How I Collect

Collector Carole Server on Championing New Art in the Bronx

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Collector Carole Server on Championing New Art in the Bronx
Carole Sender

The New York collecting couple Carole Server and Oliver Frankel only began buying art a few years ago, yet they have already filled their home in the Tribeca Artisan Lofts—which houses a gallery on the ground floor—with an impressive selection of work by emerging and mid-career artists: Chantal JoffeDana SchutzDaniel RichterTal ROscar MurilloHernan Bas, among them. Server, who today sits on the board of trustees at the Bronx Museum, spoke to Artspace about how she caught the collecting bug.

When did you begin collecting art, and how did that evolve into an ongoing habit?

My husband and I began collecting together roughly four years ago, and our collection has grown quickly since. We are very passionate and we do it all together. It began with a Chelsea show for Andrew Stahl, an old friend of Oliver’s who is an artist and the head of undergraduate painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. We both liked one of the paintings and bought it so that Andy would have an immediate “red dot.” That whet my appetite, and I began to research emerging and mid-career contemporary artists. I would send Oliver images and we discovered that we liked many of the same works. We bought a fabulous painting by Tom McGrath and, a week later, more paintings by Jackie Gendel. We had no idea at the time that they were a couple—and that we would later attend their wedding in Houston.

Do you have any rules that guide your collecting process?

Our rules are that we have to love what we buy, and we both have to agree on every work we acquire. We agree too often. Because we are active, our aesthetic taste has grown more sophisticated and we are increasingly open to more difficult work. Having said that, our collection is still probably 95 percent painting and 5 percent sculpture—we love painting, and have been actively trying to understand and find what moves us in sculpture. Katharina Grosse’s new Public Art Fund installation Just Two of Us at Brooklyn’s Metro Tech Center is amazing. It's at once a sculpture, a painting, and even a work of architecture.

How did your relationship with the Bronx Museum come about, and what are your goals for the institution now that you're on its board of trustees? 

Curator Omar Lopez-Chahoud introduced me to the Bronx Museum’s director, Holly Block, whom I adored instantly. I became a member of the acquisitions committee, which recently acquired a large Huma Bhabha photo work, and Oliver and I have also helped by raising and contributing money. I enjoyed this experience so much that I just agreed to become a trustee. The Bronx Museum needs funds as it has a free-admission policy and offers wonderful education programs that really have an amazing impact on the community. I would like to see the Bronx cull their permanent collection and make relevant acquisitions, and I’d also like to see it to exhibit more emerging and mid-career artists that reside in the New York area. Oliver and I are willing to support both future acquisitions and exhibitions in that vein.

Which artists are you most excited about today? 

Wow, that is a big list. Katharina Grosse, as I mentioned before, we have bought her paintings and a sculpture recently. We bought two works by Rashid Johnson this year, which I think represents growth for us in that it is not typical painting or sculpture but a bit of both. We bought and love Aaron Curry for, I think, similar reasons. In sculpture we are also loving Ricky Swallow, Eva Rothschild, and Maria Lassnig, who at age 94 will be having her first U.S. museum show this spring at MoMA PS1. Amy Sillman is always just fantastic. As for emerging artists, we have been really interested in Michael Berryhill, Peter Linde Busk, Ella Kruglyanskya, Brenna Youngblood, and Ryan Johnson.

You seem to have purchased works predominantly by younger and emerging  artists. How do you discover new talent? Is it important to you to support emerging artists in particular?

Our collection is all emerging and mid-career artists, and we discover new artists through relationships with galleries and other collectors, at art fairs, and through research. A very large percentage of the artists we own we've met and done studio visits with. The interaction is very important to us. Most weekends, if we are in town, we usually do at least one studio visit. When we decide to collect an artist, we buy their work in depth. As our collection is very young, that can mean trying to buy older works on the secondary market or supporting an artist at auction. We also follow the artist as their career continues.

How did you begin working with Lucien Terras, who curated the exhibition in the gallery space of your apartment building?

I met Lucien as a client of his former gallery, D'Amelio Terras. The developers of our building always conceived of the downstairs as an exhibition space and had another curator in place, but the work and exhibitions were just not up to many of the residents’ standards. So we formed an art committee and began a search for a new curator. This was at the same time that Lucien and Chris were closing the gallery so the timing was right. We got very lucky with Lucien. The current exhibition features work by Elliott Green, Robert Moskowitz, Ann Pibal, and photographs by Noguchi Rika and Luisa Lambri.

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