'Not all galleries are welcoming ... to the point where I feel like I have to wear the right sho

Kim Ethridge is a US-based art collector.

What made you want to start collecting art?

I always had an interest in art growing up, but no actual talent in creating it myself. When I got my first apartment, I started buying reproduction mass-produced prints and vases to decorate my space. As I got a little older and purchased my first home, I started buying giclée prints of paintings I admired. It wasn’t until I visited a local gallery and fell in love with a particular painting that I finally made me switch to collecting original art. I was absolutely in love with the painting at the gallery, but was nervous about spending so much money on it. A year went by and I still could not get the painting out of my head. Feeling more financially comfortable by that time, I decided to try contacting the gallery to see if it was still available. I found out the painting was on loan to an interior designer, so they asked the designer to bring it back that day, and I bought it! Since then, I’ve only purchased original pieces of art and continue to add more and more to my collection every year.


How do you go about choosing a work? Are you interested more in specific mediums or type of artists?

Oil paintings are always my first choice and dominate my collection. I’m intrigued by texture in paintings, so thickly applied paint and mixed media also appeal to me. One theme you’ll notice in my collection is that I keep buying paintings featuring women. I often like when the faces are blurred or incomplete. Instead of it resembling someone else, it allows you to more easily place yourself into the painting’s scene. There’s something about how different artists portray the beautiful feminine face and figure in their unique style that makes me want to collect at least one from every artist I like. Sometimes I wonder whether my collection is starting to become boring because of it, but I keep buying them anyway. I see the same happening as I start to add more cityscapes to my collection. I enjoy seeing how different artists depict cities I’ve visited in my travels, but paintings of New York City are my favorite.


If there was one famous artwork that you could own, what would it be and why?

If I could choose any famous painting to hang in my home, I’d choose La Jeune Martyre (The Young Martyr) by Paul Delaroche from the year 1855. I saw it hanging in the Louvre when I visited Paris several years back. At 67 inches high by 58 inches wide, I stopped in my tracks and audibly gasped at its presence. It focuses on a young woman bound and floating in the water (obviously deceased due to the presence of a halo hovering over her head), and in the barely visible background, her grieving parents are looking down at her from a cliff. As I mentioned, I tend to love paintings featuring a woman, but I’m also attracted to dark and moody pieces that stir the soul. And large paintings leave me in awe at how someone can take an image in their head, then create this large-scale scene for others to see. Delaroche’s painting ticks all those boxes for me. I even bought a hand-painted oil reproduction of it before I starting collecting original art, and it always gets people talking.


Does collecting art make you want to get involved in the artworld in other ways, for example by curating exhibitions yourself?

As a novice art collector, I still feel like I have a lot to learn and experience, so I don’t have a clear direction of where I’m headed. So for now, I just enjoy discovering how my tastes and collection evolve as time passes. I’m actually at a point in my career where I’d like to make a major change. I’ve been wondering if art could somehow fit into that, either through a different career entirely or by incorporating the skills I have into the art world. I haven’t figured that out, yet.


When it comes to the modern art scene, do you think it is easy for people to start collecting art or do you think it can still be a bit intimidating and/or hard to know what to buy?

I think the hardest part of getting started is pulling the trigger on buying that first piece of art. Once you do it, you won’t look back. When friends and family come to visit your home, you will be excited to show them that one-of-a-kind piece of artwork and share the story behind how and why you acquired it. That experience is priceless in itself. It’s easier than it’s ever been to start, and I think it will get even easier as time goes on. There are wonderful online art marketplaces like Saatchi Art featuring emerging artists at a wide variety of price ranges. Galleries are starting to post their artists’ works online more, too. I just wish more galleries would be transparent with pricing, but it’s getting better as they compete with online only sites. While some galleries are very warm and welcoming, I still find many galleries intimidating. You never know what type of reception you’re going to get when you walk in their door or contact them through e-mail to inquire about a piece. I’ve been given poor customer service from some galleries just because I contacted them through e-mail. It’s also gotten to the point where I feel like I have to wear the right shoes and carry the right bag so that I am taken seriously when I walk in the door. That’s partially why I buy a lot online. But there is nothing like being able to see a piece of art in person.


What advice would you give to other art collectors?

I would recommend trying a test I use for myself. When I look at a piece of art, I ask myself: “How would you feel if someone else buys this original piece of artwork and you don’t?” If I feel like my gut twists a little bit at the thought of the original hanging in someone else’s home and not mine, I know I need to buy it. There are a few pieces of artwork I kick myself for not buying, so that’s how I keep it from happening again. If I don’t feel uncomfortable at the thought of someone else owning it, I’ll wait a little longer and see how I feel down the road. As a reminder for myself, I keep photos of artwork I like in a folder on my iPad. I peruse through them every once in a while and that helps me feel more comfortable with making some of my purchase decisions.


What’s next for your collection?

I would like to add more sculpture to my collection. I’ve been eyeing some tall floor sculptures featuring women that would fit right in with my collection. I also hope to discover a wall sculpture and glass or wood tabletop sculptures that move me enough to want to buy them.

I’m at a point in collecting where I want to try things I haven’t done before, like buy from an auction or travel to a major art fair. The first thing I’m going to do is try to find some art to bring back home from my next vacation out of the country. I think art is the greatest treasure you can take home from your trip, but it can be difficult to find the right piece of art in such a short period of time. Plus you have to worry about transporting or shipping it safely back home. We will see how it goes!