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July 1, 2011 5:43 PM   Subscribe

The Very Surprising Art Collection of a Seattle Housepainter, Stephen Reip.

How does he pay for the extensive collection which includes pieces by Scott Fife, George Herms and Claudia Fitch? "I'm gonna either paint your house or make payments—that's the only way I can do it," says Reip.
posted by DarlingBri (23 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

This is great, there seems to be this idea ingrained in the world that art collecting is only for the wealthy. As a former house painter and also as an artist I approve.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Great little article. Thanks for posting this. You just made the night that's ending a very long day.
posted by nevercalm at 6:06 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I admire his get-out-there-and-see-shows kind of mentality, which is something that a lot of other collectors don't seem to have," says dealer Scott Lawrimore

So what do other collectors do, just wait until someone is certified and then buy their stuff? (Probably.)
posted by kenko at 6:10 PM on July 1, 2011

This guy knows how to live.

I knew someone who used trade to collect art... we laughed when Henry Bauer drove by with his "Chain & Brain" truck (the back bumper had a sticker: I SAW THE WHITE BRONCO--memories, anyone?) But Henry knew what he was doing.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:15 PM on July 1, 2011

I like the assumption that people in the trades aren't wealthy. I think at the rate things are going, the trades are going to be the top of the middle class if they aren't already.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:21 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

So the guy's apartment, it's small?
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:34 PM on July 1, 2011

All I can say is awesome. And I quite like his personal photography.
posted by cmoj at 6:43 PM on July 1, 2011

posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:52 PM on July 1, 2011 [28 favorites]

I'm not much of an "art person" but this article made me smile.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:03 PM on July 1, 2011

Rather like the art collection of Herb and Dorothy Vogel.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:11 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hedley Lamarr: Qualifications?
Applicant: Reip, murder, arson, and Reip.
Hedley Lamarr: You said Reip twice.
Applicant: I like Reip.
posted by isopraxis at 9:40 PM on July 1, 2011

There are a lot of cool people in Seattle.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:53 PM on July 1, 2011

Why is it surprising a house painter collects art? Anyone who can paint a wall is going to be earning more than someone with a masters in Art History.
posted by joannemullen at 9:58 PM on July 1, 2011

Anyone who can paint a wall is going to be earning more than someone with a masters in Art History.

Somehow, the reflexive anti-intellectualism around here can still surprise me.
posted by kenko at 10:35 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you read it that way--it sounds more like groaning about extant anti-intellectualism to me.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:26 PM on July 1, 2011

Anyone who can paint a wall is going to be earning more than someone with a masters in Art History.

Are you kidding me? The thousand-headed hydra of marketing and selling useless shit to bored, under-fulfilled people is absolutely starving for anyone who can hold a pencil and draw a straight line or take a picture. There are jobs available for nearly any creative person willing to whore themselves out for nearly any creative work as long as it involves selling things.

A good artist who taps that vulnerable vein is nearly an instant millionaire in this world. It's simply a matter of selling.

The main problem is that the people who are most skilled, experienced and talented with art and creativity have learned some things about humanity and what it means to be human.

To learn te history of art of all sorts from the visual to the musical to the physical is to be exposed to the long, protracted consuming misery and futility of existence and the struggle of not only survival but pleasure and happiness while people are being short-sighted, greedy, violent, insecure or otherwise selfish shitheads and take it out on everyone else. Fascists, dictators, abusers, vampires. Granted, the rest of us are pretty selfish and insecure, too, but some folks just don't try enough or ever crawl out of the womb.

Yet as an artist you're still culturally expected to provide happy, pretty things that obscure this misery. Anything that tries to explain or explore this pathos and darkness underlying the brilliance of just being alive is suspect. Weird. Controversial. Contraband, even.

After all of this most people go slightly mad and develop an odd set of principles that involve not lying to others about what they really want or need, or what things are of true value in life. Like friends. Or pleasantness. And peace. And bellies full of nice, wholesome things to eat, and delicious yet potent wine or beer to drink to cheer the day and chase the dawn. For everyone to enjoy, not just themselves, to share experiences. And learning to enjoy things that you enjoy, no matter how silly or trivial or strange - or discovering new things to enjoy. And sharing the experience of being. And being here, and now, and making the most of what you - and we - have.

Because it makes the gravity not suck so damn much, the unbearable lightness of being. The fact that our imaginations and thoughts outpace reality and fantasy. That we cannot truly fly. It's the field mouse who collects poems of summer to tell during the winter, so we can get by.

