Art on the Vine: The New Collector's Toolbox

Starting your fine art collection can be an intimidating prospect. Walking into white-walled galleries and silent museums, where everyone already seems to know all of the lingo, can make the fine art world seem inaccessible.

When Jessica Stafford Davis began engaging in the art community, this is what she thought. Now, after spending years teaching herself about the fine arts world and becoming an experienced collector, Davis understands that art can be for anyone who seeks it out. In 2013, she founded The Agora Culture, an online platform dedicated to educating collectors with all levels of experience, and connecting them with the most promising up-and-coming artists of color.

The Agora Culture


A unique resource that The Agora Culture offers is classes on collecting: Art Basics 101. The course is designed to give new collectors a high-level instruction on the basics of engaging with the art community. It answers questions about viewing art: How should we interact with gallerists? What should we expect from a museum experience? What are some art fairs and Biennales worth attending? It opens a discussion about acquiring work once you’ve gotten a sense of what you want: How do we participate in an auction? How do we insure our purchases? What kinds of payment plans are offered by artists and galleries?

Jessica Stafford Davis, founder of The Agora Culture  Image Courtesy of The Agora Culture

Jessica Stafford Davis, founder of The Agora Culture
Image Courtesy of The Agora Culture

“Do your research,” Davis says immediately when asked about the most important advice for a new collector. “Read—there are great periodicals—Transition, ArtNews, Art in America, Art Forum. Use that to learn more about different artists and their practice.”

The Agora Culture is, in some ways, a research center in itself. If the course doesn’t answer all of your questions, its members are always available for one-on-ones. Part of Davis’ goals is to provide all of the knowledge she has accumulated open to everyone.


An important element Davis often found lacking in fine art communities was diversity. The lack of representation made certain spaces difficult for her to navigate. When she began The Agora Culture, she knew that it would be a space specifically for artists of color, so that she could put her resources into changing the climate and opening conversations about fine art to a larger demographic.

Art on the Vine 

This year, The Agora Culture launches its first ever major event, Art on the Vine, in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard. It is a one-day, ticketed event taking place on August 16 from 1 – 8 pm. The event provides both an intimate art fair, with up-and-coming artists picked by The Agora Culture for their fresh successes and promising outlook, and a panel of seasoned collectors sharing their experiences.

Image Courtesy of Art on the Vine

Image Courtesy of Art on the Vine

Martha’s Vineyard

Davis chose Martha’s Vineyard for its active creative community, especially during its bustling summer months. She had vacationed in Martha’s Vineyard a few times and was impressed by its diversity and engagement. With its history of scholars, artists, and art collectors, it emerged as the ideal place to establish an annual event and a lasting relationship.

Talent on the Vine

The artists on the roster are all emerging talent sourced from all over the country. Nearly all have received MFA’s from premier arts institutions, and many have shown in museums, awarded fellowships and participated in residences. They are proud to feature work by artists such as Vanessa German, Mequitta Ahuja, David Antonio Cruz, Jamea Richmond Edwards—just to name a few. They are “investment-grade artists,”: artists whose work has a high potential of appreciation. Art on the Vine aims to connect these artists with collectors at the onset of their careers to form relationships that can benefit both artist and collector in the future.

Conversations About Collecting

The panel will feature two formidable collectors, with distinguished taste and experience:  Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a collector of African American fine art, and Bob and Faye Davidson, philanthropists and collectors of contemporary art. During this one-hour panel, from 2:30 – 3:30 pm, Cafritz and the Davidsons will share the wisdom they’ve gained in their years as collectors, and discuss the importance of supporting the arts.

The Residency

This is a completely non-profit event and all ticket proceeds will go towards the The Agora Culture’s AOTV Residency program, debuting in summer 2017 as a 4-week residency in Martha’s Vineyard. It will continue Art on the Vine’s relationship with the Martha’s Vineyard arts community and give one artist of color the opportunity to spend a month focused on their practice. 

