Friday, July 19, 2013

Art is all-encompassing in this collector couple’s life

Shelley Fox Aarons & Philip E. Aarons are counted among the world’s top-notch collectors. Narrating how he took to collecting, Philip takes us back to the days when he was an Art History major, and came to know about Louis Lozowick whose work was to be featured at Sotheby’s auction.

It was his first ever experience to buy a piece of art back in 1974. When the lot came up, he frantically bid like ‘a crazy person’, to put it in his words. “It was a print of Coney Island’s Luna Park. It was my first time at an auction. The estimate was $300-600. It was going up in $25 increments. When it reached $325, I raised my hand again and the auctioneer said ‘Sorry sir, you are bidding against yourself.’ It was rather eventful.” But he did not look back after that… 

Explaining their philosophy as avid collectors of art, Shelley reveals that they are not just interested in the artworks but equally in how a particular artist comes to realize them, and hence relationships hold the key to understanding the respective creative processes. Terence Koh, for instance, is more interested in the performative aspects of his work than in the products, many of which are evanescent and designed to decay over time. She has stated: “One of the benefits of being supporters of young art is to meet the artists and support their work in the long run, to see their careers develop. We’re dedicated to go see exhibitions of artists we like and admire.”

The Aarons also boast a vast book collection of more than 10,000 publications with a focus on independent books by artists themselves from 1965 onward. While some collectors buy art to put on their walls, Phil and Shelley Aarons build walls to hang more art. “Books can be a point of entry into an artist’s larger body of work, “Shelley explains. “We became attracted to Carol Bove’s work because she made shelf pieces with books on them. Now we have a large hanging sculpture made of beads in the middle of our living room. Everyone wants to run into it.”

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