story of an artwork

As promised yesterday, a post about my first foray into buying art from a gallery. I think there are certain events in life like milestone birthdays, the birth of a child or a wedding that deserve to be celebrated with a purchase you will have for years to come. Something you can look upon to remember that specific moment.

For my husband’s 30th birthday, I decided to buy him a piece of art. It was a discussion about art and photography that drew us together in the first place so what better present to give him.

Up the road, from where we lived in Vancouver was a gallery that was having a show by the Royal Art Lodge. The Royal Art Lodge was a collective of artists from Winnipeg, Canada founded by Marcel Dzama, Michael Dumontier, Neil Farber, Drue Langlois, Jonathan Pylypchuk, and Adrian Williams. We were both familiar with the work of the Royal Art Lodge, and I knew he would appreciate one of their works.

Royal Art Lodge Studio

One of the ways the collective functioned was every week, the artists would meet and work on drawings that they passed around the group Usually, at least three artists would contribute to each drawing riffing off of what the previous artist had done. Each work was then time stamped to identify when the art was completed and to signify the meeting process.

Royal Art Lodge

The show at the Atelier gallery had many of these group drawings on display all reasonably priced around the $150-$200 mark. I saw one that really resonated with me that I knew Myles would enjoy. It showed two blob-like figures holding a gigantic suitcase with a picture of men’s briefs on the side. The text above said, “let’s get out of here”. Since we were contemplating a move to Toronto at the time it seemed appropriate and timely. ( I later learned that the Royal Art Lodge had a systematic way of sorting through all the drawings they generated that involved four suitcases. The best went into a suitcase with a sun on it, the second best into one depicted with a heart, the bad went into a suitcase with a rain cloud and the worst were destined for a suitcase with a skull and bones. This was work that was so bad it was to be destroyed.)

The piece has hung in our homes in both Vancouver and Toronto. When we moved into the Marion House we found the perfect spot for the drawing in our hallway right inside the front door.

Then an interesting thing happened. As I was doing the research for this post I took a closer look at our drawing. The initials on the bottom of the page are MD, SD, and SM. Only the MD initials seemed to correspond with a name of an artist who had been in the collective (either Marcel Dzama or Michael Dumontier) and there was no time stamp. I was curious and wondered who had contributed to our drawing. Luckily, the internet is a wonderful thing and I found a contact name on the Royal Art Lodge website. I wrote a quick note with an attached photo of our drawing and hoped someone would respond in a timely fashion. (The collective officially ended in 2008 but some of its member still continue to work together.) A few hours later, I received a reply from Neil Farber. He informed me that our drawing was done by Marcel Dzama, his wife Shelley and their friend Sylvia.

Marcel Dzama - Untitled 2003

In recent years, Marcel Dzama has seen an enormous amount of success. His work is collected by major galleries and institutions such as the The Museum of Modern Art, the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal. Brad Pitt, Jim Carrey, Viggo Mortensen and Spike Jonze also collect his work. A quick internet search revealed that a work similar in scale to ours and signed by both Marcel Dzama and Shellie Dick (his wife) sold at auction in 2007 for $2640.

Marcel Dzama and Shelley Dick - Untitled (Figures with Owls)

While I didn't purchase this piece with the intent to make money it can't be denied that the business of making and selling art is a large part of the art world puzzle. I think many people are fearful about this part of art collecting; nobody wants to make a bad investment. First and foremost, I believe that you have to love or at least be challenged by the art you buy. (Sometimes, I find the works that confuse or intrigue you...the ones that aren't immediately apparent... are the ones you end up connecting with the most.) That way you will never be disappointed as you will always have a work that you enjoy having on your wall. If you happen to be fortunate and the artist's career takes off then lucky for you. Even then, I wonder how many people would part with an artwork just to make some money. I know, we're holding onto ours.