The Conversation Continues
Jim Cottrell and Joe Lovett
By Sue Scott
On a warm summer evening in mid-June, Jim, Joe and I gathered in the garden behind their home in downtown Manhattan. Surrounded by sculptures by Mâkhi Xenakis, Mark Mennin, Donald Baechler and Frank Stella, we discussed their collection and the upcoming exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art (OMA). Subsequent interviews took place over dinner and via the Internet throughout the summer.
Sue Scott: It’s been 12 years since you showed your collection at the Orlando Museum of Art, Co-Conspirators: Artist and Collector, The Collection of James Cottrell and Joseph Lovett. Joe, when we were trying to decide a title for the show, you had an epiphany with The Conversation Continues for the title.
Joe Lovett: We were talking about Barton Benes, who was a very dear friend from our 20’s. He died at the age of 69. We were very close and talked together almost every day for years, decades actually. We had a great deal of his work. After I got over the shock and the terror of his decline and eventually his death, I realized that the conversation continued, because his work was everywhere. And wherever I saw his work, I would think of his incredible sense of humor and his take on life and realize that he was still with us through his work. Of course he’s there in my memory, but in his work there was something very tangible…and not so tangible. And that the conversation really continues, even after death…
SS: Through art.
JL: Through art. And he has really made himself immortal. At least he has for me. And I say that in a very tangible way. I really feel his presence through his work. And that’s true of a lot of the work in our collection. Artists, such as Barton, who lived through the AIDS epidemic — he was HIV positive for many years — have done a lot of work on social issues including HIV AIDS and he was fortunate enough to have lived to continue this work because drug therapy came in time to keep him alive.
SS: In The New York Times obituary, they described Benes as a New York artist who used materials that he called “artifacts of everyday life.”
Jim Cottrell: Like his series called Cojones, the balls we have in the living room on the shelf, they’re balls made from things you would find in a junk drawer, like dice, string and pencils. Each is constructed in such a way they form a perfect ball.
SS: This notion of the conversation continues. Obviously, it’s a continuation of the show of your collection at the OMA twelve years ago, which I curated.
JL: The conversation also continues because we continue to collect the work of artists we already have in our collection, that is, if we can still afford them. We continue our relationship with them as friends and artists.
JC: And we continue to see many of the artists we collected over the years. For instance, Roland Flexner. We collect his work in depth, but he has also been very influential in introducing us to other artists, many of whom are also French. For instance, Damien Deroubaix was here on a French scholarship and was working in Bushwick, in Brooklyn. Roland invited me to his studio. We went there and his paintings were just mind blowing. I fell in love with every one of them, but limited myself to two. One of them can’t really come into the house so it has been rolled in a tube since we got it.
SS: Control. It’s in the exhibition. The amazing thing is it’s a huge work, but done on paper with watercolor, ink and acrylic.
JC: It was in the Grande Palais at the FIAC, the international art fair held in Paris each year. Just recently when we went to Paris, he was doing a print show with Printmaker Patrice Forest of Idem.
SS: Just by chance?
JC: I had introduced Damien to Patrice who bought the Mourlot Foundation building, which is now a print shop in Montparnesse called Idem. Mourlot made prints for Picasso and Braque and Miró and Chagall and entering the building is like stepping back to the beginning of the 20th century. We’ve known Patrice for years. Patrice fell in love with Damien’s work too and invited him to make prints and we bought a few of them. And then when I was on the Committee for the Prix Duchamp in Paris, he was one of the finalists.
JC: Damien had had a couple of retrospectives in Europe, and he is doing really well now.
SS: I’d like to discuss some of the work you’ve acquired since Co-Conspirators. How and why you got them? For instance, the works by David Lynch?
JC: I mentioned the printmaker Patrice Forrest and how we visit him every time we are in Paris.
JL: We have collected a number of his prints, for instance, the double-sided Barcelo El Bal Del Carn, 1992, that’s in this show is also in Barcelo’s show at the Bibliothecque Nationale in Paris.
JC: Patrice called to tell me David Lynch would be making prints at the same time I was in Paris. He invited me to come by.
SS: This is David Lynch, the film director who directed Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, that David Lynch?
JL: Yes. He actually started out studying painting as a teenager at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
JC: We really hit it off. He has created a foundation that promotes transcendental meditation, which provides free training to students, prisoners, and veterans. He was working with prisoners in different federal prisons using meditation to change their lives. Because of my neuroscience background, he thought I could help explain how meditation works in the brain.
