Guest post by Dan Elias, Co-Chair of the 2011 Museum School Art Sale
I was delighted to accept a recent invitation by Skinner to guest blog on two topics near and dear to my heart: collecting and the Museum School Art Sale at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In my varied roles in the art world – gallery owner, former host of Antiques Roadshow, museum administrator, and husband of Skinner CEO Karen Keane – people often ask me about the process of collecting: what it means, how it’s done, and even what constitutes a collection.
Now, I know some collectors. A few of them are dedicated, passionate individuals with a well-defined collecting focus, broad knowledge, deep pockets, and an extensive rolodex. Most, however, are more like me: “huh? A collector? I just bought some stuff!” Most people don’t set out to collect; they end up there. And, while knowledge is certainly helpful, it tends to come through experience and develops over time.
I’ve recently begun to collect a little wine at Skinner’s wine auction. I don’t know very much about wine, but it’s amazing how quickly you learn when there’s money on the line. You don’t have to spend a lot, just enough to make you take it seriously. If you do that, you’ll pay attention, and if you pay attention, you’ll improve your taste and knowledge over time.
And that brings us to the Museum School Art Sale, an annual fundraiser to support scholarships at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The SMFA is a vibrant jewel in the cultural fabric of the city. I’m proud to be an alumnus of the school and was equally proud when they asked me to co-chair this year’s sale, along with fellow collectors Lee Essex Doyle and Juan Prieto.
If you’re one of the many who love art, but don’t know much about the contemporary art world, and have a couple of walls that need “a little something,” you’re in the perfect place to take the first steps down the road toward a “collection.” With original artwork starting at $50, you can drop by the Museum School Art Sale and take a look, ask questions of the staff, find out about the artists and their artwork, take a look at what’s on offer, put a few dollars down, and take something home.
You never know what could happen. This is one of only a handful of schools in the country turning out artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Nan Goldin, and Mike and Doug Starn (whose Big Bambù graced both the Metropolitan Museum roof and the Venice Biennale this past year). Some of these young, unknown artists are going to be leading the way in decades to come. So visit the show, open your eyes, get a little advice, take a chance, and start building that collection.
The Museum School Art Sale is open to the public and runs from Thursday, December 8 through Sunday, December 11. For more details, visit http://www.smfa.edu/artsale.
Dan Elias owned Elias Fine Art, a contemporary art gallery in Boston, served for three years as host of the PBS series Antiques Roadshow and is now at the Peabody Essex Museum, a museum of world art and culture in Salem, Massachusetts, where he manages grant funding for projects in cross-cultural education and the arts.