Wake Forest students build art collection
By Cheryl Walker
During spring break, six Wake Forest University students will go to New York City in search of works by yet-to-be famous artists to add to the university's Student Union Collection of Contemporary Art.
The trip will run from March 9-13.
Since 1963, students have traveled to New York to purchase paintings, prints, sculptures and other works of art. On that first trip, the students purchased nine pieces ranging from a Picasso linoleum cut to an oil painting by Elaine de Kooning. The second trip was made in 1965 and since that time, trips have been made every four years. The Student Union Collection now includes more than 100 pieces with some by such well-known artists as Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein.
The students on this trip will be looking at artists they hope may become household names in the years ahead.
"This year's group of students will focus more on emerging artists than well-established ones because of the inflated art market," said Robert Knott, professor of art at Wake Forest and the faculty leader accompanying the students to New York. "Focusing on emerging artists is a little riskier. You have to do your homework. We are having to look at artists who are younger. We have to find ones that show real promise."
The students, who all completed Knott's contemporary art seminar in the fall, have met weekly to identify and discuss contemporary artists and their work. Each student has researched specific artists, spending a lot of time looking at magazines and gallery Web sites. They have contacted galleries to find out general price ranges and availability of works.
The objective is to find artists who are representative of current trends in the art world.
"The collection is particularly interesting from an historical point of view because it reveals what trends were current during the time each group made its purchases," Knott said.
"The benefit of this program is that we have an excellent collection of contemporary art and the students have a unique opportunity to put into practice what they've learned about contemporary art and to take on the responsibility of making wise decisions. The artists represented have gained in reputation over the years."
The group has narrowed their list of artists and is charting their itinerary to visit 10 -12 galleries in the Chelsea area and one or two uptown galleries with a stop at one artist's studio.
They'll spend the days looking at paintings, photography and works on paper and then spend evenings discussing what they have seen. The program is especially noteworthy because students make the buying decisions. Knott acts as an advisor. They have already had lively discussions about which artists should make the cut and the students are prepared to defend their favorites when they make their final decisions in New York.