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Collecting Art: John Seed

Collecting Art: John Seed

We talk today with John Seed who has been collecting art since High School.

John Seed with "Mirabel Street" by Robert De Niro Sr in 1980

Explain your process for collecting art. I have had two collections. The first collection, which I began after earning my BA in Painting, was purchased in commercial galleries. I purchased some David Park drawings for about $200 each at Maxwell Galleries, which used to be a popular San Francisco Gallery, now long gone. Using the installment plan I then bought a Robert De Niro Sr. painting from Charles Campbell Gallery, a Diebenkorn lithograph from Smith Andersen in Palo Alto and a Philip Guston drawing from Paule Anglim. At a fund-raiser I bought a small, ceramic self-portrait by Robert Arneson. After the event a woman came up to me and told me I had out-bid her: it was the artist's mother and she told me that she didn't own any of his work. 

Later, after getting my graduate degree I bought a Basquiat painting from Larry Gagosian for $5,000, but sold it back after the Basquiat called my house and harassed me about the purchase, saying that he wanted a "major collector" to have the painting, and that he would do a portrait of me if I returned it, which I did. I also had a Kenny Scharf painting that I bought directly from Kenny, but I sold it quickly. Finally, I had two very nice paintings by Eric Orr, bought from commercial galleries and a lovely William Brice Drawing purchased at a charity auction supporting MOCA. 

Over time, I sold off this first collection for much-needed cash as I bought real estate, got married and established myself financially. I have only one or two early purchase left, including a sculpture by Jeff Whyman and a painting by Steve Schwartz, both grad school friends. 

My second collection is the result of writing about art. I have been given gifts by a number of artists and have bought a few things directly from artists. In that category I have a wonderful portrait F. Scott Hess did of me, an early Peter Zokosky painting of the New Mexico desert populated only by a plywood cutout of Fred Flintstone, and paintings by Mitchell Johnson, Matthew Couper and Jennifer Pochinski. In payment for an essay, artist Kim Froshin made me an incredible "57" painting for my 57th birthday. 

In the front of our house we have a tiny nude by Jon Swihart that was "splurge" when I sold some real estate ten years ago: it is phenomenal. 

I also have drawings and prints by Arman Manookian (who I wrote a book about), Sam Francis, Daniel Maidman, Kyle Staver, Luis Serrano and others. 

I also have a wonderful monotype by Nathan Oliveira that I bought a few years ago from Tobey Moss Gallery in Los Angeles. 

What was the first artwork you collected and why? In high school I bought a Salvador Dali print at a garage sale for $50 and sold it to a dealer for $300. I was very proud to make a few bucks on the transaction. 

Have you bought work which was in a publication and if so which ones? No. 

Richard Diebenkorn lithograph

Which is your most cherished piece? My Nathan Oliveira monotype. During the first lecture he gave in the printmaking class I took in 1977 he showed slides of variations on a "Tauromaquia" (Bullfight) etching by Goya. The lecture held me spellbound, and 35 years later when I say one of the series for sale I told my wife "I need to make an extravagant purchase." It hangs above my desk and will go wherever I go until I leave this world. 

Do you buy multiple images from artists or try to just stay with one? I'm eclectic and tend towards on work per artist. 

Fredrock by Kenny Scharf 

Do you have a budget in mind when buying art? The most I have ever spent on a single work is $5,000. I have a wonderful small painting by Duane Keiser that I bought on eBay for $99. 

Do you buy art because you think it is a good investment?  I think Vanguard mutual funds and coastal real estate are good investments. Art is a luxury that I have bought out of passion and foolishness. 

Who are some of artists are in your collection?  See above. 

John Seed with Kim Froshin's "57"

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Interview with an Art Collector

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