Written by Caitlyn Cooney, Curatorial Intern
Part of the thrill of collecting is the process of finding a piece: negotiating prices, working with dealers, going to auctions, and hunting for the treasure. A collector falls in love with a piece, an artist, a movement, and embarks on the adventure to find such works. Cullen Hammond has acquired his nearly 60 pieces within his collection by exploring and hunting through galleries and auction houses throughout the South, many of which sparked his interest in early to mid-20th century American art.
Hammond’s interest in art began immediately upon his graduation from Law School after he was amazed at the results of a restoration done on a family member’s artwork. For the past 40 years, his passion for collecting has only grown stronger. His strive to find treasures in various auction houses and galleries hasn’t stopped at the object, but rather inspired him to dig deeper, and learn about the artworks, artists, and movements associated with them. This research led him to understand and appreciate the works with his collection, three of which are currently on view within the exhibition.
The range of pieces in Hammond’s collection speaks to the renaissance seen in American art at the turn of the century, as alternate media from fine oil paintings or bronze sculptures were becoming more widely accepted. Each of Hammond’s featured works represent a different stylistic moment within American Modern art. His Fairfield Porter lithograph entitled Interior with Christmas Tree (1971) embodies the craze for printmaking and experimentation by many artists with lithography seen in the 1960s and 70s.
Charles Sheeler’s Chartres Cathedral (1946) reinterprets the traditional European depictions of cathedrals in the impressionistic style. Sheeler’s loose brushstrokes speak to that movement, yet revive it in his use of watercolor instead of oil. Thus, Sheeler presents a reinterpretation of a traditional European subject and style within a Modern American culture.
As evident from the featured pieces, his collection includes many works on paper. “Oil paintings tend to be more expensive” he states, “and I have a budget!” As a collector, Hammond’s goal is not so much to collect the most expensive, prominent artists, but rather to find pieces, or “treasures,” that mean something to him. Each of these pieces speak to an aspect of the golden years in American Modern art, and it is Hammond’s passion to have discovered each one. It is his ambition to keep discovering and to keep learning in the future.
The exhibition Collectors’ Choice: Inside the Hearts and Minds of Regional Collectors will be on view from May 17th to September 14th, 2014.
For more information, please visit the Cummer’s website at https://www.cummer.org/