SS: Did you?
JC: I hope so.
JC: Patrice was very encouraging to Lynch as an artist. When I visited, he was working on what he called the Paris Suite. It was very lyrical and wonderful. I was so caught up in the moment, that I had to have them. We would go out to lunch and he would smoke and we would drink and have these great discussions about art. He was having a show at the Cartier Foundation, which had prints as well as drawings and works on canvas.
SS: Is he still making films?
JC: He is still making films but he’s really into his prints and paintings.
SS: What are the images here? Do you know?
JC: I don’t know actually. I’ve read they explore some of the same themes as his films — death, sexuality, and love. The darker side of life.
SS: Can we talk about Dana Schutz? I know that, Jim, you and I have been obsessed with her over the years. You finally were able to acquire a work on resale, Kris’s Rubber Soul.
JC: I first met Dana Schutz at Zach Feuer Gallery during her second or third show. I was very interested in the work and every time she had a show, Zach would invite me in for a preview. I wasn’t quite sure about them. It took me three or four years before I got it. She is so totally dedicated to her art and I was very impressed with that. She is from the Midwest and really down to earth and genuine and I thought, my God, it’s so unusual to find someone like this who is a fairly successful artist at this point. Then when I started to want to collect her, it was very difficult to get pieces by her, because she was already…
SS: So much in demand. I think people were struck by her quirky narrative, the bold colors and yet this strong connection to art historical tradition. One sees remnants of Old Masters, Picasso and Philip Guston scattered throughout the work.
JC: One day Zach’s associate, Grace, invited me to come by and see this painting called Kris’ Rubber Soul and I was just floored by it.
SS: What was it about it?
JC: I just loved the yellow, the vegetation that was on Kris’s Rubber Soul, and I didn’t know if it was a crab or what it was on the painting, it was mysterious. Shortly after I saw Dana, she said it was really one of her favorite early paintings and it was named after one of her best friends from graduate school at Columbia.
SS: Kris Benedict.
JC: Right. I kept following her, and every time I saw her work, I liked it more and more. The last show she had in 2015, called Fight in an Elevator at Petzel Gallery was just incredible. It’s now very difficult to get the work.
SS: Joe, you’re also interested in Dana’s work. You bid on a piece at auction called Ocular. Later you realized there was a relationship to the eye, where the figure is covering her eyes with some sort of object.
JL: I’ve done this a number of times. I buy something and I realize later that it has an underlying psychological connection I wasn’t even aware of. I looked at the graphic elements and the composition as opposed to it being a figurative work, and I didn’t realize that the work could be about blindness. It’s rather ironic since I have glaucoma and am losing my vision.
SS: And you made a film entitled “Going Blind: Coming out of the Dark about Vision Loss.” This work must have spoken to you at some deeper level.
JL: Perhaps, but I got it really because Jim is so in love with her work and I wanted to give him a surprise.
SS: Her drawings in black and white are very strong. They reveal the underlying structures of her paintings that aren’t always apparent because of the color.
JL: I got it at the Rema Mann Hort auction, where the proceeds go to support artists, which I thought was appropriate.
SS: Your collection is so diverse and personal. It’s not like a predetermined checklist of what one should have in their collection. It’s interesting to find out how some of these pieces came into your collection, often before the artist was known or had a reputation. For instance, tell me about Jorge Queiroz.
JC: Queiroz was a real find. We were in Paris one weekend when we went to Galerie Nathalie Obadia. There was an exhibition of another artist, but on the floor were these wonderful drawings by an artist we didn’t know. The top drawing was just gorgeous, and I was intrigued.
SS: Do you remember why?
JC: It was surreal, but it was more contemporary than historical surrealism. I like the way he does little intricate drawings within a drawing. They are mostly abstract but with some figuration.
SS: You bought one drawing?
JC: I bought two drawings, which they included in his retrospective. Later, Nathalie came to the Armory show on the pier in New York and she had these 50 small drawings by Queiroz that she had brought to show Gary Garrells, who wanted them for the Museum of Modern Art, where he was the drawing curator. But when she got there, Garrells had left the Museum to take a position as Senior Curator at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
JC: She couldn’t sell them to the Museum of Modern Art, and she showed them to me. There was a book that featured them and I knew I just had to have those fifty drawings.
