Collector Profile

How We Started Collecting Emerging Art

In our Collector Profile series, art lovers from around the world share how they first caught the art-collecting bug.

This week, we spoke with Mike and Krys Lewis, retirees from Bonita Springs, Florida who were seeking advice on finding artworks for their sunny new home. Recently the couple worked with Saatchi Art’s Chief Curator and VP of Art Advisory, Rebecca Wilson, through our free Art Advisory service to purchase four original artworks from emerging artists represented by Saatchi Art. Read on to learn more about the Lewis’ experience working with Art Advisory, how they first began collecting art, and why they particularly love collecting works by emerging artists.

Tell us a bit about how you two met. Did you discover your love of art together?

Krys and I met in high school in a small town in Canada, married in the last year of university, then set out on our journey of careers and raising a family in Toronto in the 1970s and ’80s. Our lives were busy. Personal activities focused on family activity and enriching our children in the culture of Toronto with its diversity of people, entertainment, and institutions. In spite of the many tours of museums while back-packing around Europe in Paris, Florence, and Rome, not until later in life did we have the opportunity of time and resources to travel. I must say we both had a passion to visit art museums and galleries wherever we might be.

“I became mesmerized by a painting of a lady in red that I noticed from a window of an art gallery.”

How did you bring this love of experiencing art into your everyday life?

We fell in love with what London, New York, Cape Town, Shanghai, Prague, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Budapest, and again Paris, Florence, and Rome showed us. While living in Chicago, our home for a decade, we became members of the Art Institute of Chicago, regularly visiting its rich permanent collections and many exhibitions. The Hopper and Homer exhibition in 2008 was amazing. Our youngest daughter, Jessica, took her Master of Art Administration in Chicago. During that time we hosted a reception for young artists in our condo. Free cocktails and food brought out a crowd of young aspiring creative spirits. Much enjoyment was had discussing art, aspirations, and future careers with this young crowd! I think it was the Chicago exposure that turned up our interest in art.

“Tatiana” by Taras Loboda now hangs in their Bonita Springs home (Image: Mike & Krys Lewis)

What was the first piece of art you bought? How did you discover it? Did you save for it?

It was in our Chicago home that we made our first big, long-time-coming, art purchase. Tatiana by Taras Loboda was an acquisition we made while on a side trip to Prague from London, and we proudly hung the painting in the center of our living room.

Purchases of art in our early years were restricted to “memory pieces” from street vendors. Not until our trip to Prague, some 35 years after marriage and university, did Krys and I make our first important purchase. We had booked a three-day trip to Prague to visit our eldest daughter. I became mesmerized by a painting of a lady in red that I noticed from a window of an art gallery. Krys and I were both taken back by the art and quickly entered the shop, introduced ourselves to the owner, and set a time to meet him at the end of the day. Well, the meeting was the most interesting gallery experience we could have wished for—a Hungarian gallery owner/former male model in NYC now represented many incredible Eastern European artists, including Loboda. After focusing on Tatiana, reminiscing on my own Hungarian heritage with the owner, meeting the artist who coincidentally showed up, and over late-night phone negotiations while sipping a Pilsner, we had our piece, a prized possession that became the centerpiece of our home.

The Lucky One by Saatchi Art artist Elizabeth Lennie on display at Mike & Krys’ home in Bonita Springs, Florida (Image: Mike & Krys Lewis)

How would you describe your taste in Art? What are you most drawn to?

Although different, Krys and my taste for art does have a central theme. This tends to be interesting and unique subject matters, which are generally not landscapes, but people. We also now like Modern art, perhaps influenced by the collections in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. We prefer oil paintings.

“For the amateur collector who is aiming to improve the look, feel, and love of their home, emerging and new artists are wonderful.” 

How do you feel about collecting work by emerging artists/new talent vs. artists represented by blue chip galleries?

Albeit, I would love to purchase a Lichtenstein, or go to Art Basel and write a check for a magnificent piece from a well-known and more expensive artist, I do find it fascinating to scour from the thousands of talented artists on this planet. Are we not all fired up by the treasure hunt of finding unique and exclusive objects in our everyday lives? I feel the same way for art and emerging artists/new talent, particularly now that they are being exhibited at Saatchi Art. Every original work is unique. For the amateur collector who is aiming to improve the look, feel, and love of their home, emerging and new artists are wonderful. You never know who might be the next Matisse.

In the Light 2 by Saatchi Art artist Wojtek Bąbski is a brilliant focal point in the Lewis’ modern dining room (Image: Mike & Krys)

What has being able to buy art from an online gallery like Saatchi Art meant to you?

My eldest daughter Shannon, a marketing and communications professional, told me about Saatchi Art. My first experience was “a wow.” Saatchi Art was very easy to use, showed incredible variety, and I began exploring and saving what art and artists I liked in my Favorites. Krys did the same. As we were seeking more than one painting for our Florida home, we soon became puzzled amongst all our Favorited works. We then thought it was time to seek the help of an expert at Saatchi Art to help us with our selections.

“Rebecca [Wilson] was able to provide her views on our selections, suggest other artists and works that fit into our criteria, and then, with us, narrow the selection to a few works for us to decide upon.” 

What was your experience working with Saatchi Art and Rebecca Wilson though Art Advisory?

After reaching out, we were very fortunate to have Rebecca Wilson as our resource. We hit it off right away, as she quickly grasped our needs and likes from our Favorites and suggested steps to move forward with. We sent Rebecca photos of our rooms, indicated where we thought we wanted artwork, and provided measurements of the various wall areas. In quick order, Rebecca was able to provide her views on our selections, suggest other artists and works that fit into our criteria, and then, with us, narrow the selection to a few works for us to decide upon. After further deliberations and simulating the look of each piece via the Saatchi Art website and our iPad held to the wall location, we finalized four works to purchase. Rebecca placed the order for us, and the fulfillment process was simple and expedient. Communications on the order and delivery status were perfect. With sourcing from Poland, Canada, and the US, we were pleasantly surprised.

Sense of Nature by Saatchi Art artist Stephanie Rivet (Image: Mike & Krys Lewis)

What advice would you give to a first-time collector?

Start early by buying a work of art during every vacation. Along with family photos, it is the single greatest memory article to one’s life experiences. Second, try the online gallery experience. It provides the variety that no art trip can provide, and Saatchi Art is, in my opinion, the best online gallery.

Beach Day by Saatchi Art artist Cindy Press (Image: Mike & Krys Lewis)

Ready to add art by emerging artists to your collection? Explore Saatchi Art’s Spring 2017 edition of Invest In Art; featuring 12 emerging artists of particular promise, hand-selected by Chief Curator Rebecca Wilson.

Want to brush up on your art investment knowledge? Check out our free e-book, 7 Essential Steps to Collecting Emerging Art.

Note: There are no guarantees when it comes to buying art and you should always feel happy with what you’re buying as it may be on your walls for a pleasurably long time. But if you are interested in the investment side of buying art then acquiring works by emerging artists is a great way to begin.

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