Trying to sell that is a terrible thing. Because just like the ancient, primal invitation of an offered meal - it should be a gift.

Art isn't a luxury. It's food for active, questioning and curious minds.
posted by loquacious at 12:36 AM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Anyone who can paint a wall is going to be earning more than someone with a masters in Art History.

Somehow, the reflexive anti-intellectualism around here can still surprise me.

It seems less about intellectualism than what jobs are available and the fact that despite what we have been told all our lives, a college degree is not an automatic ticket to the good life.

It makes me sound paranoid but despite the fact that Mr. Reip sounds like an neat person who is doing good things with his life, one of my first thoughts was "great, now every burglar in Seattle is going to be breaking into this guy's house."
posted by TedW at 4:04 AM on July 2, 2011


I think that's a mean-hearted characterisation of this article. I think it's more like "Blue collar guy figures out a way to acquire fabulous art he loves despite said art normally being accessible only to the wealthy."

I grew up in a family of super-serious modern art collectors. It never, ever occurred to me that I could build a significant collection I would love on my extremely not-wealthy budget. For the record, Blue Collar Guy is about 20x smarter than my over-educated ass because it never, ever occurred to me to swap labour for art. I've been labouring for nearly 20 years now, so more fool me.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:59 AM on July 2, 2011


Years ago I dated a woman who was a bartender at an airport lounge while putting herself through school. She lived in a tiny trailer in a blue-collar neighborhood trailer park. She drove a vintage Alfa Romeo. She traveled to Africa to work with traumatized wild animals on her own saved tips. She made beautiful pictures of those animals with her camera, which along with the Alfa was the only expensive thing she owned.

She wound up making a good living taking pictures of wild animals, actually, which was always her dream. But I bet she still makes a mean martini.

People are not their jobs.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:16 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Great article, thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 6:34 AM on July 2, 2011

I think that's a mean-hearted characterisation of this article. I think it's more like "Blue collar guy figures out a way to acquire fabulous art he loves despite said art normally being accessible only to the wealthy."

Maybe it is mean-hearted, but the article rubbed me the wrong way.

The people I know who buy art and make art aren't rich -- they're welders who make metal sculpture in their free time, they're servers and bartenders who contribute to scrappy little poetry journals and host open-mike nights, they're office drones who design tattoos and make band flyers and silkscreened prints on the weekend, they're electricians and plumbers and call-center agents who pool their resources to rent warehouse space for paint-ins and performances and short films.

I've never made any real money, and I buy art. I don't think I've ever paid more than $200 for anything. And I own pieces by the late Reverend Howard Finster, 'the Sandman" Lonnie Holley, and paintings and drawing by friends and acquaintances who don't have their own Wikipedia pages. Yet. I didn't buy them as an investment, or to help out a struggling artist. I bought them (or traded for them) because I liked them.

The implicit premise of this piece, that it is unusual and therefore noteworthy for working people to make and collect art, runs counter to my experience. The art we see in the paper, the art we see on the news, the galleries on the rich side of town that we pass on our way to McDonald's -- that's the tip of an enormous iceberg. Beneath the surface are innumerable blue collar people who are making, collecting, and talking about art, not because they expect to be the next Damien Hirst, but because it brings them pleasure to have interesting and beautiful things.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:08 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep. Most art can be had for under $200, and there are many many people out there (and in my house) who don't make a lot of money but have run out of wall space. Although the tone of the article was condescending, in the sense that people with ordinary jobs can have excellent taste in art, it was good to see this acknowledged, I guess.

You will not see an article marveling at how an auto mechanic has an incredible CD collection, though. Visual art is peculiar in that only a handful of curators and collectors and gallery owners decide which art is destined to be collected by the rich.

I bet most of us are like this guy. Spending a hundred bucks or so on a piece of visual pleasure is worth more to me than throwing down the same on a meal, not to say I haven't done that as well.

By the way, the blue mountain painting looks quite a bit like Denver's Sushe Felix...
posted by kozad at 9:51 AM on July 2, 2011

I love stories like these. Buying art is something I strive for as part of my lifestyle.

I have a (very) small art budget for installment payments, and also barter services (usually DJing for vernisages and helping run events).
Even with my small payments, I get about 2 pieces a year and have been growing a pretty awesome art collection of some of my favourite local artists.

If I offer an artist $600 for a painting, paid for in $100 monthly increments, they will usually take it. Schedule the paypal transfers, pick up the work 6 months from now. Beautiful.
posted by Theta States at 9:39 AM on July 4, 2011

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