I first met Jorge in Paris, and then again at his retrospective at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal. The museum had called and they said they would really love our pieces for the show. It was at that show that I met Florence and Daniel Guerlain, who at the time were collecting drawings in depth and were great admirers of Jorge. We became very good friends and they later asked me to be on the committee for the Guerlain Drawing Prize and then later for the Committee for the Prix Duchamp, a competition they help sponsor in Paris.
SS: Your collection has such an international flavor to it. Jorge is one of many examples.
JC: Jorge is Portuguese, and at the time he was living in Porto where I would visit him. When he moved to Berlin, we would visit him there because Joe travels to Germany for treatment on his eyes. The last big work we got in Berlin by Jorge was at his studio. We became friends, he and his wife, Tania Simic, an opera singer, came for dinner one night and she was kind enough to sing for everyone. A real treat.
SS: You truly are collectors whose collection isn’t just about collecting; it’s about life and people.
JC: Jorge was doing only drawings and then all of a sudden he started to do paintings. When I went to his studio he didn’t know how these were going to fly since they were his first paintings. He had two there and I bought both of them. I really wanted to encourage him to paint on canvas, rather than just do drawings.
SS: But it was hard for him to make that switch?
JC: It was hard for his collectors and his gallerist to make that switch. People don’t like artists to change. But I think now he is sort of over that hump, because he shows here with Sikemma Jenkins & Co., one of the great New York galleries, and has had more shows with Nathalie Obadia.
We went to Paris to his wonderful show and to celebrate my 72nd birthday and having just recovered from lymphoma. The Guerlains gave a party for me and invited a number of our friends including Jorge, Damien Deroubaix, and Edouard Prulhiere. It was a great evening and nothing beats a drawing for a birthday present!
SS: These artists are a good example of what I love about you two as collectors. You don’t have to know the artist, or work from an accepted list. You didn’t know Jorge’s name when you went into Nathalie’s gallery, it was just a pure visual experience.
JC: We didn’t know who he was.
SS: Can you talk a little bit about how you decide what to add to your collection?
JC: Sometimes a work of art makes an immediate impression and I visualize it for a very long time. If I visualize it and don’t buy it, I really regret it. Jorge’s was one time that I really loved the work, and Joe loved the work too. We not only agreed, but also wanted to buy them right away, even though we didn’t know a lot about the artist. We knew Natalie represented him.
SS: In a sense it’s a vetting process.
JC: Nathalie is a very good dealer, dedicated to the profession, and really cares about the visual arts and the artists.
SS: You collected Supports/Surfaces, a French movement from the mid-sixties to the early seventies, that in many ways was interested in the deconstruction of painting, not the destruction of painting.
JC: We were introduced to the Supports/Surface movement and artists through Roland Flexner. We would travel to Nice with him, and some of his friends were members of Supports/ Surfaces: Noel Dolla, Louis Cane, and Daniel Deuzeuze. We would visit their studios. I think the idea of Supports/ Surfaces was exploring what physically supported the art, and it wasn’t as much about the art as it was about the support…
SS: About the structure.
JC: Right, about the place where the structure and the art meet.
SS: I read somewhere that they are the true inheritors of Matisse.
JC: Like a blown up Matisse.
SS: What about Edouard Prulhiere. He’s also French.
JC: Edouard is younger. His work is very exciting. I particularly like his use of color. It’s interesting to me that years ago Edouard was Julien Schnabel’s assistant and I always look to see if I detect an influence in his work.
SS: Joe, back to his idea that the conversation continues. It also continues between artists you’ve collected and continue to collect. Artists you collect in depth.
JL: Jim and I have always liked David Hockney.
SS: You knew him, right?
JC: We’ve met him and have had dinner together and we have a lot of mutual friends. Most of the Hockney’s we bought from Mark Berger, a longtime friend, painter and filmmaker. Mark went to the Royal Academy with David Hockney and when David first came to America he stayed with Mark. Over the years David had given Mark a number of lithographs and drawings and paintings and later we acquired some of them from Mark.
JC: We first met David in the seventies through Mark and Nathan Kolodner, then Director of Andre Emmerich Gallery, also David’s gallery at the time. During this time, David took a lot of photographs at Fire Island Pines. He put them together in a portfolio of twenty photographs published by Sonnabend Gallery. I knew about these photographs and watched them for years.
SS: And you recently purchased the series at auction?
JC: Yes. They just kept going up in value, and when the whole portfolio came up at Christies, and I thought, well, if I don’t get them now I will never be able to afford them.
SS: They were taken in The Pines?
