Art collector Interview: Connie Weiss

This week I had the chance to catch up with an art collector, Connie Weiss. She started collecting art to match her new couch. Harmony Found, by yours truly, was the first art piece she bought. After she did that, she jumped off the proverbial ledge and hasn’t been the same since.

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How did you start collecting art? How did you buy the very first piece in your collection?

Always thought people who collected art were Rockefellers. You know, the really wealthy. Then, I visited my friend whose house was covered in artwork. All the art had signatures. She owned originals!!! I was like “WHOA!” I was taken aback by just the idea of it! My friend wasn’t rich. She was upper middle-class, but certainly not at Rockefeller. I never purchased original art before, it just wasn’t something I even thought of.

That visit changed my idea about owning original art.

Several years after that, I bought a couch. I was looking for wall art to go above it. I was wandering around Downers Grove and saw your oil painting in Poe.M Art Gallery. When I saw “Harmony Found,” I had to have it. It was a quality piece.  Suddenly, it wasn’t about the couch anymore. The gallery was having a reception that Friday and I told the owners I wanted to meet the artist to get the story behind the artwork. Then I talked to you, and was really taken by its story. I was attracted to the explosive use of color. I was drawn to the portraiture of the little girl who evoked memories of my childhood and raising my daughter. It took my breath away… and it still does.

Then before I knew it, I was doing art receptions out of my home and surrounded by artists and art.

Wow, that’s some story. Do you continue buying art for the same reasons or did the reasons change?

I buy art I see because the art speaks to me and I can relate to it. I really enjoy hearing the story behind the art from the artists.

The best works in my collection convey a certain energy and relevancy. It’s all about the energy that the art gives a space. It creates an environment. I entertain a lot and love the conversations the art creates.

What part of collecting do you love the most?

Let me tell you a story that best explains my love of collecting. After I bought your piece, “Harmony Found,” I decided to host a housewarming party. I invited you and another artist friend, Don Larson, to hang some art on my blank walls. I invited everyone I knew. Lots of people came. Lots of art was bought. And I had unwittingly hosted my first artist reception.

After the party, even though I was alone, I felt surrounded by all the vibrancy and energy the art created. I was blown away by the overwhelming emotion I was feeling. It was euphoric. It was a high. It was so powerful. Awe-inspiring. You can’t get that feeling from IKEA wall art.

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Is there a particular type of art you collect?

80% Portraiture – figurative art. I really like people. I will purchase a traditional landscape if it is colorful. But mostly, the subject matter is people.

Connie, where do you find out about artwork you purchase?

It’s always different. Art has a way of finding me. For example, when I lived in Rogers Park, it turned out that my next-door neighbor was an artist. He did turntable art 2.5 feet in diameter, with oil paint and chemicals. It was very different from anything I’d seen before. And no two pieces were alike. When I visited his gallery, one of the pieces was still wet on the easel. I had to have that one.  

I also visit galleries. When I went to your solo show in The Art Matrix Gallery at Zhou B Art Center, I walked around each floor and found Corinna Button. I purchased one of her prints, Idol.

In France, I picked up some pieces from Anne Virlange Art Gallery in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. What better souvenir than original art. I purchased some for my home and gifted some to my daughter and my friends. Now Anne Virlange originals are hanging in homes across the U.S.

Just recently, I purchased a photo on aluminum. A local Latin American gallery was hosting an art show of photography. The artist had visited Cuba and captured portraits, landscapes, and cityscapes. My daughter is Cuban so it had special meaning to me to purchase a photo of Havana.

So, you can see, it’s always different.

What types of venues did you buy art from?

Art galleries mostly.

Have you ever purchased artwork from social media?

    No. I like the experience of researching and getting to know the story behind the art in person.

Do you have a process in how you buy art?

Yes, there is definitely a process. When I see a piece I like, I get to know the story behind it. I then find the artist and get to know their story. I like to have a relationship with the art and artist. I want to know “why.”

How many art events do you attend a year? How often?

I usually go to galleries once every four to six weeks. I love being part of the art community. I try to go to 1st Friday’s every month.

Do you have a “the one that almost got away” story you can share with me?

Yes! As I mentioned earlier, I discovered Corinna Button’s studio during your show at Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. She was a printmaker and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting, I don’t know anything about printmaking.” But I didn’t purchase the one I liked right away.

Then I received the announcement of her final reception before she was moving back to London. I had to get my hands on that print. She wasn’t able to locate it. But she could find the plate so she printed up four new pieces for me to choose from since the colors come out differently with each crank of the press.  I was so touched by Corinna taking the time to do that as she was packing to leave for England.

What advice would you give someone on how to start collecting art?

Have courage.

In general, there seems to be no art appreciation anymore. We’ve lost sight of the value of original art. Sadly to say, I think many people are afraid to purchase art, as they are not sure if it's "good" art. They lack the confidence to go with what they like. Afraid their friends will say, "What were they thinking?" Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Many people are afraid that original artwork must cost $10,000. So they will buy a print at Bed Bath and Beyond for $200 or Crate and Barrel for $500! These mass-produced prints are “safe” purchases. They don’t challenge you. They don’t invoke any energy, creativity or any of those great conversations.

You know that commercial – “Tell us what you want to spend on car insurance and we’ll customize a plan to fit your budget.” Art is like that too. Buying art is much easier than you think. Original art is sold at every price point. So, set your budget and buy something in that price range. Art is an investment in multiple ways.

It will change your world.

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Thank you!
Mays Mayhew