Doug Simay was called "one of [San Diego's] youngest and most ambitious art collectors" in a story that appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1987. He was 36 at the time and already addicted to buying art. Simay has since filled his modest La Jolla condo with contemporary art (not to mention dozens of works in storage). A huge Manny Farber piece takes up the majority of one wall in his living room and other works by mostly San Diego and Los Angeles artists, including Pat Patterson, Ernest Silva, Martha Alf, Raul Guerrero, Mellissa Walker and Philipp Scholz Rittermann, are everywhere else.
Every piece in Simay's collection has a story behind it, one he's more than happy to share if you ask. His memory is sharp, made sharper still by his practice of keeping files on every artist he's collected. If he sees Silva's name on a show announcement or in the news, for example, he prints or clips it and puts the snippet in the folder while mentally storing away the information.
Simay's been meaning to jot down the story behind every piece of art he's ever bought—maybe compiling them in a book. But it wasn't until he was approached by a curator at the Oceanside Museum of Art (OMA) that he found the motivation he needed to get started.
Outside, an exhibition featuring 57 works from Simay's collection, is on view at OMA through Jan. 5. The show is loosely landscape-themed and includes both a print and online catalog comprising short paragraphs about every piece in the show. The writing is succinct and, when read in one sitting, paints a clear picture of the vibrant art scene in San Diego and Los Angeles from 1978 to 2010.
As Simay prepared for the show, he pulled out paintings from storage that he hasn't seen for more than 20 years.
"Unwrapping them, I felt as if I saw them just yesterday—they're so indelible here," he says, pointing to his head.
A few of the pieces, like Dave Fobes' "Five Views of BLDNG #2," help tell the story of Simay's own involvement in the local arts community, not only as an avid collector, but as a curator, gallery owner and longtime arts advocate and friend to too many San Diego artists to name.
Do yourself a favor and read the catalog for this show, or, better yet, join Simay for his lecture on the art of collecting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, or for his walk and talk through the show at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. Simay's enthusiasm for art collecting and his unique knowledge of local art history is invaluable and infectious.
"One of the reasons I was happy to do the exhibition is because I have knowledge of the art world that perhaps no one else has," Simay says. "Collecting art was never a matter of trophy acquisition for me. Collecting art was a way of participating in a community I enjoy."
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Masking for it: The Lucha Libre-themed group exhibition The Heart of Lucha returns for a second year, this time taking over the Centro Cultural de la Raza (2004 Park Blvd. in Balboa Park) from 5 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 19. Like last time, you can expect dozens of original art pieces inspired by Mexico's famed wrestling league. To add to the fun, there will be live Lucha Libre matches, a performance from the B-Side Players, a screening of the Lucha doc Tales of Masked Men (followed by a Q&A with director Carlos Avila) and music from DJs Beto Perez, Rudy Roots and Peet-O Perez. Adults: $10, kids: $5. facebook.com/heartoflucha
Who run the world? Girls!: Tough women take center stage in San Diego Museum of Art's (1450 El Prado in Balboa Park) Women, War, and Industry, opening Oct. 19 and running through Feb. 18. The exhibition is composed of pieces in the museum's permanent collection and focuses on the ways women have been represented in war and industry throughout U.S. history. You'll see wartime propaganda, posters and photography from the likes of Margaret Bourke-White, Esther Bubley, Alfred Eisenstaedt and more. On Nov. 2, SDMA will also open Noah Doley: By the Light, an exhibition of the photographer's black-and-white images. It runs through Feb. 25. sdmart.org
Stay Cooley: Los Angeles photographer Kevin Cooley will display two video-installation pieces in Kevin Cooley: Elements, opening Oct. 18 at the Museum of Photographic Arts (1649 El Prado in Balboa Park). In "Skyward," viewers will see the sky from the point of view of a passenger in a car. "Tow" was created while on an expedition in the Arctic Circle and shows the icy landscape of the area. Both are on view through Feb. 2. mopa.org
Total catch: Subtext Gallery (2479 Kettner Blvd. in Little Italy) continues to bring cool contemporary art with Catch & Release, opening on Oct. 25. The exhibition, running through Nov. 24, features William Sager's layered artwork, which mixes vintage photography, illustration and painting. subtextgallery.com
When art collides: The Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair will return to the Balboa Park Activity Center (2145 Park Blvd.) from Nov. 7 through 10. Through this year's theme, "Collide," the fest aims to bring a large cross-section of styles and mediums to the event. There will be four districts for the different disciplines: contemporary art, contemporary product and furniture design, mid-century and modern art and solo-artist-curated booths. artsandiego2013.com