JC: No, various places, some of them were in The Pines, some taken through the blinds, others on the beach, Gregory in the pool, and his parents, and some of the countryside.
JL: Classic shots now.
JC: Just wonderful, wonderful photographs. Hockney went on to make his famous paintings of swimming pools, and you can see the early ideas in some of these photographs of pools, with the reflection of light and movement of water.
SS: You have other work by Hockney.
JC: We have a set of prints, a painting from 1965, from the Mt. Fuji series, of which the Met has the big painting.
JL: And some drawings.
JC: Numerous drawings, one of Judy Bloom, one of Mark Berger’s father with blueberries, studies for his big pictures and a lot of digital prints. And Xeroxes. We’ve bought things that show his innovation.
SS: He was way ahead of his time.
JL: But the conversation continues because of the artists we are friends with or have become friends with. So we continue to see them a great deal, although ironically in some instances we cannot afford their work anymore.
SS: It’s a double-edged sword. You are happy for them and happy for the value of the collection, but you can’t collect them anymore.
SS: How else does the conversation continue?
JL: We travel and friends put us in touch with friends. It’s a really nice introduction to a city or to a country, to meet some of the artists that are working there and to see their perspective on their world.
JC: That’s how we got in touch with the artists in Cuba.
JL: We were both speaking at a conference in Cuba. It was a weird thing that we both happened to be speaking at the same conference.
SS: What conference was it?
JL: It was on neurology, the mother of science. I was speaking at the neuro ophthalmology panel about the patient experience and Jim was talking about what causes blindness under anesthesia, a rare occurrence but something few people are aware of.
JC: When we found out we were going to Cuba we talked to Beth DeWoody, a friend and collector, who had been there and had artists she wanted us to meet. She introduced us to Damian Aquiles, an artist in Havana and his wife Pamela Ruiz, who were incredibly generous and kind about introducing us to people and showing us around. We had entré to artists and artists’ spaces. That’s where we met Luis Gomez.
SS: His work in the show is called Utopia 1649, 2013. Ironically, it’s called Utopia but 1649 was the year a third of the inhabitants of Havana died of what they suspected was Yellow Fever, not quite utopian circumstances.
JL: You buy directly from the artist, and they’re approved by the state to receive money for their art, and they pay a percentage to the state.
SS: And the prices are all laid out ahead of time?
JL: You negotiate, just like in the States.
SS: Joe, you paint yourself as a reluctant collector, but I vividly remember you showing me a picture of the Peter Hermann painting, Matisse Lässt Nicht Locker, 2006, and you were particularly excited about it. Did you spearhead that acquisition?
JL: Yes, Jim and I had see his work at a solo show curated by Kaspar Koenig at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, and we were both knocked out. The next time we were in Berlin, we tried to find him but we just couldn’t.
SS: You didn’t know him; you had just seen him at his show.
JL: We had just seen his work. We didn’t know anything about him. Later, I wound up going to Berlin for medical procedures twice a year, and would ask around, look on the Internet, and he was never there. And then a few years after I started these visits to Berlin, he popped up on the Internet. It turns out his former dealer didn’t use the Internet, the new dealer did, so I found him.
SS: He had been active, and working and he works in Berlin?
JL: Yes. I went to his studio. I took pictures of one piece after another. It’s 50 years of work, and Peter has lived in Pre-war Berlin, Nazi Berlin, East Berlin, and Free Berlin. So he has spent an amazing period of time in this one city in transition. His work is great; the problem of visiting his studio is that you want everything.
SS: Tell me about him. He’s a figurative painter.
JL: He’s a figurative painter, which is not what we usually go for…well, maybe more and more. I guess the spirit of abstraction and representation has merged for me.
SS: So what was it about that work that appealed?
JL: I just found it incredibly calming.
JC: And I love the art historical references to a Vittore Carpaccio painting, the Renaissance, and to Matisse.
SS: Do you remember why he was referencing them?
JL: He uses that Carpaccio painting a lot, Two Venetian Ladies on a Terrace with a Dog. And they are having a conversation with Matisse by the seaside.
JC: He references many different artists.
SS: How did you find out that it was even available?
JC: His then gallerist Boris Brockstedt took us to his studio. We had seen it in the original show.
SS: I think this shows a real sense of security as collectors. There are some collectors that will go into a studio and say ‘oh, that’s still here, it didn’t sell, therefore, it’s not any good.’ But you have the confidence to buy. Years ago, I curated an exhibition of the collection of Edward Broida, who said when he was collecting he would go into galleries and sometimes get the last thing, or pick the toughest thing that no one else wanted really. It would turn out to be the artist’s strongest work.
