On a cloudy Sunday in May, hosting the third event in Transformer Gallery’s Collector’s View 2010, Judy Penski and Robin Rose proved that the third time really is a charm.
Penski and Rose were the third of four couples selected for Transformer’s Collector’s View 2010 program – a series of special receptions that invites guests to view the private home collections of DC’s leading contemporary art collectors. The program aims to highlight the relationship between collectors and artists and the role they play in supporting local and national arts communities. Guests of these viewings are introduced to the motivations, interests and passions of the collector – and are perhaps persuaded to become collectors themselves.
Penski and Rose’s collection featured mainly DC artists from the 1960s to the present, including works by Thomas Downing, Gene Davis and Leon Berkowitz. “It’s interesting to see what they started collecting in the eighties and to look at it as the evolution of DC,” said Victoria Reis, Executive and Artistic Director for Transformer Gallery.
The couple’s home showcases their thoughtful integration of art with architecture and interior design. Each piece of furniture or art in the 1955 Trudeau-designed house carries the markings of mid-century Modernism: bold shape, earthy color, and texture. Lots of texture.
“The harmony you feel in this collection is an intentional decision.” As Rose spoke to the intimate crowd of artists, collectors, and friends in his living room, he gestured that there is “something about the hand, the texture” of each piece – that each piece evokes a uniquely tactile experience for the observer. He then warned with a smile that the engagement with the senses can be a bit overwhelming: “Some things … you’ll just want to lick!” The crowd erupted with pleasant laughter, and his wife added with a chuckle, “Just don’t do it today!”
Transformer holds four Collector’s Views per season, Reis said, with at least one containing a majority of works from DC artists. And while the gallery has supported local artists since its founding in 2002, they want to do more. “We’re pursuing more international exchanges. Now that we’re in our 9th year, we want to be exporting DC artists around the world.”
So why did Rose and Penski start collecting in the first place? “We’re finders … we like to find things.” Rose’s eyes fall to a fishbowl on the coffee table filled with thousands of small shark teeth. Every single one was found on a beach by the then-vacationing couple and holds significance not merely in being unique, but in being a part of the couple’s memory. “Why we collect is less about the perceived value and more about the intrinsic value.”
When a woman in the crowd asked Rose about his definition of art, he smiled. “Art equals curiosity. Part of being curious is being awake, and part of being awake is being willing to grow.” Asked later how he himself has grown as an artist and collector, Robin paused. Then he softly chuckled. “Honestly, I’ve slowed down. I’m in a period of give-back, I think.” His current goal is to be a “champion of artists” – not a collector, so much as an advocate for what they do.
Now planning their Collector’s View program for 2011, Transformer is being approached by DC collectors for the first time – a fact which speaks to the growth of the gallery’s popularity and reputation in local art circles. In deciding where to hold Collector’s View receptions, Reis said the gallery regularly examines the local art community. “Who are the hidden secrets? Who are the major collectors? Who can best express the point of view we’re most interested in? Or a different point of view we’re interested in?”
Long apprehensive about holding an art viewing – when first asked to host a Collector’s View, he responded, “Oh man, I don’t know. It’s not my kind a thing,” – Rose has become an enthusiast for the program. He feels that Collector’s View and Transformer are boons for the local art movement – not only for the greater DC community, but for the artists themselves. “They’re really an interface to the public. There’s this image of the artist as a self-nurturing and independently directed being … Washington is ready to wake up as an artists’ community, and Transformer can take what these people do and set it in motion.”