 Art on the Vine will take place on Tuesday, August 16, from 1 – 8 pm. General and VIP Tickets are still available! Don’t miss this chance to participate in an open and informative  summer arts event.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016: Puloma Ghosh

9 Contemporary Art Terms You Need To Know

You’ve heard these words being used before, and you probably have a vague idea of they may mean, but sometimes we can all use a quick refresher.  Whether you’re purchasing art, or just appreciating it, here are 9 terms that will pop up again and again.

Modern Painting :  Flag Station, Elizabeth, New Jersey  (1925) Oscar Bluemner Watercolor on Paper 10 5/8 x 13 3/8 in. Courtesy of the  MET Museum

Modern Painting:
Flag Station, Elizabeth, New Jersey (1925)
Oscar Bluemner
Watercolor on Paper
10 5/8 x 13 3/8 in.
Courtesy of the MET Museum

Contemporary Art vs. Modern Art 

It can be easy to mix up these two terms–they seem to mean the same thing.

Modern Art starts roughly around the second half of the 19th century and extends to the 1970s. With the rapid changes of the Industrial Revolution, artists began to move away from traditional definitions of art and experiment with subject, technique, and materials. Visual arts before the Modern era focused heavily on narrative, often depicting religious or mythological scenes to instruct the viewer. Modern artists, however, drew their inspiration their present surroundings, and used their work to critically examine and challenge art in more abstract ways.

Contemporary Art picks up where Modern Art left off around the 1970s, and extends up until this very moment. It is the current art of our time, and is the successor of the new possibilities opened by Modern Art. The definition of Contemporary Art is constantly changing, and artists today are all making their mark on the movement.

Contemporary Painting  :    Portal to Lhasa  (2016)  Natalia Wröbel Oil on Canvas 40 x 60 in.

Contemporary Painting:
Portal to Lhasa (2016)
Natalia Wröbel
Oil on Canvas
40 x 60 in.

Graffiti vs. Street Art

While Graffiti and Street Art are both energetic forms of public art, through which the artist challenges traditional practice, they are not the same.

Graffiti is not only an art form but also a cultural movement. The goal of the artist is to "tag", or brand, the city as quickly as possible without getting caught. Usually these artists are self-taught and express themselves with an air of immediacy.

Street Art, while Inspired by graffiti,  is executed by artists who have had some formal training.  The artist’s message is more methodical, as it is premeditated and developed. Sometimes commissioned or painted with permission, street art makes for a less risky public art form.


Whether you’re at a museum or starting an art collection it’s helpful to know what this term means.  Provenance is a documentation or recorded history of the artwork’s owners and housed locations from the moment it was completed up to the present.  This information helps to determine the artwork’s authenticity and originality, which can increase the work’s value.

Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

Whether for insurance purposes, selling, or auditing art, a certificate of authenticity or original invoice proves the value of an artwork.  The certificate must be an original document (not a photocopy) with the artwork’s title, name of artist and/or publisher, medium, dimensions, and the title & contact information of the individual that validated the certificate.


Giclée, pronounced (zhee-klay), is a relatively new type of printing process in which high quality reproductions of fine art are made using an inkjet printer.  The desired image is digitally scanned and printed with quality inkjets on various materials, such as canvas or photo-base paper.  The printing process lends for great color accuracy to stand the test of time over other reproduction processes. When you purchase a Giclée piece, know that you are getting a very high quality print, but not an original.


 Dating back to ancient Greece and stemming from the Greek word enkaustikos, meaning “to heat or burn in,” this ancient painting technique has seen a rebirth in the 20th century.  The process consists of melting transparent or opaque wax with the option of mixing in pigments.  After the wax is melted down it is applied to the surface with a brush or spatula.  Experimentation with collage materials or creating designs with a stylus can be done on each layer.  After each layer, you’ll want to fuse the wax with a heat gun to create a bond between each layer and smoothing out any uneven surfaces.  The result: multiple layers of wax creating a luminous yet softly haunting image.

