Guillermo Presents: Bill Staubi
We are excited to present to you the first of an interview series about art appreciation and art collecting that will be hosted by artist, instructor, S66 curatorial associate Guillermo Trejo. In this series, he will be interviewing various people that he knows and respects, people that also collect art.
For the inaugural interview of this series, Guillermo brings us Bill Staubi. For those who have not had the pleasure of meeting Bill, here is a brief introduction.
Bill has been an important member of the arts community in Ottawa for many years. Not only is he a supporter of the arts as collector, but he has also volunteered his time and knowledge for various art organizations in the city. He has a special interest in helping emerging artists and supporting local talent; his large collection consists mostly of Ottawa artists’ work.
Bill thank you very much for accepting the invitation.
Do you remember what the first art piece you bought was and why you bought it?
I remember my first purchase very well. It was the summer I graduated from my BA (1978) and I was still living in the small house the University had available to students. A group of four artists had booked the space for an art show and I was helping them hang their work. I knew I wanted to have one and give the artists their first sale. But which one, I liked so many of them! Before the end of the day I ended up committing to buying 5 paintings; one from each of three artists and two small ones from the fourth. The challenge was that having just graduated I was unemployed, broke, and had a student loan to repay. So I went to the bank and negotiated my first personal loan to buy my first paintings. I still have three of those paintings.
2 views of Bill's art filled hall way with a view of a large Natalie Bruvels' painting
How did you start your art collection?
I have always been drawn to original work and preferred to decorate my homes with it but I did not really start “collecting” until 2006. A fundraising offer I made to the Pride Committee put me in touch with a local gallery that introduced me to a lot of art and artists and started me on the road to collecting.
A view of the art on and around the dining room console
Close up of art work on the dining room console
Did you already collect other things before art or did you start buying art and then realized you were a collector?
For many years I collected Santa Claus ornaments. When I moved downtown I moved over 50 boxes of books. I went through a period of collecting crystal. I have a weakness for multiples of the same thing and for the patterns involved in collections of things. All those previous collections are gone and there is just the art collection now.
I started acquiring a lot of art for various reasons before I realized I was a collector. In part, I enjoyed supporting local artists and the confidence it gave emerging artists to make their first sale. I've purchased work to support a cause, raise funds, or help an artist out during a difficult period. After a while I began to more consciously seek out specific artists or specific works – part of my love of multiples and patterns.
Shown here, Heidi Conrod painting, Jonathan Hobin photograph, Christos Pantieras cake sculptures
What came first, the crucifix collection or the art collection? (Bill has an amazing collection of Crucifixes and religious figurines are probably the main object in the collection).
The religious collection, affectionately known as The Grotto, came later and by accident. I enjoy the majesty, ritual, and passion that some religious work embodies but I am not a religious person at all.
The entrance to the "grotto"
I was shopping at an antique store in the final hours of it going out of business. Unbeknownst to me, the owner put two plaster statues in the boxes I was filling. When I got home and unpacked them I put them in a spare half-bath in my apartment – #outofsightoutofmind; I thought. Soon another small piece joined them. Then friends starting bringing pieces by and The Grotto was born. I've also added fine art pieces to the mix and now over 300 items make The Grotto a destination visit.
It has been a fun art installation to have in my home, and although respectfully done, it is a huge source of entertainment for visitors. I'm open to visitors if you contact me to arrange a time to drop by.
I know that you have an special taste for emerging artists’ work. I feel like you buy art as a way to push their careers, to make them feel like their work is not forgotten. Are you conscious about this or do you have another indirect mandate or reason to support emerging artists?
There is a slight selfish element to it, I want to live in a city that has a vibrant arts community. That requires artists who make art and people who buy it. Art-making is expensive, emotionally demanding, and a hard way to make a living. Emerging artists don't always produce their best work at the beginning, but they cannot get to that best work if they give up, or have to give up.
The confidence it can give them to keep on trying is priceless. The purchase helps them get supplies and more than once has put dinner on a table.
I like to promote the artists I support. I take pictures of the shows I attend to encourage others to check them out and to support the artists in the community. Recently I've organized some art shows for artists and will be doing more of this in the future.
I don't buy for financial investment, I don't worry that it might not be their life's “best work”. The return I get on the psychological and emotional investment is the rich reward. Plus I get the joy of living with the art !
The bedroom featuring Natalie Grice deer sculptures
You have made art and even exhibited some of your works. Has this changed your appreciation about artists and their work?
Yes, the act of art-making and exhibiting does give you a greater appreciation for the effort that goes into making and selling; especially the aspects the buyer usually does not see – the failed efforts, the anxiety, the compromises, the amount of materials/time a “simple” project requires. It has made me a bit more critical, but on the whole it made me more sympathetic
Do you have any tips for someone that is interested in becoming a collector?
Buy what you like, what you can afford, and what you can live with every day. Buy work that challenges you, not just work that looks nice on the wall.
As you collect, you will find pieces change each time you hang a new piece nearby. You don't have to frame everything, get portfolios to house your unframed works on paper and keep them out where you can see them. Almost every piece I have has a small story that goes with it – something the artist said, something that happened at the show or the purchase. Visit the artists' studio if you can. Learn how your piece fits into where they are going with things. Do not think of the art as an object, think of it as an investment in the artist and the arts community.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists?
Yes. Too many artists, especially emerging artists, are their own worst enemies. If you see me looking at your work come over and speak to me. Ask me what I think of the piece. Be prepared to tell me something about it – why you made it, how you made it, what it means to you. It does not have to be impressive. More than once, the conversation with the artist has nailed a sale I was prepared to walk away from.
Price your work according to where you are in your art practice and what will make it attractive to buyers. Many potential buyers are nervous about buying new artists' work – being vouched for by a collector who has it on their walls can stimulate interest in your work.
There is, wonderfully, no lack of art work available in the City these days! The market is competitive.
Living room with salon style walls
Do you have any other comments or do you want to add anything else?
Don't avoid collecting art because you think it has to be expensive or give back a big financial return. My collection is both worthless and priceless.
Art is meant to be seen. Don't confine yourself to one piece for each wall. Collect for the love of supporting the arts and the joy of having it to see and share.
Artworks leaning up against Bill's wall waiting to be hung!
Thank you Guillermo for conducting this interview and many thanks to Bill Staubi for giving us insight into his world and many wise words about collecting art.
Reading Bill Staubi's thoughts on collecting art was warming and emphasizes the importance of supporting the local art scene through artists. We welcome any and all questions regarding these topics and the artists that we represent. You can contact us through email at email@example.com or you can contact our director, Carrie Colton, directly at 613 355 0359 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited for brevity.