Artistic advisor Alaina Simone on bartering work in her collection and the market advice she would give to young artists
Alaina Simone has worn many hats in the art world since her first industrial job at 555 Arts in Detroit 17 years ago. She has served as an Artist Liaison, Gallery Director, Curator, Development Officer and Board Member, to name a few.
The lessons of each of these roles inform Simone’s current work, managing her own. artist management agency At New York. There, Simone also plays a number of roles: an advisor to creators, a marketing consultant, an event producer. And if that wasn’t enough, she is also an accomplished collector with a penchant for supporting the work of emerging artists at BIPOC.
Below, Simone tells us about her habit of collecting, her journey in the art world, her advice to young artists and her biggest takeaways of the last year of upheavals.
Which artists first inspired you to start collecting art?
When I started as a gallery owner in 2004, the artists I worked for exceeded my salary as a âgallery girlâ. I remember Nathaniel Mary Quinn giving me a coin for between $ 500 and $ 1,500, which unfortunately I couldn’t afford at the time. I barely did enough to get home on the metro, but I was doing what I loved. I was handling works by Howardena Pindell, Ed Clark, and Frank Bowling. I dreamed of the day when I could afford their work. I bought a lithograph by Benny Andrews that I gave to my mother. I was proud to give him this piece, but my first actual painting, a textile piece, is by Barbara Ansell.
Ansell worked with Al Loving, and I loved his abstract gestural paintings and his use of various mediums, which strongly reflected the Loving process. She was also extremely kind and I loved talking to her about art and collecting artwork is a way to expand my art community and my family. It is a very personal experience.
What explains a great collection?
In my opinion, a large collection is something that reflects the collector’s approach to how he “sees” and experiences art. It has to come from a real place. Now I see a lot of collectors just ticking off popular names, and I don’t know if they really like the artwork or if they are influenced by what the market dictates regarding “art stars” current. And now that social media is a factor, it’s completely changed the game, and that has its pros and cons.
Which artists have your attention this year that we should be aware of?
I look everywhere all the time. During the pandemic, I contacted about fifty artists and I was very active in developing a group of artists with whom I want to engage and work for the long term. I set out on a path of discovery, and got studio zoomed in at least three times a week. I wanted to expand my network and it was great to immerse myself in my practice and meet people from Mexico, Italy, Trinidad, Lagos and beyond. I was in several countries around the world talking to artists while sheltering in place during the pandemic, and loved expanding my knowledge. It was a fantastic experience. The pandemic has given me this time that I never had before to slow down and be introspective. From lemons we made lemonade. It was a sweet experience.
If you had endless resources, what work, from any place or time, would you like to add to your collection?
I would love a 1950s Ed Clark painting and one of Howardena Pindell’s large canvases, or one of his video drawings. I would love a 70s, 80s or 90s Frank Bowling too, but any Frank Bowling is good. I would also love Julie Mehretu, Sanford Biggers (quilting work), Mark Bradford, Derek Fordjour, Abigail Deville, Bettina Blohm and Samuel Levi Jones.
What are some new challenges that artists and collectors face today that you would like others to be aware of?
I think artists shouldn’t think so much about the market. I think they should know the market, but the market shouldn’t be in their mind when creating the work. It’s weird when artists create artwork for an art fair. I understand because, of course, the booth should look good, but it looks contrived, almost as if they are creating work directly for the market. I think artists should create works and develop their practice with “blinders”. Social media makes a lot of noise, which is inevitable for a lot of artists. I’ve worked with some who periodically turn off their social media accounts to keep the noise down a bit. Artists have to compete with themselves, not necessarily with other artists. There is no final line and it’s a long game.
What have you learned since the pandemic ended this past year?
Have full trust in God and have more faith in “invisible” things. Additionally, it was an exciting time to work with artists who were expanding their worlds and experimenting with different mediums and technologies. I am currently launching an NFT in collaboration with Akwetey John Orraca-Tetteh, a Ghanaian-American interdisciplinary artist living in Mexico who calls himself Special Krystal for his series âReal Timeâ. It is fascinating to reflect on how the art world could expand to include communities that were once excluded and not seen as relevant to audience development.
What was your last purchase?
I swap my artist liaison consulting services with artists I love. My last acquisition was made by a Cuban artist whom I am very interested in working for the future.
What works or artists do you hope to add to your collection this year?
It’s a huge question but, God willing, I would love a Yashua Klos and a Tomashi Jackson.
What is the most expensive piece of art you own?
I would never answer that question.
Where do you buy art most often?
As a reseller, I mainly buy or acquire works from artists with whom I work and who are part of my practice.
Is there a work of art that you regret buying?
What work have you hung over your sofa? And in your bathroom?
David Antonio Cruz, Elia Alba, Shani Peters, Brandon Coley Cox, Alexis Peskine, Tahir Carl Karmali and Mehdi George Lahlouare in my living room. My sofa is quite long and the art is not centered around my sofa. I would not recommend working in the bathroom due to the condensation. I found a drawing that I bought on the street in Cuba that is in my bathroom.
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