Preview Week for ArtPrize Nine is underway. As the denizens of West Michigan encounter the “radically open” art competition, New York-based artist Tyler Loftis hopes to convey that high-quality art can be “radically accessible” too.
Loftis and ArtPrize partnered in 2015 to create Collectors Show, a twice-annual event designed to forge artist-collector relationships and energize the emerging art market in West Michigan. This week presents the fifth installment of the event at Venue Tower Apartments in Grand Rapids.
This time around, the event features a curated selection of 100 artists. Collectors Show attendees can peruse and purchase the work of 62 juried ArtPrize artists and widely-renowned artists, including New York Studio School Alumni Show award winners and influential painters from the past century. Together with Mike Coleman, who owns the Second Ave Arts artist management group, Loftis leverages New York connections to connect West Michigan to the larger art world. All works are for sale at a reduced price, with 20 percent of proceeds supporting ArtPrize arts education programming.
According to Ellen Trumbo, a local artist and Collectors Show collaborator, about 45 percent of Collectors Show artists featured in the fall installment are from West Michigan. At the event, a copper-embossed work depicting the rivalry between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan football teams is viewable in the same space as an oil painting capturing the colors of the Seine in France, or a gouache and ink abstraction by German artist Hans Hofman.
Hanging the work of local artists alongside those of “art masters” is an effort to break down barriers and show that art is worth the investment, no matter where it is created.
“We want to make high-quality art accessible, and create a safe environment where we encourage artist and collector relationships to grow,” Loftis said at the Collectors Show first-look event on Thursday night.
Loftis was born in Kalamazoo and has lived in New York City since the late 1990s. After studying at the New York Studio School and the New York Academy, his work has appeared in several exhibitions in the City. Loftis initially built a network between New York and West Michigan artists when he co-founded the Fire Barn Gallery in Grand Haven with fellow artist Chris Protas.
“Collectors Show is the same project, but without the brick and mortar,” Loftis said. “It was our goal to connect with the general public, and the next level was this partnership with ArtPrize.”
Loftis curated this installment after reviewing more than 400 submissions. Glancing at the works covering the Venue Tower Apartments walls, it is tricky to discern the ArtPrize artists from the rest, save for the gold labels identifying established artists like Lois Dodd and Wolf Kahn. Loftis compares the process of sifting through the work of these big names to shopping for a carpet in Morocco.
“I feel that it’s my civic duty as an artist to leverage my connections and find the best work so people can use what they’re supposed to when viewing and purchasing art--their gut,” Loftis said.
In a recent statement, Loftis expressed that fine art is still in its infancy in West Michigan. What’s necessary to bring it to the next level?
“The symbiotic relationship is that people need to start collecting,” Loftis said. “Collecting can be a really fun and creative process, and we want to show that there’s something for everyone.”
Perhaps the Collectors Show formula is working: In less than an hour after the Thursday event opened, several red dots appeared on some of the works, denoting that they had been purchased.
Collectors Show Public Opening
Friday, Sept. 15, 6-9 p.m.
The Venue Tower Apartments
15 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids