artists that great artists collect: Michael Childers discusses art and artists

written by Christine Dodd • photos by Deja Kreutzberg

What is your favorite thing about your art collection?

“When I walk in my house at night and see everything on the walls it gives me a thrill. It’s like visiting my best and warmest friends. It’s a lifetime of collecting that I look at. I enjoy it, admire it, I love sharing it with my friends, I do lectures with art and photography students. It’s wonderful to share because I know I won’t have all of this for forever. It’s wonderful to experience right now.”

What are your favorite pieces?

“I love The Girl on the Diving Board by Patrick Morrison. It was painted outside my house in the Hollywood Hills. Patrick was a brilliant Irish painter, a great friend of David Hockney. This was the poster of his show done in the early 80’s. When I saw it, I just had to have it. I didn’t have the money, but thank god I knew the dealer. I put down payments on it, and had to pay it off over a year and a half. Sometimes you do that. I will not part with it. It reminds me so much of that part of my life in Los Angeles in the glories of California.

“I’m also very proud of my collection of Hockneys—his drawings, his lithographs, small paintings, his photographs. It’s been the thrill of my life not only to know this great man and artist but to be able to have some of his small pieces.

What are the qualities of a successful artwork?

“Oh god, I wish I knew. Whether it holds its place in time. Sometimes contemporary art looks good for a year or two then it loses its edge, or looks dated, or weak. You want something that is going to be sort of eternal. That’s why you trade off paintings and get something new. You go through a period where you say, ‘Well, I don’t love that as much as I did at that time.’”

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting an art collection?

“To have a passion for whatever it is, whether it’s a sculpture, painting, ceramics, glass. To read up before there are any purchases. To know what you’re going for and perhaps figure out a direction that your journey through collecting might take—over a lifetime or the immediate future.“

What is the biggest sacrifice you have made to buy art?

“It’s just figuring out what you want and devoting a portion of your income to collecting. Sometimes it’s a small bit, sometimes it’s much more, sometimes you go into debt to get a great piece. Overall, just keep the excitement of the collecting going.”

Where do you look for art?

“I travel a lot in London, New York, Los Angeles, Palm Springs. I always do the galleries and the museums. I always see something new that doesn’t look like anyone else. That always intrigues me.”

 

Where is your favorite place to view art?

“I love museums and I love seeing great collections at people’s houses. If they have extraordinary collections, it inspires me to do it in a small way. I’m very proud of my photography collection—which was bigger at one time, over a hundred more images. But I have donated a great deal of it to the Palm Springs Art Museum for their permanent collection. Then, I have sold some of it at Sotheby’s for quite a bit of money, which has allowed me to buy more art or more photographs.”

What called you to being an artist?

“Well, it was the passion for photography. I just wanted to create when I was 17/18 years old at UCLA. I caught the bug. I was in art/photography school. I loved everything about it. I loved being with the young art students, chatting and staying up until three o’clock in the morning talking about art, drinking too much cappuccino, and smoking too many cigarettes. Whether it was film, or printing photographs, or creating art pieces, the most exciting time in my life was when I was young and in art school.”

What would you tell yourself ten to twenty years ago that you wish you knew then?

“My thoughts on what I should have done twenty years ago—you can’t look back. You can’t say, ‘I wish,” “I could have,” “I should have,” “I meant to.’ You do what you do. The main thing is to keep working, to keep producing, keep evolving (that’s the most important thing). Change your look. Change the focus. Find a new genius. Find a new something that inspires you. Constantly. David Hockney does that every five years of his life. He goes in a different direction and reinvents himself. Well, Picasso did that too. He went through realism. He went through cubism. He went through, slightly, for a small bit, serialism. He came back to, finally, figurative art. Just to keep evolving. That’s the most important thing—to explore the art that you’re involved with.”

See Michael Childers exhibition at Casa Romantica, Open Casa: “Michael Childers, Legends of Hollywood & Art Photography” on view August 25 - October 15, 2017. Free opening reception Friday, August 25, 2017, at 6:00 pm. For more information visit CasaRomantica.org or MichaelChildersPhotography.com.

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