WHAT NEXT GENERATION ART COLLECTOR SANDER SMITH BUYS
by Jonny Boys
In a continued effort to encourage people to begin collecting art on the local level, we are starting a series focusing on art collectors that focus on the low to mid markets. Our first look is at Sander Smith, a resident of Portland who has worked in the packaging industry for close to 30 years.
As a kid, Sander Smith collected comic books, what he called the “perfect trifecta” because of the collection aspect, the characters and entertainment value as well as the art aspect. He was also enamored with album artwork. When he played music they advertised the shows utilizing posters. He became acutely aware of poster art in the late 80's when Portland artists like Klutch were designing posters for bands. “It got to the point that I was carefully taking flyers off of poles, which was really my first bit of art collection.”
During the mid 1990's his job put him in California. He began to take notice of street artists like Shepard Fairey's Obey which delivered him into the awareness of collecting art that was accessible. Some of his first purchases were $40 posters right before some of these artists really blew up. “Now I live in a world where I don't have enough walls...It's kind of my world here. Like everything's going up, as much as I can get up!”
“We have a great scene here in Portland, that exists away from the art community. Social networking makes it possible to find out shows. The thing is, things may have been going on for
years but it was a catch-can type of thing where you happened to find out about this that and the other thing. And now the information is more readily available. There are actually more
show opportunities for me to go to than I have time.”
During our conversation I noted that initially I was unimpressed with Portland's art scene, because I was seeing only half of the picture which was painted by Willamette Week. Once I discovered the Portland Mercury I was able to see what was really going on in the mid to low the art market in town. “Yeah my buddy Richard [Speer] is not gonna cover that stuff, he doesn't quite get it. I mean he thinks it's kind of neat, but it's not his world,” Smith said. He also said that art critics “get bound up in all the prescribed rules and their own particular agendas. They tend to push things that they like instead of questioning the things that they don't like. In as much as I surround myself with things that have some sort of message or speak to me in some way, doesn't mean I don't have an appreciation for things I would never buy, or things that I don't get, or would be uncomfortable with. I appreciate them for what they are, but wouldn't put them in my everyday life.”
Sander has been seriously collecting art for 20 years now. He started out very small with only a few dollars to spend and developed it into what it is now. His first pieces were Obey
posters and then he started buying Tim Hall's works, which was the first time he focused on collecting one artist's work.
He found Hall's work, a.k.a., Ripper 1331, before the Vinyl Killers show. “Probably the biggest money I spent was when I bought the 'Dallas Rocks' which is Kennedy, Oswald and the lot. I was like sweating spending $200 on art, can't believe I'm doing this, you know?!”
He travels around the US for his job and he always tries to visit art shows. He has made some small purchases while on the road, but he likes to keep it local. “There is an explosion of talent here and if I'm going to spend money on my community and my scene. I feel like I'm a part of what goes on.”
He took me on a tour around his house and showed me some of his prized works by artists like, Charlie Alan Kraft, Beth Myrick, Eddie Colla, Obey, Jeremy Fish, Jerel Tidwell, Ripper 1331 and Skam.
When we got to Skam's, “Freedom to Speak is a Freedom to Lie”, a full size 48” x 96” mixed media piece, we stopped. He told me that he has lots of friends and musicians over all the time who really don't understand street art. But they all tell them that they recognize Skam's work. He chuckled when he told me, “It's because you see it every day when you are out walking on the streets, you may not realize you are seeing it on street signs, benches and electrical box covers”. He said that Skam has the potential to be a household name, coming from someone who began collecting Shepard Fairey's work when he was just breaking into the market means a lot.
I asked him about several of the new galleries in town and he told me, “That's the past me, unfortunately I don't pay attention to the traditional First Thursday world...I've never understood the first thing, rent payments are due on the first of the month. Historically more people have disposable income, the middle to the end of the month.” A point as an art dealer I've never thought about once. Until now.