Jones.

A: What was he like?

F: Robert was very thin and very wiry. First we talked for a half hour. He told me to wear whatever I wanted to. I still have my dress in the closet. And I wash my hair. Curly hair. Grows this way, what can I do? And we just sort of chatted, just two of us he was….he was jumping up and down changing a light…you know like for an hour or two. He only offered me two pictures. One is a profile, which I have hanging. And the full face. Later on I went through the books and I saw all of the sheets of all the shots we took. That’s a lot of pictures jumping up and down.

F: But then, Robert came here twice. Sam Wagstaff, he was one of the handsomest men in the world. Socialite with great wealth. And he fell in love with Robert. Bought him a home for five million dollars and that’s where I sat with Robert three weeks before he died, in that apartment. As I said came down here first time with Sam. You know I had a long friendship with these artists. For whatever reason. And Haring did his last show with me. Didn’t do it with Tony. Tony had a fit. And he would call when he was coming to Atlanta to do a mural or something and he would say, ‘Wanna play?’

A: Did you go out with him?

F: Oh sure. We used to go to the diner. The Buckhead Diner was new. It was a big deal. And I taught him how to balance spoons on his nose.

A: So you were teaching in your backyard for years and years. How did you start?

F: And I’m buying! Making twenty thousand went far. And so some of the women said, ‘can you take us to New York?’ Most of them had never even been. So I got together a group of twenty-four of them. The first place I took them was to George Segal’s in New Jersey. He made a sculpture in a big chicken coop, a chicken farm. Carol Janice represented him. So you know, they set me up. Unbelievable we went to George Segal’s. And that was successful and they said to me, ‘Can you help us get some art?’ And I didn’t think I was going to be an art teacher or an art dealer or anything. It just became a mission  in a way. It just happened.

F: And so I started helping them. And then I had a client who just wanted photography. There were two photo galleries in the United States…in the late seventy’s. I have owned everything that you can ever name. I used to have a wall just  from ceiling to floor. And then I had these granddaughters and I said, oh my God. Because I had (photographs) the priests with the bloody girl on the ropes and I had the coyote…everything in my house drew tough things. So I sold them.

A: Because you didn’t want to freak out your granddaughter.

F: And you know something? They couldn’t care less. So then before you know it, the kids grow up. And I lived in a brand new house, four bedroom. I could only buy little things. I wanted to buy big things! I have to sell this house or you know get a man to sell this house.. So once I sold the house and didn’t have an art school, I rented a store for the art school. And I rented the front to a guy named Myott, now the biggest framer in the Southeast. Myott worked for the frame circus. He was a young kid with three babies. And I had sixty students and I sent them all to him in the frame circus.

F: So for two years he was in the front until he needed more space and then I rented to a plant shop. And then a nail place wanted it and a guitar school. And I said to Donald, ‘you know maybe I’ll open a little gallery in the front. I’ll keep the art school in the back because I know that’s income’. And he loaned me twenty thousand dollars I we renovated. Who do I open with? George Segal. Who do I follow with? Alec Katz. Third show Rauschenberg. Cindy Sherman, fifteen hundred dollars each. And Kathy Fox, the last line of her review is, ‘As said, Gone With The Wind, personally I don’t give a damn.’  She didn’t like it.

F: That’s all I knew. I only knew the New York school. And that’s what I brought to Atlanta. Nobody did anything like that. That for a first year, Irving Penn. My first big photo show.

A: So how did you how did you pick artists to show?

F: It took three years to show a profit and that’s when I closed the art school. Because I would be in the back teaching then would run up in front to the gallery and then I would run back. When it showed a profit, I needed storage. I have pictures of everything. I’ve been going over to Emory now couple of hours a week. I just gave him the fifteen boxes when I moved and look through them or anything. All the installation shots, all the P.R. books. Anyway so that’s how the gallery got started.

A: So you closed the gallery seven years ago, right?

F: In 2009.

A: And you consult now. Do you have an eye on any emerging artists right now that you really like?

F: I’m on the advisory board at SCAD. There are some unbelievable artists. SCAD is beyond anything in New York and that takes a lot for me to say that. It’s the top fashion school in the country now and it’s the top interior design school in the country. Both. The talent there is fantastic so I’m going to look for talent that people can afford. Because of all of these unbelievable apartment buildings going up everywhere, you need a painting over the couch and a painting over the fireplace. That’s the two basic, you know I’m saying. And every time I see another apartment building I say, ‘wow, wish I had a gallery.’ I know business can be fabulous right here. You know I’m an art fair junkie. I’ve done FIAC, I’ve done ARCO. I’ve been in the Armory Show. I love doing art fairs.

