6 Tips on Art Collection from Savannah's Distinguished Arts Community
Three prominent members of Savannah’s art community talk about what they love and add to their collections.
Silvery faces from a past century
Kim Iocovozzi, a former Savannah gallery owner, keeps many of his treasures in the drawers of small wooden cabinets. Most are hardly bigger than a deck of playing cards and none bigger than a magazine.
Iocovozzi has a collection of rare daguerreotypes – the first photographs in history. Named after Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, the man who invented the process in 1939, daguerreotypes captured images on a silvered copper plate. Making a daguerreotype was complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Once the image had been captured, the plates were commonly surrounded by a mat, covered with a sheet of protective glass, and sealed in a metal frame. Often it was then mounted in larger wooden frame or presented in a folding velvet or leather case. By 1860 a less expensive technology had been developed to capture images on paper, and few daguerreotypes were produced after that. However, those taken in the 1840s and 1850s were often portraits of prominent people – Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster, for example.
Daguerreotype collectors, Iocovozzi said, often specialize in a particular type of image, perhaps groups of people or outdoor scenes. He collects daguerreotypes of paintings. He has about 170 and believes it is the largest collection in existence.
“This is my prize possession,” he said, displaying a framed, silvery image. “This is a Gilbert Stuart painting – which no longer exists – of Washington Irving. It still has its original label from 1848. This is the kind of stuff that I’m just crazy about.”
Why would someone go to the trouble and expense of photographing a painting? Many reasons, Iocovozzi said. The Gilbert Stuart painting was destroyed in a fire, so the daguerreotype is the only record of it remaining. Family members often had daguerreotypes made of favorite portraits to take with them when they moved to other parts of the country – knowing they might never have the opportunity to return.
Iocovozzi belongs to the Daguerrian Society, an international group of people interested in early photography. He trades items from his collection frequently and watches E-Bay and other web sites for pieces to be offered for sale.
Buying and selling are a big part of the fun of collecting for Iocovozzi. “I’m constantly culling my collection,” he said.
Lori Judge – Judge Realty
Energy, the environment and the economy
The Judge collection is easy to see. It’s displayed every day in the Judge real estate office on Abercorn Street.
“I’ve been so inspired by the idea of a private collection being accessible to the public,” said Lori Judge, the firm’s owner. “This is not like a museum. We’re open 9-5 seven days a week and it’s something you can view at any time.
In fact, there are times you can see key elements of the collection standing outside on the sidewalk.
Throughout the month of December, the front façade of Judge’s building was a canvas of sorts, displaying light and form patterns and two-dimensional abstract designs from three projectors, the concept of Savannah artist Will Penny.
The installation, called “Intersection,” was about the intersection of public space and art, Judge said in an announcement on her company website. “It’s about how we could … ask people passing by on the street to take a second to pause, looking at themselves against the scale of it – slowing down, stopping, meditating.”
Judge said she’s been collecting for more than 15 years. She was working for a furniture company when she acquired her first piece – paying no money, but arranging to move someone’s household goods.
“I collected works from artists I knew, mostly local, all visual art, no specific medium,” she said. The public collection was launched in 2014, and in 2015, Judge said, “I decided to focus on a theme – the three E’s – environment, economy and energy.”
Society needs all three of these elements working in harmony, Judge said. “Finding artists that are putting their spin on these things … is what we’re going to do going forward.”
Family heirlooms and a fondness for dogs
Richard Middleton grew up in a family that loved art. He remembers many paintings on the walls of the home on the farm in Virginia where he grew up.
“Many were sporting paintings, and I really developed an interest in the ones with dogs,” he recalled in a recent interview.
Flash forward and Middleton was grown up, a young attorney, and ready to acquire his first art work. He came across an 1856 painting of foxhounds by the Scottish artist Samuel Fulton “for a modest sum.” That was the start of an extensive collection of dog paintings that Middleton hung throughout his house.
As time went on, however, Middleton’s interests broadened, and he began to branch out in his collecting. He began purchasing late 19th and early 20th century Southern paintings, some by artists with ties to Savannah. One of his current favorites is a watercolor by Georgia artist Mary Cabaniss of passengers on a boat to Daufuskie Island. “I collect whatever I see that’s pleasing to my eye,” Middleton said.
One item in his collection, a portrait of a lady from Baltimore by Thomas Sully, came from an auction of items confiscated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, “which usually just has fast cars and speedboats for sale,” Middleton said.
But his most treasured piece is an inheritance from his great grandmother, a portrait of a Native American woman weaving. It was painted by E.I. Couse, one of the six founding members and first president of the Taos (New Mexico) Society of Artists.
Middleton said he wasn’t sure his children will want to keep all of his dog paintings, but said about the Couse work: “That’s one I would hope would stay in the family.”
Tips from The Collectors
- Follow your heart and collect what you love. It’s tough to anticipate swings in the market and predict what prices art work will bring in the future.
- Look for works by artists who are just getting started.
- Learn all you can about what you’re collecting. Talk to artists, gallery owners, sellers and other collectors. Take advantage of all the information on the Web.
- Be skeptical about sellers’ claims. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and second opinions. Good sellers guarantee authenticity and allow returns
- Start with inexpensive items. Better to buy a $10 fake than one for $1,000. Remember that prices are negotiable on many items.