Contemporary art collectors seem to get each other. They travel the world in search of works for their collection. They love meeting and encouraging artists. Their collections are never quite complete.
So we knew we had to bring Toronto-based collector and curator Kenneth Montague to visit local art supporters and collectors Frank Konhaus and Ellen Cassilly at Cassilhaus, the home they built together on a bluff overlooking Duke Forest.
They would have plenty to talk about. Three of Frank and Ellen’s photographs, all promised gifts from the Cassilhaus Collection, were on view this summer in “Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions.” Ken was in town for a talk (tonight at 7) about the exhibition he organized at the Nasher Museum from his own collection, “Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection.”
We took our time meandering through their modernist home of trapezoidal rooms hung with beautiful photographs.The second-floor art gallery is long and airy, with trapezoid-shaped clerestory windows above and foot-level windows (trapezoids, of course) that reveal the floor below. We admired Patrick Dougherty’s stickwork sculpture, “Walkabout,” snaking throughout the foyer and around the stairs.
Ken recognized many of the artists’ work, pausing to admire abstractions of nature by Ray Charles White. He also loved James Fee‘s apocalyptic view of the Statue of Liberty and took his time with Michael Garlington‘s portrait, “The Fishmonger’s Daughter.”
I confessed to Frank and Ellen that I had struggled to describe their collection to Ken on the way over to their house.
“When you come up with something, let me know,” Frank said, laughing.
We talked about it as we stood in the “visiting artist pod,” a dreamy 800-square-foot apartment connected by a bridge to the main house.
“I do see something about wonder … amazement and wonder,” Ken told them. “Every piece here is on its own very powerful in that sense of ‘Wow.’ ”
Hope is a possible theme in the collection, Ellen said. “I want something that’s going to nurture and enhance.”
“We want to keep negative energy off the walls,” Frank said.
Ken can relate to that, he told them. “My collection is not about suffering.”
Before the evening was over, we all realized these collectors have something else in common: They love to share their art with everyone.
IMAGE: Frank Konhaus (left) with Kenneth Montague and Ellen Cassilly at Cassilhaus. Photo by Wendy Hower Livingston.