JC: We’ve always bought what we liked.
JL: And sometime we buy what you like and what I don’t like. (Laughs)
SS: I want to ask about Adam Fuss, because he’s been around for a long time, yet he’s a relatively new addition to your collection and now you have 4 or 5 works.
JC: We met Adam when he was a neighbor at the beach. We started to go to his studio and watch him making photographs and working with the snakes, and the butterflies and the pansies. And so one day he tells us he has this great early piece from his first show at Massimo Adielo. He didn’t really want to sell it, but he did and we bought this little piece from a series called In Between. It’s an egg and feathers, and it was just so simple and so wonderful.
SS: Adam is an interesting non-photographer photographer. He started using a pinhole camera and then moved on to placing objects on photographic paper he exposed to colored lights. The result was an amazing abstraction of color and light, but you could still make out the object, whether it was snakes, pansies or bunny guts.
JC: One summer he offered a portrait at our beach community fundraiser. We went for our photograph together and he said do you want it nude or just the upper body part…we took the upper body part.
SS: What about this Mary Heilmann piece, Rompecabeza Uno from 2000.
JC: It was the piece we got from the ACRIA (Aids Community Research Initiative of America). It came like a puzzle and we had to put it together.
SS: So all the pieces came separately. I think of Heilmann as a minimalist who broke the minimalist rules of symmetry and the grid. She’s about making things just off, messing with the grid in a way. A puzzle is a funny commentary on how shapes fit together.
JL: These AIDS fundraisers make up an interesting component of our collection. Our first Basquiat was bought at the first AIDS auction for GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) curated by Nathan Kolodner who later succumbed to the disease.
SS: The impact of the AIDS epidemic is chronicled in parts of your collection.
JL: Barton Benes did so much to bring attention to the epidemic and our attitudes towards it, as in Sally, Dick and Jane have AIDS, where he uses AIDS drugs as a component of the work.
We have so many friends who died of AIDS. Gregory Thompson is one, who went to the School of Visual Arts, and died very, very young, and we have some of his work.
SS: He was a friend of yours?
JL: He was one of my best friends.
SS: Do you want to talk about that one piece? Untitled?
JL: Gregory was staying with us when he became ill early in the epidemic. It’s incredibly interesting looking back on his body of work. Earlier, he had done this powerful piece he referred to as “succubus.” It’s got that classic pose of a succubus sitting on an apparently sleeping young man with his hands on his throat. It’s a terrifying painting. Not like Greg’s work at all; maybe it’s the ultimate of Greg’s work. He did it before he had any idea that he was ill.
SS: Did you buy it before you knew he was ill?
JL: A lot of this work was done when he was in art school or just after, so some were gifts, some we bought. I bought the painting called succubus before he was ill.
SS: Do you remember what appealed to you about it?
JL: It was so horrific, but so incredibly strong. A whole generation of artists was lost to AIDS, if not more. Randy Bourscheidt, with whom I went to college, started The Estate Project to preserve works of people who were dying of AIDS or had died of AIDS, so their work wouldn’t be forgotten. They did a series of 17 or 15 prints of different artists that were sold. We supported that project.
SS: Talk about ACRIA a little bit.
JL: The AIDS Community Research Initiative of America is an organization that raises money for AIDS research, and they have an auction every year. We’ve always tried to buy from them and a lot of times you are buying something to support that thing and sometimes it turns out you’ve bought something really great.
JC: The Laurie Simmons, Cindy Sherman, and Vic Muniz all came from ACRIA auctions.
SS: Those are small, early works by three lens-based artists who went on to become quite well known. But you also have these really interesting early photographs. Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethrope. You recently bought a Kara Walker. How did that happen?
JC: I have always loved Kara Walker’s work. And when I saw this portfolio of her photogravures, I thought this is the essence of her work — the silhouettes and the comments on slavery. I had wanted to get her work, but by that time she was much too expensive for us and I was happy to get prints.
SS: Jim, I first met you years ago at a Malcolm Morley exhibition. It was at Sperone Westwater when they were on Green Street in Soho.
JC: We just recently went to Malcolm’s studio and saw his new paintings, and he is still vibrant and wonderful. His wife Lida was there. She said he gets up in the morning, has his coffee, and then he goes to work and he works all day. So it’s really great to see someone enthusiastic about his work, as we are still enthusiastic about his work.