Flag    (1954-55)  Jasper Johns Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels 42 1/4 x 60 5/8 in. Image Courtesy of the  MoMA, New York

Flag (1954-55)
Jasper Johns
Encaustic, oil, and collage on fabric mounted on plywood, three panels
42 1/4 x 60 5/8 in.
Image Courtesy of the MoMA, New York

Outsider Art

Outsider Art refers to work produced by self-taught artists, or those not affiliated with an artistic institution. Since outsider art reflects more of the artist’s emotional or mental state, words such as “raw” or “naïve” are often used to describe this type of work.  Many view outsider art as more approachable or “refreshingly unpretentious", because of its unstudied and non-referential nature.

Keenan Derby  Lost Horizon  (2016) Acrylic and Sand on Canvas 35 x 28 in.

Keenan Derby
Lost Horizon (2016)
Acrylic and Sand on Canvas
35 x 28 in.


The Italian word impasto, meaning ‘paste,’ is a painting technique that involves the thick application of paint, creating textured and three-dimensional surfaces.  Earlier artists often used this technique as a way to suggest certain textures such as lace or hair.  Later on, artists, such as the Impressionists used impasto to express their personal process and energy.

Impasto can be seen throughout todays art world as a way to add dimension, suggest specific textures or feelings, or create visual illusions or drama.  This technique can be inviting with it’s tactile nature of thick brush/ palette knife application, drawing attention to the artist’s hand at work.


Retrospective is a term you have most likely encountered at a museum or gallery. It refers to an exhibition of either the entirety of a phase of an artist's practice, or quintessential examples of their lifework. This type of exhibition is most often reserved for artists who have a long career to source from. When you go to see an artist's retrospective, expect a thorough and representative sampling of their art.



Wednesday, August 3: Laurel Marsh

Curator Interview: Meredyth Hyatt Moses on Collecting Art

"There is never anything better than looking at an artist's work in person."

We sat down with Meredyth Hyatt Moses, an independent curator and former gallerist, who owned and directed Clark Gallery in Boston for decades, and asked her for advice on collecting art. Her involvement in developing Boston arts' scene gives her experience and insight on what it means to be a Boston collector.  Here's what she had to say:

1. Were you already collecting before opening your gallery, and what made you decide to start buying art?

We were just beginning to collect art and it was because our home in Weston needed to have interesting art on the walls.  After opening the gallery on November 15, 1976 we decided it would be great to move into more serious collecting.  

2.     Do you remember the first piece you purchased?

The very first piece we collected may have been Bernard Buffet prints in the mid 50’s when were just married.  Could not afford original paintings yet.  

3. What resources do you suggest to a first time collector for how to get started?

Of course now with all that technology has to offer you can go online to look at various galleries and artists throughout the country and even beyond, but there is never anything better than looking at artist’s work in person. Visit museums locally and nationally.  Visit galleries in the same way.  Whenever traveling to new cities visit the local galleries.  We in Boston have a wonderful opportunity to visit art galleries, which are mostly on Harrison Ave in SoWa, but don't forget Gallery NAGA and Barbara Krakow in our Back Bay Newbury Street, where almost all of our galleries were in the 80’s and 90’s. Also, frequently in various artist’s neighborhoods like Ft. Point Channel there will be two openings  a year of artist studios where they live and work.  That gives a potential buyer a leg up to discover someone great.

4. When do you know it’s the right time to buy a piece?

You know when to buy a work of art when you see something that you truly cannot leave behind and must have.  My rule of thumb was to always go to reputable galleries where you know the work is carefully selected, and then if you can say "OMG" three times, buy it!  Be sure to stay within your budget and size and get help from a professional or the gallery in doing the installation.  Installing your new purchases properly is so important.  