A: You love working them or you love going to them?

F: I love working them. That’s how I got my name out. It’s a bit different. I’m not looking to spend fortunes on art fairs and fortunes on shipping. If I do something, I’m going to discover younger artists without crazy egos. That’s what I’m going to look for. I’m going to look for good stuff for these apartments here. And not try to bring New York in anymore. It’s too expensive.

A: What do you look for when you meet a young artist?

F: I just know. I look at it and you know. After a while, I mean if you never shop, you don’t know what’s going to look good on you. You don’t know what’s out there. You don’t know anything. If you go to a store once a year, you keep up on things. When you see the right thing, you know.

A: Is there a gallery in Atlanta you like going to?

F: I went to Avery when he opened his new space. He has a lot of my artists.

A: Do you have an idea what the next big art city is going to be?

F: Well Miami is big and they’re getting some very good galleries. Chicago was big. Not anymore. When the Chicago art fair was the only one and in its heyday, Chicago was so great. Los Angeles is coming in very strong because it got all the Hollywood money. You know wherever Gagosian has a branch is going to be good.

A: That is really true. We should all live by that rule.

F:  Miami is good but it’s gotten so big; it’s too big Miami. I mean I remember when I did Miami Art, it was one fair. And now just the Miami art is about eight fairs. But I’ve taken clients shopping there. You can not buy at the Miami art fair, it’s too expensive. The main thing when you shop with a client is you can never let them buy what they want, because it’s always terrible. Never.  But if they’re smart enough, I always recommend something that I would want to buy myself.

A: So if your advice is not to buy what you like, what is your advice to collectors?

F: If you don’t know anything, you will make tremendous mistakes just saying, ‘oh, I like this’. You need advice, unless you’ve been looking and educating yourself. Then you can trust your judgment. I buy thing that ask questions. I don’t like people I can figure out. I like people that reveal themselves to you and great art reveals itself to you so that each time you look at it, you see something else. When I pull a painting out from the racks, if it didn’t continue speaking to me, I’d return it.

Images Courtesy of: Fernando Decillis

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At the Home: Richard and Eileen Ekstract

At the Home: Richard and Eileen Ekstract

Today at Atmos we’re speaking with collectors Richard and Eileen Ekstract in their home in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Read along for a chance to hear about Richard’s friendship with Andy Warhol and their latest venture, Collectors Concessions.

*This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

  • Andy Warhol Silkscreen

Atmos: Have you always had an interest in art?

Richard Ekstract: Well sort of yes. When I was in high school I had a girlfriend who was an artist. That lead me to that path, but you usually don’t get involved with art unless you can afford it. 

A: That’s very true. I think that’s one of the things that artcloud is working on. So even if you don’t have the money, you can still be interested and connected to it.

A: Where are you both from?

R: I’m from New York City, she’s from New Jersey.

Eileen Ekstract: Well I only grew up in South Jersey,I was born in New York.

A: Did you meet in the city?

R: Yes.

A: Did you start collecting together or by yourselves?

R: No, I had been collecting for some years prior to that.

A: Do you remember the first piece you collected?

R: The first piece I collected was actually a piece of African art. I had been selling advertising for a magazine that I started and I was waiting for a client, I was early. I walked into a gallery in Los Angeles that had African art and it blew me away. And I started getting involved with buying African art…that’s what got me collecting in the first place.

A: Did you like African art previous to that visit or was that the first time?

R: When I was a kid I went to the Brooklyn Museum with my brother and we looked at Egyptian and African art, but I wasn’t aware of what I was looking at. I just sort of liked it. But I went into this gallery and I saw the way they had displayed these sort of magical figures, it just shook the ground for me. 

A: Do you still have the piece?

R: No, I didn’t buy that one because it seemed expensive at the time. But I bought something in New York after that. Do I still have that? No, but I always liked African art. Right there, (points to sculpture) is a piece by Vanessa German, who is a black woman and she combines African tribal art with American junk art. I love this combination of old and new and seeing how they conflate the disciplines of contemporary art with what was tribal art.

A: I remember speaking to Eileen the first time I came here about your collection; it’s really fascinating. It’s very diverse.

R: The two pieces on the wall over there are by an upcoming artist, Titus Kaphar. Titus is very intellectual. He graduated high school at about 15 or something and then he went to Yale, very smart. He was the product of a single mother and he was always told that his father was in jail. So he went on Google and he looked up ‘Titus Kaphar’. There wasn’t one Titus Kaphar in America, there was something like 50 and every single one of them was in jail. He started drawing what he felt his father would look like if he found him. He finally did find him and they had some sort of reconciliation. Jack Shainman who is the gallery where he shows has (two spaces). The uptown gallery had a show of Titus’s original drawings of who he thought his father might be. There were dozens of them and with big ‘X’ across because he X’d out all these people who weren’t his father. It was interesting. …Every artist wants to have a signature look if they can. They want to differentiate themselves from everybody else because you want to be an individual. So Titus’s thing was he would take out a principle character from a storyline or something he was painting and just eliminated them. And that one over there (points to work) it’s a picture of Christ. The space where Christ would be is empty; however, inside in spite of the fact that it is empty, there is a black man looking out, questioning the whole idea of religion

R: As you probably know, we have a lot of art in storage but every once in a while I like to change it. I just sent out a piece…to Sotheby’s for auction last week, which sold. I have this empty wall that’s going to be open. I decided I like to look at Titus more because I love looking at his work. I see something different every time. This streetscape from Brooklyn speaks to me too (work behind couch). It’s a photo-based work, but you can see the enormous effort the artist put into it; etching out all those branches. There’s texture to it as well.

A: Looking at it directly you wouldn’t notice the texture until you were up closer.

R: He’s also concerned with the environment. That’s why that roof at the bottom is black. Today people are painting their roofs white because you can save 25% of your energy if you have a white roof. I don’t think most people knew that. 

A: I had no idea.

R: But it’s about where we live here.

A: So you buy works that speak to you?

R: That’s about it.

A: That’s what you’re looking for when you’re in a gallery? Whatever speaks to you that day?

R: Yeah.

R: Those two women over there, that’s by an Iraqi woman, Hayv Kahraman. That’s also from the Jack Shainman Gallery. I don’t know why I’m giving him so much business. It just took me and it was hard getting it in here because you can see, it’s right to the ceiling. We had to re-stretch it. She has multiple images in her paintings of women, but every woman she paints, the face is all her. In this particular case, they’re showing their private parts. It’s a little risqué. The gallery had a question of whether it would even sell, but it turned out that it was the one most people wanted

A: Do you buy each other art as gifts sometimes?

R: Yeah, I have a portrait by Billy Sullivan of Eileen. I was at a charity auction in the Hamptons and they were offering this portrait. I’ve always liked Billy Sullivan’s work…it’s beautiful, I love it.

R: This piece is interesting because I (took a Chelsea gallery tour) and we walked into Jack Shainman’s gallery- that guy again! I saw this work (by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye) and Jack came up, I knew him forever, and he said ‘you should have that, but I have to talk to the other two people (who have it on hold) tomorrow, I’ll call you.’ He called me up and he said ‘it’s yours’. I didn’t even know what it cost, but it was relatively affordable. Now she’s become very popular, she just had a show at the New Museum. She’s Nigerian and lives in London, but she’s become world class.

R: Then I bought that work (points to work next to Boakye work) at a little gallery called Thierry Goldberg Gallery on the Lower East Side. Most of his art is not expensive. I walked in there and I bought that by David Shrobe. I said ‘you know what? Let’s see if this piece is strong enough to stand up to that piece’. So I put it there next to her and the more I look at it, the more I like it. For me there’s a lot of mystery in that painting and I had never heard of that artist before. I didn’t know a thing about him, but it spoke to me.

R: This one is a little better known by Hernan Bas. For a while, you couldn’t get one, it was just so popular. He sort of lost that luster and he was wandering the wilderness for a while. Now, he’s making a big come back. Which happens to people in the art world, you know that. I have a storage house full of them.

A: I think a lot of collectors have that problem. When do you know when the right time to resell is?

R: Well hopefully one doesn’t buy art to resell it.

A: I completely agree however…

R: …however, if you have limited means, sometimes its necessary to either buy new or…

R: That piece over there is a photograph and if you look very close you’ll see Andy Warhol in it. It was a series that was done for the Warhol Museum. I had a moment in time where I got very involved with Andy Warhol. Long time ago. I met him in 1962.

A: How was that?

