Balancing an Eclectic Collection

Article excerpt

Over the years, New York collector Carole Hutchinson has slowly amassed a variety of work from a variety of diverse sources

Last month, we examined how one collector, Sally Ramirez, worked closely with her dealer to acquire works to hang in her apartment. This month, we will consider a rather different situation, because for every Sally Ramirez in New York, there is also a Carole Hutchinson.

Hutchinson is what might be termed a "free agent." She has built her collection almost entirely without consulting a dealer. Ramirez took just a few years working with Jeff Jaffe of Pop International gallery to build and hang her entire collection. Carole Hutchinson, by contrast, has taken more than two decades. Ramirez decided that the right dealer could steer her directly to the works that would interest her. Hutchinson, on the other hand, has slowly gathered her works from many and various sources.

For example, consider the dark corner of an antiques store where stacks of pictures gather dust. Hutchinson bought her 1930s Walter Sharp print "Jazz" from a shop named As Time Goes By. As she said, "it was very messed up," but she was ultimately able to have it properly restored and framed. It is now the focus of her "vintage corner," where Deco and Modern rule. To its left is a period mirror which she also purchased at As Time Goes By, and above that is a photograph of Hutchinson in a vintage costume.

This photo of Hutchinson was taken by her close friend Agnes Halpern. "She was just practicing, and I was her guinea pig," recalled Hutchinson. We should all be so lucky to be guinea pigs for a photographer of Halpern's caliber. Two major hand-painted photos by Halpern feature prominently in Hutchinson's apartment. One, depicting a nude woman with her knees pulled up to her chest, hangs in her living room. It is primarily black-and-white, and Hutchinson placed it there because it complements the colors of the room's textiles. The other large-scale work by Halpern is a more challenging image, and it hangs in the apartment's "personal room." "[The subject] had had some kind of an operation, and the work expresses the invasiveness and the anger that she had felt," related Hutchinson.

Also in this room are works of art by Susan Wolff, Hutchinson's sister, who earned an MFA from the University of Illinois. Included in the room is a batik Wolff created, in the bedroom is a collage she executed which recalls the work of Diego Rivera, and in the living room is a Picasso-esque drawing she created.

Just below her sister's "homage to Picasso" hangs a dramatic photograph by another of Hutchinson's friends, Nina Glaser. Like most of Glaser's works, it is a provocative depiction of nude figures. Her works have appeared in more than 65 exhibitions. Indeed, with friends and relatives like Halpern, Wolff and Glaser, it is no wonder that Hutchinson has not been buying works of art from dealers.

In fact, the one time Hutchinson did purchase a significant piece from a formal gallery, she said it was not a satisfactory experience. In the early 1980s, she bought a large (almost 4 feet across) Picasso print. It depicted two of Picasso's children and she purchased it from the Marina Picasso Collection. "It was my first art investment back in '83. I loved it then, but that love kind of faded for me," she recalled. When she moved to her current apartment in 1992, she recounted, it "never fit in as well; I just didn't have the room for it." Since it was just languishing in its box, she finally decided to market it. …