Last spring, Laura Skoler, an art collector and founding board member of both the New Museum in New York and the Daniel and Florence Guerlain Foundation in Paris, visited the New York Academy of Art to talk to students about collecting the work of emerging artists. This sparked an idea: Skoler would walk through the students’ studios and select works, and then the students—all in the second year of the MFA program—would be invited to choose a work from Skoler’s collection to hang alongside their own in an exhibition. Currently on view at the NYAA in TriBeCa until February 19, “Eye to Eye: Artist + Collector: Converging Views” presents the results of this exchange.
ARTnews asked some of the student artists about their selections and lessons they learned. Pedro Pérez-Guillon chose a 2002 ink drawing by Marlene Dumas titled Andy Like Adam (Homage to Warhol). Seeing the work next to his own series of abstracted ink drawings of Mao Zedong suggested an illuminating lineage. Andy Warhol’s famous silkscreens of Mao, Pérez-Guillon said in an email, “transformed a political icon into a pop icon for the Western world.” Dumas’s work, relatedly, “used Adam as a symbol of origin and a metaphor for understanding Warhol as an icon.” Extending this arc into his own work, Pérez-Guillon explained, “I use icons as a frame to be stretched—a metaphor of our phases of understanding in a process of spiritual transformation.”
Tom Levy selected a work by John Baldessari, Two Feet (Chagall and Picasso), 1999, which shows two depictions of distorted feet pasted onto graph paper. Levy saw humor in the work, which provided an instructive reminder. “Art can be a joke,” he said—and the simple pleasure of creating “should come through in the work.”
For Anna Wakitsch, a gouache by Peter McDonald —Egg Hug Study (2004)—offered a new vocabulary for her own sculptural paintings on concave surfaces. In Egg Hug Study, a figure with an elongated head embraces a large round form. Wakitsch was drawn to the spatial ambiguity in McDonald’s work, noticing that “half of the figure’s head appears to have a transparent layer of bubble around it, as if the head were inside or maybe just behind it.” This was, Wakitsch realized, “a good way to describe how I thought about my hemisphere pieces.” For her Interior/Exterior (2016), she painted factory-style windows onto translucent bowl-like forms interlaid in a white box and lit from behind. As in a 17th-century Dutch perspective box, the space seems to be real, as if it might extend beyond the painting. A viewer peers into the hemispheres like McDonald’s figure, trying, in vain, to enter illusionistic space.
Skoler, who lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, wanted the students “to choose work that really appealed to them personally,” she said. From a collection including art by Bruce Nauman, Chris Ofili, Mark Tansey, and Louise Bourgeois, Skoler was surprised that not everyone went for “very famous names.” She was excited to see students “opening their eyes instead of their ears,” trusting what struck them on a personal level rather than being guided by market value or simple familiarity. Peter Drake, the dean of the NYAA who facilitated the exhibition, said the idea behind “Eye to Eye” has a future—with more similar student-collector exchanges to come.