R: I had a little magazine called Audio Times, which I had started a couple of years before. My editor asked me to buy a bankrupt magazine called Tape Recording Magazine. He knew he could fix it and he was a tape recording fan. It was nothing to buy, so I bought the back issues of the magazine and the title. I got this publication designer, Peter Palazzo, to re-design it. He did a brilliant job. The magazine was beautiful, but it wasn’t selling on the newsstands. I couldn’t figure out how to make this thing breakthrough. And one day I had an epiphany; I said why can’t sound be an art form like art on the wall? Today, that exists. But back then no one had thought of that. So I thought, what if we had a pop sounds contest? You have all these pop artists out there, even then Warhol was quite well known, and you let people send in what sound they think is art.

R: Peter said great idea, do you want Andy Warhol to be a judge? I said…uh yes. Peter had given Andy his first job, doing illustrations for I. Miller shoes. They were good friends. Peter calls up Andy and says ‘Andy, I have this client Richard Ekstract and he’s got a magazine. They’re going to have a pop sounds contest and he’s looking for judges. Would you consider being a judge?’

R: Andy says ‘Well, can he get me free tape and tape recording stuff?’ I said, ‘yes’. So Andy says, “I’ll do it and I’ll bring Henry Geldzahler with me.” Henry was then working with the Met Museum, but later became cultural commissioner of New York. So I had these two judges, but the stuff people sent in was the worst.

A: That’s what happens when you open it up to the public.

R: Right. So we called the contest off. Andy calls me and says ‘Hi Richard, what did you do with all those tapes you analyzed for the magazine? Could you give them to me?” I said sure. He says, “Come down to the studio and bring some tapes”. So I started going down to his studio, but I had three kids and was married. I just couldn’t hang out with that crowd of bohemians.

E: How different your life would have been.

R It was fun to go there. So we were friends. In 1964, Philips Stovven of Eindhoven came out with a new Norelco video recorder. At that time, video recorders were strictly for broadcast use, they cost like $100,000. And only professionals used them. This was I think $5,500. A wealthy person could own one. Andy calls me and says, “Do you know about this new video recorder? Could I get a loaner for 6 months? I’m making movies and editing is killing me. But if I had the video recorder, my editing would cost nothing.” I told him I would see what I could do. I was on the board of directors of the High Fidelity Trade Association and this (friend) was also on the board. I said, ‘you should send a machine to Andy Warhol because he generates so much publicity, everyone’s going to win. You’re going to get a lot of press for this because it’s a very expensive product’. He said okay I’ll do it. I said you know what we’ll do? We’ll have a big party for him when he finishes his videos and I’ll give him a cover story in Tape Recording Magazine because I have self-interest too. I thought this might make the magazine. I mean having Warhol on the cover…

R: He comes into my office that summer of 65’ and he says ‘ I made the videos, whens the party going to be?’ he loved parties.

A: Who doesn’t?

R: He was making underground movies at the time so (I thought) we’ll have to have an underground party. I started calling around to see where we could have an underground party for Andy Warhol. Nobody came up with a reasonable answer. One guy said to me do you know Track Six under the Waldorf Astoria Hotel? I said no. He said it’s a special railroad track from the New York Central Railroad where millionaires like J.P. Morgan and Teddy Roosevelt would pull up their private train cars and take an elevator ride into the hotel. It’s a secret place.

R: I said wow, now wouldn’t that be a great place to have a party? I called the Waldorf and the guy in the PR department says to me, ‘I don’t know anything about it, but I’ll call you back’. He calls me the next week and says there is a train track down there, but it hasn’t been used in 35 years because the elevator to the hotel stopped working and the only way to get down there is the fire stairs on 49th street and its about 129 steps down. You would have to have guards at every level, you would have to have guards to watch the people walk across the tracks to get to this platform. You could have booze, but you can’t have food because there are rats down there. Blah blah blah. You would have to have massive liability insurance and I said well, if we could do all that, could we have the party? The guy said yes.

R: I said to Andy, look at what my friends and doing for your party, what can we do for them? He said, ‘I have no money, I’m broke’. I said, I have no money, I’m broke. He said, ‘But I’ll tell you what, I made a 1964 self portrait. I sold 11 of them. I’ll give you the separations, you make the silk screens and make one for me too and give me back the separations when you’re done”. So in the end we made 10 for myself, Andy and a few necessary contributors.

A: Wow that’s incredible. Are there any artists you currently have an eye on?

R: She likes an artist, Nina Chanel Abney.

