Collecting art is a funny thing. The reasons I’m driven to acquire one thing or another can vary widely. Sometimes I acquire prints that make a statement about one issue or another, no doubt a hangover from my days at the museum. Back then my standards were pretty high because they had to be. There’s nothing more mortifying than having your colleagues roll their eyes at a proposed acquisition. Post-museum job, I find my aperture has widened considerably. Now a work’s conceptual rigor holds less importance for me. Living with a work of art is very different than collecting it for an institution.
People ask me for advice a lot, and my number one response is “buy it because you love it, not because you think its value will increase.” It’s even better if you feel a deep personal connection to the work.
If you’ve been following along, you know that I left a beloved job at the Baltimore Museum of Art almost five years ago. The first 2.5 years were spent trying this and that, always to find only dissatisfaction. At the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, I started writing these posts and making them available here. Like everyone, I didn’t know what might happen in those early days of COVID— whether I would get sick and not make it. Facing a possible end, I suddenly felt compelled to express a few things. I felt a combination of the abrupt cessation of a beloved career and a drive to create something to leave behind so my two sons would have something tangible from the mother. I think this latter notion was especially strong for me because I’d give a lot to have a letter from my mother, who died when I was a kid.
Writing about art and subsequently starting the podcast, Platemark, led me to meet Brian Miller, who owns Full Circle Fine Art and Catalyst Contemporary. Along with Brian’s partner Julie Funderburk, last weekend the three of us pulled off an incredible feat: the inaugural Baltimore Fine Art Print Fair. Twenty-four exhibitors from across the country joined us in Baltimore to sell contemporary prints. Everyone, from exhibitors to fair-goers seemed thrilled to be together celebrating prints. The print ecosystem just got a shot in the arm.
While this new fair is its own thing, it is a descendant of the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair, which was operated by the Baltimore Museum of Art from 1990 to 2017. This new iteration is not related to the BMA, except that I directed the last three of the BMA’s fair. I’ve been longing to recreate the fair since 2017, so you can imagine how pleased I am that we managed to do it.
All weekend I ran around the fair greeting old and new friends, former colleagues, and museum members who all seemed thrilled to be at the new fair. Not only was it exhilarating and exhausting, but also it made doing a thorough job of exploring each booth nearly impossible. You may have heard me say that some of the best stuff is under a vendor’s table: unframed prints, portfolios, artists books, and multiples. I missed all of that this year. No time!
By Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t sure I would find the one, the print that would come home with me. There were certainly prints that would be lovely to bring home, but I also had a budget in mind, if you know what I mean. Suddenly it all clicked. I wandered into the booth of Jungle Press, a shop out of Brooklyn run by Andrew Mockler.
In one corner of the booth were four mixed-technique, hand-colored typewriters by the painter Sam Messer. They were fun and cool, but they didn’t ring my bell. Next to them, however, was a smaller etching by Messer of the same Olympia typewriter, In the Year 2020, that is often the subject of his work. The plate has been deeply corroded in acid, the edges are irregular, and there are literal holes in the plate. The typewriter itself looks well loved, tired, but ready to produce the next story or essay.
All of a sudden, the typewriter became a symbol of my post-BMA years when I finally found my voice in both writing and in speech and culminating in the print fair. I fell in love and had to have it. So home it came and is now hanging above my desk/recording studio. It will forever be a reminder of the pandemic, the new fair in its first year, and of my metaphorical rise from the ashes.
Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.