Interview with Young-Abraham Collection
When did you start collecting? What motivated you to start a collection?
We've always enjoyed going to galleries or art museums, especially when we traveled. After several years of doing it casually, we started noticing recurring artists, artworks, themes, unintentionally building up our context and knowledge of contemporary art. At the time we had been in the habit of buying limited edition screen prints and illustrations, and as we were gaining more familiarity it was a natural progression to start looking into original artwork. Next thing you know, we had a small collection on our hands.
Your collection has a very specific focus, young POC artists, with an interest in “inherent and adopted identities.” What is your personal connection to these artists’ works that you collect?
For us that connection comes from how we think about ourselves both in the questions we grappled with growing up and how we translated our experiences as adults. One of us hails from Indonesia and moved to middle America as a high school student, the other is born-and-raised in NYC to immigrant Asian parents so we come at the question of what does it mean to be immigrant-American from almost opposite ends of the spectrum. The push and pull of each side of the coin and how that plays into one's sense of identity is something we discuss a lot through the mix of artists whose works we collect, and it's a theme that seems especially present in young POC artists having had similar experiences. In that sense, there is also a sense of urgency we feel to represent that perspective as a snapshot of a broader experience of which we are a part of. Kathy Grayson of the Hole gallery puts it nicely when she said she approaches curation by asking “is this urgent, is this necessary, is this something that could only be made now, right now, and why?” - we feel that necessity in the artists' works we collect.
How does living in New York City inspire your collection?
The energy in NYC is something we haven't found anywhere else and definitely encourages us in our collecting. It seems no matter where you look there is not only an endless amount of amazing talent, there are also just as many platforms to support artists on every level of their career. From scrappy DIY group shows in Brooklyn all the way up to Blue-chip showings in Chelsea, it's an exciting environment to be in as collectors because you really get to see artists grow in their career.
For us personally, we met a young curator, Che Morales, and when asked how we can be more supportive of young artists/curators/galleries (besides purchasing artwork) he said is just to be present. And we did. We started making a point of going to artist talks, gallery openings, etc. and contrary to some of the more intimidating stereotypes that exist in the art world we found the culture in NYC to be incredibly welcoming. One of our favorite examples is visiting Hausen run by our friend Usen Esiet - you go in for a quick loop around and you leave having met some of the most passionate and inspiring people. Through these experiences we were able to meet a great mix of artists and non-artists who are are passionate to share their stories and are celebratory in each other's accomplishments and that definitely inspires the way we approach collecting.
Do you have a relationship with any of the artists in your collection?
Yes - one of the artists whose work we started collecting early on was Dennis Osadebe. We met at an art fair a couple years ago and right away we were drawn to his unique style and theme. We ended up having several long conversations about his Neo-African art, and it really resonated with how we've been thinking about identity and how that's defined (or rather re-defined) in present day. He has such a strong vision on breaking the pre-conceived notion of what African Art should be, and that passion is so infectious and inspiring. It's been exciting to see his artistic practice evolve over time and see how others have reacted to his work the more he's exhibited. He is also one of the hardest-working artist we've ever met, and it's been exciting to see it pay off in the shows he's put on; this year alone he had solo shows in Seoul, Paris LA, and debuted in NYC in a group show.
What do you think are some of the responsibilities of a collector in the contemporary art world?
A natural question that comes up when we are buying a piece is: how do we know that we're making the right decision? Some might start answering that in terms of predicting it's future dollar amount, but there's no 100% guarantee in that. We think it is important to try to think more critically about why the artwork or artist is worth investing in (beyond the potential monetary gain). At the end of the day there is a privilege in being able to collect artwork; use it to give space to the voices you think need to be heard.
There's also a unique opportunity in collecting a living artist's work, which is so often the case with contemporary art. You get to help support their careers and better understand what you're collecting straight from the source. Consider doing studio visits, see them at their opening or artist talk, or even showing support online. In today's world there are lots apps that help make this easy (Instagram being a particularly good vehicle) and it's a great way for younger collectors with not a lot of money to figure out where to start.
This interview is a part of our Public Support section, dedicated to our Kickstarter supporters.