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Weekly Planet
"Off The Wall" Local Art Scene Found
November 27 - December 3, 1997
Issue - Pg 55
Author: Jennifer Johnson

"The Lost Weekend, 3 Days of Visual Art" kicked off what art mavens around town are hoping will be a great year for the Tampa art scene. The effort, jointly organized by J.S.G. Boggs, Bob Dorsey of Image Brewery in Valrico, Tiffany Szilage and Glenn Chang of Gallery at 145 in St. Petersburg, and John and Michael Murphy of Silver Meteor Gallery in Ybor City, was a fine one, and - if there's anything to be said for omens - its success might be a sight that they're right.

"The Lost Weekend" featured the works of nearly 50 artists at three Bay area venues. The show opened Friday, Nov. 21 at Gallery at 145, Nov. 22 at the Image Brewery in Valrico, and wrapped up Nov. 23 with a reception at Silver Meteor. Attendance was promising. Each opening drew close to a hundred people, among them, amazingly, actual buyers - a rare breed -round here.

It's not that art isn't a commodity. In fact, the art market at large seems to be doing well. After a dip in the extraordinary sums modern art commanded in the 1980s (thanks to the large, expendable incomes of the Japanese nouveaux riches), prices seem to again be on the ascent. For example, at a Nov. 10 auction of Victor and Sally Ganz's modern art collection in Christie's in New York, Pablo Picasso's "Dream" went for $48.8 million - the fifth highest price ever paid for a painting at an auction - and Jasper John's panel "Corpse and Mirror" sold for $8.4 million, which is among the highest paid for a painting by a living artist.

There's money being spent in the art world, but Tampa Bay has never seen a proportionate share of these dollars. A big reason for that has been the lack of serious local collectors - you can't expect your art scene to receive outside attention until, at least, it's self-sustainable.

"The Lost Weekend- evinced a move toward that happening. Twenty or so works were sold in the course of the show, which also marked the return of "The Collectors Club."

The Collector's Club was an anonymous group of prominent elderly individuals who supported Tampa Bay's visual arts scene from the early 1980s. Speculation as to why the club faded away ranges from talk of death and illness among the member to rumors of legal questions regarding the ownership of the club's collection.

Their first incarnation never gained much respect from the art community due to their (then) small budget and "terribly ill-informed" buying habits. On several occasions, the Collectors' Club offered to donate some of the works they had purchased to the Tampa Museum of Art, but was "summarily rebuffed due to the complete unsuitability of the work for a serious museum collection," says an unnamed source at the museum.

But a small group of "offspring" have decided to carry on the tradition, bringing to the club new blood, new life and (most importantly) better taste. And the new and improved group so impressed with "The Lost Weekend" that they spent an estimated $5,000 (rumored to be nearly their entire 1997 acquisition budge) on works highlighted in the show.

Here's the works that made the Collector's Club purchase list: Caroline Sykora's "Agitation" and Thomas Kettner's "Tiny Couple" at Silver Meteor Gallery; Caroline Sykora's "Agitation #2" and a David McDaniel etching, "Untitled," at Gallery at 145; and Catherine Bergman's "Breath," Thomas Kettner's "Self Portrait," Giancarlo Rendina's "Untitled" (painting), Angela Dickerson's "Monoprint" and Caroline Sykora's "Agitation #3" at Image Brewery. The top three Collector's Club purchase awards went to David Breeze, "Art Forum," $300 (at Image Brewery); Jon Karl Holm, "Pardon Me," $500 (various locations); and Theo Wujcik, "Untitled," $3,500.

The Collector's Club weren't the only ones buying. By the time they sent their choices to Bob Dorsey at Image Brewery, two of the works they had selected (David Greg Harth's "Untitled" and David Waterman's "Vellum Boar and Sow") were already taken.

Apart from Club purchases, several other works sold. Boggs purchased a Tiffany Szilage and a Giancarlo Rendina from Image Brewery. And Dr. Robert E. Kahn, a New York collector with an eye on Tampa, also nabbed a work or two.

"The Lost Weekend" was an open call (meaning that any artist who wished to participate could), so the work, in general, wasn't all that impressive. There were some highlights, however - Tom Kenney's three submissions shined, a few of Boggs' bills graced the wall and Jon Karl Holm (presently Tampa's art "Golden Boy" - there's nothing, it seems, he can't sell) impressed most everyone with his all-over installation of shoes resting on door mats placed strategically between three venues.

The show's sales, most of which were under $100, didn't- even remotely approach Picasso prices - but it's a start.

From there, who knows where things can go.