Collector Profile: Tricia Guinn on How to Find Art That Becomes a Part of Your Life
Every month, we'll be spotlighting some of our favorite Superfine! Collectors Society members to find out why they collect art, how they decide whether or not to purchase a piece, and who some of their favorite contemporary artists are in an ongoing effort to find out what a real art collector looks like.
This month, we spoke to Tricia Guinn, an actuary and Non Executive Director at Allied World and current Highland Beach, FL resident about how she finds new contemporary artists and why she believes that finding artwork that creates an immediate connection can help you build a collection that becomes a part of your life.
How many pieces of artwork do you currently own?
I think 30, but then I started counting and I'm going 'Wow, y'know, it's more than 30. Maybe it's closer to 30 or 50.' And I [told] my husband, and he goes 'Well, it depends on what you count as an artwork. But if you count our collection of ballet photography, of which we have quite a number of pieces by Rosalie O'Connor, who's a famous photographer of American Ballet Theater, we have quite a few pieces.
What was the first piece of art that you ever purchased, and what drew you to it?
Well, the first piece that I ever purchased was a Paul Wegner sculpture called Hello Louis. I don't know if you're familiar with Paul Wegner, but he, I have to say, in the ‘80s and ‘90s did a whole series of pieces around the New Orleans jazz scene. And I used to live in New Orleans, and that's where I started my career and I loved the city and the food, the music, and I love Louis Armstrong, so when I saw this piece I fell in love it. And I couldn’t afford it, but I yearned for it for years. I wanted that piece for about five years, and finally I just said to myself 'Well after five years, you deserve it!' So, I went and bought it.
How do you learn about and find new, interesting artists?
Well, I feel like I should do more, but what I do now is mostly attend art fairs, and we're fortunate enough to live only an hour away from Miami, so we get to go to a number of fairs during the Art Basel weekend. We've met some wonderful artists and gallery owners through that process and they introduced us to new artists that they're carrying. I’ve recently learned about Artsy though, so I'm new to that. But, y'know, I'm just beginning to play around and see new things on that. In fact, I was at Superfine! just this past week. We bought one print and one photograph.
What is your favorite type of artwork or medium and why?
Oh, wow. Hmm. I actually like a wide range of things. And I am not sure that I can say one thing is my favorite. I love traditional sculpture—sculpture like bronze. But I also like pieces that are made of wire mesh, and I got another piece that's a violin—an actual violin—that's been turned into a work of art. But I also like paintings! It's sort of like asking me what's my favorite flavor of ice cream! I like them all! But I must say: Sculpture and things that I can touch. Because there is something special about being able to touch the art.
How do you decide whether to buy a piece of art?
It's usually a—I don't mean this in a bad way—an impulse. An impulse, but what I really mean is that connection. I can see a thousand pieces and 950 of them, I just walk right by. Or maybe even 975. And of the remaining 25, I might look and cock my head, but there will be one or two pieces that just scream at me that they have to be a part of our lives. And then I look at my husband, and I go 'Do you like this piece?' And a lot of times our tastes are a little different, but when they coincide we buy on the spot.
How important is it for you to connect with and speak to an artist before purchasing their work? Why?
I enjoy that, in particular. It doesn't always happen, but a lot of times at the art fairs, the artist is there, and we have had a chance to meet them. And a good example of that is Marlene Rose, who works in glass. I first saw her piece in the window of a gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans, but I didn't buy then. When I met her at one of the Art Basel fairs and I actually got to meet Marlene, that made her work all the more special. And that's when I started collecting her work.
What is your philosophy on collecting art? (i.e. do you like to purchase multiple works from one artist or do you prefer to stick to a single style or theme?)
We're pretty eclectic. We collect because we like the art and we want to be around it. Where at this stage in life, and at this stage in developing our collection, we're not looking to sell, or buy or sell, or be in the art business, so for us, the real driver is 'Do we want this art to be a part of our lives?'
Do you feel that art fairs are an integral part of the art ecosystem? Why or why not?
I do! They give people the opportunity to see works from a wider range of galleries, introducing fair goers to artists that they might not otherwise have the chance to see.
What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about art collectors?
I have never stopped to think about this before. I guess some people might think that collecting art is just for wealthy people but there is beautiful art at all price points.
What's one art purchase that you regret not making?
I try not to dwell…
What advice would you give to collectors who are just starting their art collections or even people who are thinking about purchasing their first work of art?
Make your first choices based on what speaks to you and what you want to see and have in your life every day. Don't be overly concerned with collectability or resale value. Those are things that you can learn about over time.