5. Thoughts on buying from emerging vs. established artists?   

As a young gallerist, I did buy prints of the major 50’s artists like Jim Dine, Claus Oldenburg, David Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, etc. But within a year or so of being very successful with that, I personally realized that I did not have anything to do with their careers. I wanted to help the ever emerging good artists in Boston.  In earlier days, most developing artists had to move to NYC to really get their careers going, but in the late 70’s and all through the 80’s and 90’s, they could live and work in Boston, and their careers took off.  We started Boston Art Dealer’s Association (BADA) and shared ideas and became a national presence for the artists by participating in major Art Fairs in Chicago and NYC.  If you live and work in Boston, I encourage you to buy the work of local artists,  but never exclude the ICA, MFA, deCordova and beyond to find out what is going on nationally as well.  

6.     What is your favorite part of collecting?

My favorite part of collecting has always been personal education and a deep appreciation for the privilege of being challenged daily by the art in my nest.  All of the art becomes my friends and enriches daily visual life.

Weekender: New England Contemporary Art Outside Boston

The summer months are a great time for discovering what New England has to offer outside of Boston. Every state has beautiful wilderness, historical cities and towns, and a rich arts culture. Here are six museums we recommend you visit on your weekend trip:


Courtesy of the Aldritch Contemporary Art Museum

Courtesy of the Aldritch Contemporary Art Museum

The Aldritch Contemporary Art Museum

Ridgefield, CT: A beautiful colonial town at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.

The Aldritch Contemporary Art Museum have 9-month exhibitions best enjoyed in the summer due to their outdoor sculpture garden. Currently they are host to four solo exhibitions all centered around the idea of place. David Brooks, Kim Jones, Peter Liversidge, and Virginia Overton present site specific commissions ranging from drawing to sculpture and performance.


Image courtesy of Portland Press Herald

Image courtesy of Portland Press Herald

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art

Rockland, ME: A historical lobster-fishing town home to many young artists.

The Center for Maine Contemporary Art is opening their brand new facility in Rockland, ME in the last week of June. The building has a striking sawtooth design by architect Toshiko Mori, and moves the museum to a central location in downtown Rockport, walking distance from the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center. Their inaugural exhibitions will feature altered photographs by Rollin Leonard, small-scale oil paintings by Alex Katz, and site-specific installations by Jonathan Borofsky.


Richard Nonas Image Courtesy of Mass MoCA

Richard Nonas
Image Courtesy of Mass MoCA

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

North Adams, MA: An artistic and musical hub located in the northwest corner of the Berkshire Mountains.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) is a sprawling manufacturing plant turned museum, currently home to nine unique contemporary exhibitions. Richard Nonas' exhibition of existing and site-specific sculpture, The Man in the Empty Space, currently spans through Mass MoCA's Building 5, a window-lined warehouse nearly a football field's length.

New Hampshire

3S Artspace

Portsmouth, NH: The nation's third-oldest city on the mouth of Piscataqua River, which divides New Hampshire and Maine.

The 3S Artspace is a contemporary gallery in Portsmouth, NH. Along with art, they are also host to musical performances and film screenings. Open through end of June, Welcome to the Bobhouse by Rachelle Beaudoin is comprised of new pieces, performances and video in a mobile studio space.


Rhode Island

Image courtesy of RISD Museum

Image courtesy of RISD Museum

The RISD Museum

Providence, RI: The capital of Rhode Island, situated at the mouth of the Providence River, and home to Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University.

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum has a diverse collection of art and is distinguished by its relationship with RISD, one of the top art and design schools in the country. Their current exhibition is features the 1990's runway opus of fashion designer Todd Oldham, comprised of 65 full ensembles.


Cal Lane Image courtesy of courtesy of Burlington Center for the Arts

Cal Lane
Image courtesy of courtesy of Burlington Center for the Arts

Burlington City Arts

Burlington, VT: A picturesque mountain valley ski town on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain.

The Burlington City Arts (BCA) has three floors of contemporary gallery space that foster Burlington's relationship with arts and community. The BCA is currently exhibiting metalwork by Cal Lane, geometric painted sculptures by Clark Derbes, and a duo show with Nissa Kauppila and Erika Lawlor Schmidt, which plays on the balance between matter and space.


Thursday, June 2, 2016: Puloma Ghosh