Sept. 8 2015 05:56 PM

San Diego Collects looks behind closed doors

Kehinde Wiley, “Portrait of Anthony Wheatley”
Collection of Jay and Jennifer Levitt

There's a general sense among those in the visual art scene that very few serious art collectors exist in San Diego. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is preparing to open a show that'll put that assumption to rest.

San Diego Collects features 52 pieces of artwork from the private collections of 20 local families. Opening at the museum's La Jolla location (700 Prospect St.) Saturday, Sept. 26 and on view through Jan. 10, the show includes works by big-name artists like David Hockney, Robert Motherwell, Gerhard Richter and more. Two pieces in the show—a photo by Cindy Sherman and a sculpture by Pedro Reyes—are from the home of La Jolla couple Michael and Melissa Garfield Bartell.

“I'm personally really excited to see the show because we don't always get the opportunity to go to everyone's houses and see their collections,” Melissa says. “I'm looking forward to seeing what pieces people have in San Diego. Maybe it gives us a little window into their personalities.”

MCASD's deputy director of arts and programs, Kathryn Kanjo, got the rare chance to visit the private homes of the collectors and hand pick the works for the show. She says she was impressed by the quality and diversity.

“It's really a rock-star looking show,” she says. “These are institutional-quality pieces. People are really collecting high-caliber works here and there's a lot of different sensibilities.”

Kanjo ended up including everything from painterly abstractions to bold figurative political pieces. Local, national and international artists are featured in the show, which, when viewed as a whole, she says will present an art-history lesson while also demonstrating the varied emotional states artwork can inspire.

“Some rooms will have more confrontational, bold strong artwork and then there will be moments of reflection and contemplation, sort of slowing you down,” Kanjo says. “I think the show has all of these different emotional rhythms, which is good.”

Melissa says she and her husband often describe their collection as “dark whimsy.” They gravitate toward art by both established and emerging artists that contains loose narratives, which viewers can interpret in their own ways.

“We collect pieces that we want to think about and look at for a long time,” she says.

Both Melissa and Kanjo say they hope the show inspires other San Diegans to consider starting art collections. Melissa's advice is to get educated about artists and the art market, but ultimately acquire works you personally love on an emotional or intellectual level.

“We only buy art to enjoy and if it goes up in value it's exciting, but no matter how high the value goes it'll still be hanging on our wall,” she says. “It's just such a joy being surrounded by all our art everyday.” 

More Visual Art

Eclectic array: The Lux Art Institute's upcoming season includes everything from high-end embroidery to three-dimensional paintings made from cake decorator's tools. Max Greis kicks things off with his residency from Saturday, Sept. 12, through Oct. 3. Drop in to see the artist's unique method of combining recorded footage with painted panels. $5.

A formidable affair: Ambitious things are being planned for this year's Art San Diego contemporary art fair, happening from Thursday, Nov. 5, through Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Balboa Park Activity Center (2145 Park Blvd.) More than 60 artists and galleries will be exhibiting, parties are planned and educational events abound. Look out for the Timeline Project, a visual installation of a century of art, architecture and design in San Diego. $10-$75.

Timely topic: Charles Hatfield was a “rainmaker” hired by the San Diego City Council in 1915 to fill Morena Dam Reservoir. His quirky history, the region's current drought and an imagined future with water are the inspiration for 12 artists featured in Rainmaker, an exhibition opening from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at the San Diego Center Library (330 Park Blvd.) downtown. On view through Nov. 29, the show features work by Adam Belt, Roman de Salvo, Margaret Noble, Eva Struble and others, plus some of Hatfield's actual tools and ephemera. Free.

Music as muse: The San Diego Museum of Art opens The Art of Music on Saturday, Sept. 26. On view through Feb. 7, the exhibition explores musicians as subject matter, the social aspect of music and abstracted representations of sound. Plenty of music-related programming will help activate the show. $12.

Fifty found: Two years ago, Mingei International Museum's director Rob Sidner wondered if he could find well-designed functional objects that worked as symbols of craft traditions from each of the 50 states in America. The answer to his question eventually became MADE IN AMERICA — Craft Icons of the 50 States, an exhibition opening at the Balboa Park Museum Saturday, Sept. 19. The show features iconic objects like Dale Chihuly glass for Washington State and Sam Maloof's signature Rocking Chair for California.


See all events on Wednesday, Dec 7