Art adviser Joyce Varvatos’ annual summer show came really close to not happening this year, but then she ran into New York Academy of Art President David Kratz and her inspiration was sparked. On display in Southampton for four days only, Thursday, August 1 through Sunday, August 4, the Varvatos curated Fellows: Past and Present explores 33 eclectic pieces by 11 New York Academy of Art Fellows.
For the last three summers, you’ve curated a Hamptons pop-up gallery, but this year will be a little different. Could you please speak about why you decided to collaborate with New York Academy of Art this summer?
JV: I really planned on skipping the summer, to be honest. When I do an exhibition, I like it to have a lot of impact, and if you want that, then there’s a lot of time that’s involved in that – just organizing, shipping and crating and craning. Like I said, I like to go big. So, I said I wasn’t going to do it this year, and then I was invited by David Kratz to the trustee luncheon honoring the current fellows. He, in a conversation, he just said, “Are you going to do the pop-up gallery this summer?” And I said, “No.” I explained why and in the same breath, I said, “Wait a minute, I kind of have an idea.” Honestly, it all happened in 20 seconds. If I didn’t go to the luncheon, it would never have happened. The quality of the current fellows was so good, really, really good. So I said, “What if I do an exhibition with the fellows?” He said, “Done.” Then I left and the more I thought about it, I thought, you know what, I don’t want to limit it to the current fellows. Let me dig deeper and see about the past fellows and it just kind of morphed into what I think is a really, really highly curated and strong exhibition. I decided not to do it in the other venue because I did not want to do something for a solid month. I wanted almost kamikaze style. I’m showing it. I’m hanging it, showing it, having a party and taking it down the next day.
The exhibition, Fellows: Past and Present, will feature 11 New York Academy of Art graduates. Could you discuss some of the artists highlighted?
JV: I think the original list that David gave me was close to 50. So I went and did my research to see what resonated with me and I got it down to about 20. Then I did kind of a call and said if you’re interested in participating, please submit some of your work and that whittle down to what I thought were very strong works by very strong artists. That’s how I ended up with 11, only 11, artists. Oddly enough, the only common thread while choosing the art was what I thought was their ability to actually be self sustaining artists. Each artist has a very strong point of view with a unique way of conveying it. That’s what I look at and look for whenever I’m looking for art for my clients. Remember I’m really an art advisor, I’m not a gallerist, so I’m always thinking of who’s an artist that can go a little farther than the others and that’s what I was looking for with this group.
What artistic styles will be showcased?
JV: This is also a little bit funny, because when I step back and I look at it all, it actually seemed very cohesive. It’s very funny. I mean, a lot of the work it’s abstract and figurative, simultaneously. Like you can tell that it’s a face, but there’s nothing straightforward about it. There were two artists that are very straightforward. But even those straightforward artists, if you see their work anywhere, you’ll know what their DNA is, their DNA stamp, and that’s amazing. It’s a good artist. That’s another thing I look for in an artist – to make sure that there is kind of that DNA that travels through all their work – even while they work in different mediums.
For someone looking to add to their collection, or just starting out, what advice would you offer?
JV: Make sure you like the full body of work of the artist, not just the one piece.
Are there any up-and-coming artists whose careers you’re closely following?
JV: Yes, Devan Shimoyama. He came on the scene two years ago and he’s already a superstar. There are a lot of young artists that have become so hot so fast. It’s an interesting time because people are looking for more than ever, I think, they’re looking for that hot emerging artist. The problem with that is that they get hot so fast and it’s almost impossible to get the work. I’ve been in the business for well over 25 years and I’ve never seen it like this – the frenzy of finding the next hot artist.
What do you think that is attributed to?
JV: I think there are a lot more people in the art world for investment reasons. But, I also think a lot of them get into it because they get excited about the investment possibilities, but then they actually start to become addicted to the actual art. So, at first it kind of seems like, oh, really, that’s why you want to get into it? And then you can see the passion build up.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JV: I’m doing this mostly because I adore David Kratz, who I think is just running an extraordinary school.
The Fellows: Past and Present opening reception will take place on Saturday, August 3 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Fellows: Past and Present will be on display at 30 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For more information, visit nyaa.edu.