The collection duo that pushes diversity

As museums have grown, their collections have become more targeted as they build on an already vast body of work. Gaps appear to be filled, trends form, and biases are exposed to correct.

If an expanding museum is lucky enough to have loyal supporters, they sometimes assist with strategic acquisitions.Atlanta High Museum of Art Such patrons were found among former Sotheby’s executive John Auerbach and art consultant Ed Down.The married couple’s mission is to help the museum diversify its collection of contemporary works, some of which they found at this week’s art fair Frieze New York.

Over the past two years, Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Tang have been instrumental in 16 acquisitions, sometimes funding some or all of the acquisitions, and sometimes directly providing work.

Eleven of the works are on display or on view next week, including Gerald Lovell’s painting “Tower of Friendship” (2021) and Tyler Mitchell’s “Huey” Special Family” (2021), a series of photographs mounted on mirrors. Other artists whose work has been acquired by Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Tang include Ludovic Nkoth and Kudzanai-Violet Hwami.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Mr. Auerbach, 44, is the CEO of an art storage company Uwo. Mr. Tang, 35, a native of Hong Kong, is the founder of this consulting firm Arts Bureau. They split their time between New York City and Litchfield, Connecticut.

They have been working closely with High’s curator of modern and contemporary art, Michael Rooks.

“We are doing our best to significantly increase the work of people of color, women and artists across the LBGTQI spectrum,” Mr. Rooks said.

High is not unique among museums in this regard, he said. But what was unusual was the fusion of ideas between high school staff and collectors, who exchanged almost weekly.

Thanks in part to his Atlanta roots, Mr. Auerbach has been a key figure in the project. He met Mr Roux through a mutual friend and they hit it off.

“It grows naturally,” Mr Auerbach said. “Michael would call and say, ‘I saw this amazing Jeffrey Gibson punching bag.'” (he was referring to Mr. Gibson’s “The Love You Give is the Love You Get” (2020), which is a beaded sculpture, currently on show at High”unspoken, love. ”)

Mr. Auerbach replied that he knew the gallery that offered the work, Roberts Projects in Los Angeles. He told Mr Roux, “I’ll call them and we’ll buy it for you.”

After buying the piece, the couple held on for a while. “We had to live with it for a while and now it’s its permanent home in high school,” Mr Auerbach said.

Tang, who moved to the U.S. eight years ago, said the couple’s focus on diverse manufacturers was personal. “Artists of color need equal status,” he said.

Mr Auerbach added that the museum’s mission “resonates with us. We are a diverse family.”

High school director Rand Suffolk said what stood out to him about Mr. Auerbach and Mr. Tang was the “level of intent”.

“They are very interested in helping us make a difference and make a difference in the community,” said Mr Suffolk, who led the museum for six years. The high school now has a permanent collection of over 18,000 works.

Mr Suffolk said the museum’s push to diversify had had the desired effect. The number of non-white visitors to high schools more than tripled from 2015 to 2020, and about 60 percent of the audience is now under the age of 35, excluding school groups.

“We’ve been honest about our desire to earn different credits in our community,” Mr Suffolk said. “People want to see themselves represented.”

The high school also ensured that Mr Auerbach and Mr Tang’s gifts were quickly displayed.

“It’s a nod to John and Ed,” Mr Suffolk said. “We don’t put them in warehouses.”

Those donations, however, barely depleted collectors’ art stores. At home, they live with Cecily Brown, Wade Guyton, Salman Toor and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, among others. Painting was favored, but sculpture and other media were also represented.

As part of their collection, they often participate in art fairs. Mr. Auerbach recalled purchasing Chase Hall’s Visiting Team (Minor League) (2021) at events like this last year; it was part of their gift to the Supreme.

“We like to walk around the fair and talk to the gallerists,” Mr. Auerbach said, adding that they plan to attend Frieze New York this week.

They also engage in other philanthropic endeavors, including donations to other museums. “We have a lot of stuff on our walls that we’re giving away,” Mr. Auerbach said, referring to a painting by Christina Quarles that was a promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Connecticut, they also founded Beecher’s residence, will start this summer. An artist would live and work in their famous modernist home, the Stillman House, designed by architect Marcel Breuer and completed in 1951.

For Mr Auerbach, his work at the higher school dates back to his childhood.

“My mom used to take me there,” he says, “and it got me interested in art.” He can recall the various exhibitions he attended in the 1980s, and seeing Larry when he was 10 years old · Specific works by Larry Bell.

“High school is close to my heart,” Mr. Auerbach said, noting that the increasing diversity of tourists is encouraging. “Being able to play a small role in that is very beneficial.”

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