JL: Passion for painting rules so many Papeople’s lives. What’s really amazing about his work is that Malcolm is a little older but he is still as active as ever. Barton had HIV, emphysema, was on oxygen, and was as active until just before he died.
JC: It never stops. We were happy to get the big watercolor The Art of Painting, 2008. It’s an image of racing car crashes, but it’s also Malcolm’s exploration of how to make a painting.
JL: It’s inspiring to see artists who have physical issues and adjust to them. They may accept them, but it never trumps their work. They always have this goal and are producing enthusiastically and passionately despite troubling times, or conditions, some of which become permanent. It’s really a lesson in life to see these friends doing their work so phenomenally without paying any attention to what is going on physically.
JC: And their passion is equaled by ours for their work.
SS: Another thing about your collection is you never really take into consideration where you might put something. You never say you’re not going to buy it because it doesn’t fit in the house. Like Tom McGrath’s …tons of a barrelin’…. That painting is over seventeen feet long.
JC: I just thought it was so great. It was better than Rosenquist’s F-111 from 1964. I thought I could put on soft stretcher and wind it around one of the rooms of the house! To see if it would work…but I never got around to that. It’s on loan to the OMA and I saw it beautifully hung there in Orlando.
SS: Rosenquist’s F-III is also an extremely long and horizontal painting. It depicts a rocket moving through objects of consumerism and war.
JC: Tom’s [work] is how we perceive movement, almost as if we’re in the space.
SS: Suzanne McClelland is an artist you’ve collected over the years and have numerous works. Oh No! included in this show reminds me kind of the build up of paint from her early years when she was becoming known. You both have this definite sensibility of the painting that you like. You like surface build up, you like abstraction, you like some figurative. Suzanne’s work is quintessential to your aesthetic.
JC: I think her work just continues to surprise and her last show and her work in the Whitney Biennale was just very exciting and wonderful.
SS: Which is a good thing. The Louise Bourgeois, are those from ACRIA or are they…
JC: Actually the Louise Bourgeois came from Nigel Finch, a friend of ours who was staying with us while doing a film for BBC on Louise, for her MOMA retrospective. He and Louise gave us that print in appreciation. She would send us bottles of wine signed to Joe and Jim from Louise.
JL: A lot of people we collected when they were very young and we were very young. And a lot of it was because we loved their work, regardless of whether they were in really dire straights or not doing well critically. It’s been great over the years to watch the attention that has come to artist like Roland Flexner, or to Debbie Kass.
SS: Deb’s OY/YO is a brilliant work. The language references an artist like Ed Ruscha, but making it a sculpture that can be reversed so it’s either OY or YO, is genius. I saw a huge one installed by the East River in Brooklyn. It’s homage to the different cultures and backgrounds of New Yorkers.
SS: In the essay I wrote for the previous catalogue Co-Conspirators, I have a quote from Joe describing this collection as “a collection in spite of Joe.”
JL: Yes, it’s the “Jim in spite of Joe collection.”
SS: I get the sense that has changed over the last decade, or since the previous show?
JC: It has changed.
JL: It has changed somewhat. Jim is still the avid collector. I feel more comfortable buying art than I used to, but I make films.
SS: That’s your creative outlet.
JL: And Jim writes books and articles and does research, but he really loves the visual arts. His thrill is to see an artist’s work, and buying it is his way of participating.
SS: That’s his contribution to the creating/acquiring/sustaining cycle that is vital to survival of artists.
JL: Jim says if the artist is working and doesn’t sell, she’s not going to continue working. Collecting is a major part of the art world.
SS: It’s the hinge.
JC: If people don’t buy art, artists are going to starve.
SS: That is your mantra.
JL: The personal part of collecting this has always been a major issue for us both, but Jim is the serious collector, I am not. But he has also enjoyed being with people, and knowing more about people through their art, so he enjoys the social aspect, and he enjoys learning about what makes a creative person create. Some of the people we collect are phenomenal people, and are great friends. Some were friends before we collected their work and some were friends after we collected them. What is really nice is that whether you are buying someone’s work or not, you spend time with them, you spend time in their studios, you hear about what they are doing, what they are thinking, what they care about. The art world is full of some really, really interesting thinkers, and it’s very enriching.
This essay is included in the Orlando Museum of Art’s exhibition catalogue — The Conversation Continues: Highlights from the James Cottrell & Joseph Lovett Collection (2016).