Over the last two decades, collectors James Wagner (jameswagner) and Barry Hoggard (bloggy/Tristan Media LLC) have given a voice to the emerging art scene through their blogs, public events, and co-editing the arts calendar and artists’ website hosting service ArtCat (formerly ArtCal.net). Together, they’re known as a force of good in the underrepresented art community, from hosting panel discussions to sitting on benefit committees to inviting artists to their home.
“It’s impossible to get to know the entire New York art world. There are just too many people,” Chris Harding of English Kills Gallery told me on Wednesday. “But they really try.” Evidencing this, they made the fruits of their labor available to the public in 2010, launching a website for their entire collection. We thought this was great, and apparently, so did Chris— his show “Selections from the Hoggard/Wager Collection” opens tonight at 7 PM at English Kills. Considering the depth of knowledge that’s behind the collection, this should be a survey of underrepresented artists you should know.
In anticipation of tonight’s opening, Barry and James agreed to answer a few questions.
What was your response when Chris asked you about curating a show? Have you ever given any work to a group show before?
Once Chris had explained to us what he wanted to do, we were pretty blown away by his incredibly generous offer. We’ve loaned individual works for artists’ solo shows, but we’ve never loaned work for a group show.
Do you believe that responsible collecting comes with a certain level of stewardship?
Yes, the role of steward is extremely important to us. That includes, first of all, responsibility for caring for the work physically, and then ensuring that it is visible to as many people as possible. The collection site and the happy phenomenon of this show are both a part of that visibility. We also try to be diligent about documenting the work, especially as we have found artists themselves, galleries, and estates often have inadequate records. Finally, we believe that collectors should plan for the survival of the art beyond their own life spans, although we haven’t worked that out yet ourselves.
Have things changed since you started blogging about art, over a decade ago? Would you say art blogs have brought people together a little bit more? [Founded around 2001, bloggy and jameswagner.com are easily in the running for longest-lasting New York art blogs].
When we started, art blogging was generally a field for amateurs—in the sense of not being paid, and of being advocates for emerging art. We think that having to make money from one’s writing, which is certainly a desirable goal, affects what gets covered on a lot of blogs.
We do think that art blogs are a more important resource for the coverage of emerging artists, galleries, and curators than any of the traditional forms of media, such as magazines or newspapers.
What was the first piece you purchased together? How did you decide to start collecting?
Felix Droese’s “Dresden Yellow II” may have been our first acquisition together. We purchased it from the artist’s solo show at a non-profit space in the East Village, the New York Kunsthalle, which no longer exists. [“Dresden Yellow II” will be on view at English Kills].
James had already been collecting on a more modest scale for some ten years when we met, so there was no specific decision to continue doing so as a couple. Both of us had always been interested in the arts, the visual arts included. James began collecting because he was friends with artists in Rhode Island and later in New York and had gradually realized that, even with a very small amount of money, it was possible to live with their work and that of others.
Would you say there are themes throughout the collection?
There is quite a bit of humor (especially dark humor), but any themes are really by accident based on our pretty eclectic tastes. There was never a plan. Almost everything we own was purchased within an hour of first seeing it.
Is there any work in particular that you are excited to have on view?
I think we would be expected to say that we’re excited to have each of these works exhibited, and it’s true, partly because Chris Harding has done such a wonderful job of curating, but also because pretty much each of the pieces in the collection excites us.
But we’re particularly excited to be able to show Tracey Baran’s “Because I’m a Girl”, both because we love her work and because her early and tragic death in 2008 put an end to what we expected would be a brilliant, long career. We hope that this show will enable others to understand our enthusiasm.
We also think that Teresa Moro’s “Wildlife (series)” represents work which really must be seen by more people. Our love and respect for the three gouaches we own has only intensified since we purchased them from Foxy Production in 2003, and we were delighted to learn that Chris shares our appreciation for the work. We are also very concerned about friends in Spain right now: Teresa lives with her artist husband and daughter in Madrid.