R: About four years ago, I was trolling the internet and there was story in there about a South African artist named Maleko Mokgosi, so I got intrigued and I tried to find all I could find, but he was then represented by a woman in Los Angeles, Honor Fraser. I call the gallery and inquired about the work. She says, ‘well there is none, but he is working on a series of large paintings that are set to travel around Europe for a couple of years, but I’m glad your inquiring about it because he’s a brilliant artist. If anything comes in, ill speak to you’. A few months later she calls me and says he has a studio in Brooklyn in the Navy Yard and if you’d like to go to the studio, I’ll take you’. (They were) giant pictures, 15 feet high, 20 feet wide. It was about political instances in South Africa and their quest for racial equality. They were too big for me to own, so it sort of slipped away from me. The next thing you know, I’m reading in the paper, Jack Shainman took on Maleko Mokgosi.

A: You and Jack Shainman, my goodness.

R: You’d think I’m in love with the guy.

R: I go to this gallery to see the show and it’s big stuff again, very big paintings but there’s one that’s human size. It’s about 8 feet high, 5 feet wide. You could put it in a house. It was beautiful; it was a woman with cherubs. It looked like it could have been painted in the 18th century, very beautiful. I said that I liked it. He said well its sold. But when I called him later about Lynette, he said ‘I have another reason why you shouldn’t sell. Remember when you wanted Maleko Mokgosi? Well, the guy who had the reserve on it, never paid for it, so it’s yours if you want it’. Wasn’t cheap, but I bought it. It’s off travelling right now.

E: It’s in the Williams College Museum, they’re having a show.

R: Whenever I get a new piece I like to hang it on the wall and look at it.

A: So this is the only space you have to hang at the moment?

R: Well we have a house in the Caribbean, but we don’t hang contemporary art there. We have a local artist who lived on the island who made a lot of paintings. I filled up that house with his stuff. And then we had a kid this year paint a wall for us.

A: That’s awesome. So do you rotate this space more often?

E: Well we’re going to hang the art we haven’t gotten yet in the summer house. We’ll move some things.

R: We bought half a dozen things that are sitting waiting. So I’d like to hang them. We have a lot of art that I’d like to give a home for a while.

A: Your latest venture, Collectors Concessions, how did you guys get the idea?

R: Well it’s pretty simple, collectors collect. And that’s what we did and when your walls are full what do you do? You buy more because you’re a collector. Where do you put it? Storage. Right now I think we have 250 pieces in storage in the Hamptons. There’s another guy who lives in this building who has maybe 350 pieces (in storage). I saw him recently and I said what do you do with all the pieces that you have in storage? He said, ‘well I get rid of it, how long can you keep it? And it’s so expensive to store it’. So multiply this by hundreds because they all have the same problem. They have too much art and some of it they haven’t seen for 20 years. It’s like a museum. It’s a problem that’s universal.

R: The reason that makes Collectors Concessions a little more valid is that collectors collected all of this art, so theoretically a collector has some sort of an eye. A practiced eye because they’ve been looking at art for a long time. By and large, you’re getting it for a considerable discount because at this point we just want to get rid of it. So they (the client) win two ways: they get something that’s a better price and they’ve been vetted. And from our standpoint we benefit because I don’t have to pay the storage unit for 250 pieces. There are so many collectors like this.

R: If you want to make money in any business, find a need and fill it. Collectors who collect too much art have a need to sell it. Somebody that is buying art, who is young, who wants to have great art, can buy it here for a lot less than what it cost from when it was originally sold and maybe have something that’s going to be worth a lot of money. That’s the reason I think that its good. Everybody wins. This isn’t a win/lose situation. ‘

A: Does Collectors Concessions take a percentage?

R: It takes 8%, which is very little, but we’re just getting started. As a Concession, you expect to lose money because you want people to know you’ve got something worthwhile. That’s the investment you make in the business.

A: Last question, any advice for collectors who are just starting out; they don’t have a lot of money, but know they like art and want to start collecting?

R: Everyone says the same thing. Buy what you like. Don’t buy something just because somebody else says it’s going to go up in value. Chances are it won’t. If you love it, you’re going to be happy with it no matter what. If you buy something, just for speculation, I think ultimately you might be disappointed.

R: I’m 86. Do I want to buy art that who knows what it’s going to be worth? I’d like to buy something that I think is going to hold its value. I’ve looked at art for over 40 years. Chances are a lot of what I buy will not be art for the ages, but you still have a better chance of winning, of getting something valuable than not; simply because if you want to learn how to buy art, you’ve got to look at it. You have to go to (galleries and museums) and see a lot. We travel all over the world to see artists in their studios. You learn a lot from traveling and looking. What else can you do?

A: Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to me today!

Images Courtesy of Emma Fishman (@emmafishman)

 

 

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