American architect Thom Mayne once said, “The huge problem in our society is the enormous ignorance of the ideas that underlie modern art.” You would think that was bad enough. But, what about unsold art?
Art is made. Art is exhibited. Art is sold. And, yes, art accumulates.
There is more art made than sold (For this article, art refers specifically to painting). In their lifetime, the excess is stored under artist’s beds, in their closets and their studios. This is problematic enough when the artist is alive. But it reaches an entirely different level when the artist dies and, there are scores of artists, known and unknown, successful and otherwise who have left countless unseen and unsold paintings behind.
In the parallel world of wine, there is a virtual place where surplus wine is stored and sold for the purpose of making industrial alcohol. Both good and bad wine ends up here. Good wine goes into the “lake” in order to maintain higher price levels. You see, for all the pomposity and glamor surrounding wine, it too is a commodity.
Dr. Richard Connor is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is also an avid art collector, dealer and savvy businessman.
Avid is perhaps an understatement — voracious is not! Dr. Connor has a staggering personal art collection which focuses on mid-century works by artists who earned their stripes during their respective heydays. He started off as a booth dealer buying from other dealers and at auctions and then reselling the ones he didn’t keep.
He has a good eye and has acquired quite a practical education and significant experience as an art dealer over the years. Then, one day, he saw the work of the deceased New Bedford, Massachusetts painter, Joseph Edwards Alexander (1947–2008).
Alexander was, according to the Ask Art website’s biographical sketch, “… the artistic grandson of the abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann and the biological grandson of a famous New Bedford Whaling captain.”
Alexander studied at the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts with Hofmann protégé, David Loeffler Smith, who also was the school’s director. Dr. Connor encountered a major portion of the artist’s estate accidentally while rescuing a significant amount of paintings from a flood.
Connor contacted galleries to see if he could sell the work but soon found out that it was neither practical nor the practice of many galleries to buy estate work. Of course, to a smitten collector like Connor, one estate is not enough.