Geologist at Baccalieu Energy
Social Worker; Founder of Connections Counselling
Started Collecting: mid-1980s
First artwork actively acquired: Chris Cran, Untitled Drawing, 1988
We bought our first piece in 1981 while we were still in university. When we moved to Calgary in the early 1980s, we started going to some of the galleries…the Glenbow Museum, places like that. We were still acquiring work, but looking back now, there was no real focus, probably because we were young and trying to figur out what we liked. We mainly collected Alberta artists at that time, because that’s what was accessible to us. Then around 1988, we decided to try something different and focus our collecting budget on one major piece a year by a Canadian artist, which eventually grew to two a year and then more as the budget allowed.
Dell has a voracious appetite to learn about art. We have hundreds of art books and file cabinets full of newspaper clippings. That research has helped us expand our knowledge of artists across the country. And one of the most important things we do as collectors is to develop a personal relationship with artists.
“We go out of our way to get to know the artists as people, to understand their practices and to develop a mutual trust.”
We go out of our way to get to know the artists as people, to understand their practices and to develop a mutual trust. Another thing, too, is that we collect artists in-depth at various stages of their careers. For example, we have seven pieces by Liz Magor; we have a dozen works by Greg Curnoe; we have multiple pieces by Lynne Cohen, Micah Lexier, Kelly Mark, John Will, Roula Partheniou, Ken Nicol… and we just purchased three videos by Jon Sasaki.
It’s interesting: people always talk about how difficult it is to collect video. You hear these stories about how the average time for viewing a painting in a museum is something like seven seconds before you move on to the next. Video work forces you to just sit and immerse yourself. Some are quite meditative; some, like Jon’s, are quite funny. So, for us, collecting video, among other things, is a bit of a no-brainer. We have pieces that are two or three minutes and others that run eighty minutes or longer. So you can be in a room for an hour and a half and just have this constant engagement with one piece—that’s pretty wonderful to experience.
Video work can be challenging…a lot of people don’t necessarily see it as art. But having it in our collection has been a great opportunity to open that conversation. It raises a fundamental question for any collector: How do you learn to live with, and love, challenging work?
This post is adapted from the Canadian Art Collecting Guide, out in our Spring 2020 issue, “Influence.”