As some of you know I am a print dealer. This is my full time job and I love it much of the time. The rest of the time it is the same as any other work. I am also marginally a collector, mostly of prints because it is what I know. When I see something I love in a museum or in a gallery, rarely is my first thought – I should own it. When you go to an art fair or a print gallery, the landscape changes and there is a chance to own one of these objects that you covet. This is not a review, but a personal story.
The EAB fair, which took place in January, had many strong exhibitors. My favorites among them mentioned in a previous post. The print I fell in love with at Jungle Press is Nicole Eisenman’s Sloppy Barroom Kiss, 2012. At first there were other contenders from this same group, but my focus drew more sharp. I saw the print twice over a few days and haven’t seen it in person since. The image haunted me. Sloppy Barroom Kiss has the improbable quality of not belonging to a specific era. Slumped bar patrons lay together like so much draped laundry. They lack, or rather have no need for, gender identification. Lip-locked and limp, they manage not to be active but remain in a passionless embrace. Their half drunk bottle and used glasses stand as a testimony to the cause of their stupor. A scene like this, without the bottle and the title, could invoke everything from Tim Leary’s Kool Aid to Jim Jones’ Kool Aid. Maybe its the end of a late night/early morning at Max’s Kansas City or some Montmartre watering hole. .
Still, love and death aside, these actors are full of peace. Still, complete and without concern; they are blissful. A clue as to the atmosphere and time of day is missing. The fluid walls of dark and light could be Munch or early Picasso (all the name dropping I will do) but the actors are the main event. As for the print itself, it is a small edition. Its a lithograph and has the classic qualities one would like to see in a beautifully printed edition. It is fair to say that I am in love with everything about this print.
And here, 2 months after the fact, I am still locked in an embrace with the idea of owning this print. There is no other by the artist I am nearly as interested in, but I do like them all a great deal. So now I take my own advice as dealer, think it over, come back to it and so on. As someone who has set priorities for what I want to purchase, and what artist should be next in my collection, this takes me off course. I can’t afford it plain and simple. Still, for budding print collectors, getting a print early generally means you are close to the first price and that is the best it will ever be.
The act of collecting when you have almost no budget to do so is painful. I hear sob stories constantly from clients- “I could have had that Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Chamberlain…” on and on until the money they never spent is more important than the way they would have enjoyed it. What it would have been to their lives other than a pay day all these years later seems lost. I am not ignorant, I know that art is money to many of these people and thats why I have work. Still, the act of owning the work should be one that adds something to your life. I try and buy things that will bring me not just joy but any important emotion and will continue to do so for a long time.
I do not own Eisenman’s Sloppy Barroom Kiss yet. I want to. If I do get it, I will be grateful and if it never happens I hope that I don’t mourn the decision but put my energy towards something new. Did I tell you about the Murakami print I could have had for $100 bucks?