5 Questions with Charlie Manzo, Director of Advisory at Winston Art Group
Aug 29, 2023
We were thrilled when Charlie enthusiastically agreed to contribute to our latest ArtCollect program. And here’s why. He brings almost 20 years of experience in the art world to the course through roles at major galleries such as Pace, Gagosian and Metro Pictures, prior to joining Winston Art Group. And there’s no denying his passion for what he does. The people, the artists, the work they create and how others relate and interact with it – he loves it all!
So, we sat down with Charlie to see what else we can find out...
You’ve worked in brick-and-mortar galleries, with an online auction house and with artists directly. So, after all of that, where do you most prefer to buy art: galleries, online platforms, art fairs, or auctions?
There are many places and venues to purchase art, I don’t think there is any one right answer here. A lot depends on how much time you have to look at and purchase art for your collection. Being in the trade myself, I prefer to purchase art via galleries, online platforms and from the artist directly. I enjoy taking my time and discussing the work while standing in front of it and really soaking it in and trying to determine what it’s going to be like to live with. Galleries tend to provide this experience more so than the others.
I will use online platforms for works I’m already very familiar with or prints or something similar that I already know and have experience dealing with. There are some really great online platforms that make it easy to browse and buy good art.
Buying a piece from an artist directly during or after a visit to the studio is one of the best experiences for me when purchasing art. I feel connected to the work and the process via the artist in a way that is meaningful and special and my commitment to buy something feels stronger when giving directly to the maker.
What I don’t like about art fairs and auctions is the speed and intensity of which the transaction must take place. Nevertheless, I understand this is important given the short duration of an art fair and also competitive nature of auction buying. And I think this is good for a lot of people as it forces them to make a decision and commit during these intense active engagements.
It sounds like you don’t have one preferred resource and a selection can be used to build a coherent collection. But what is it that makes a great art collection?
I think what makes a great art collection is not only great art but also fitting the art to the owner’s/collector’s own style, their personality, and the space(s) in which they live. All three of these fits need to come together and when they do, there is harmony and aesthetic magic that takes over the experience - it becomes palpable. It’s hard to put into words but when this trio of fitments happens, you just know it. You can feel it and that is the feeling of a great art collection. You see, anyone can go to auction or walk into a gallery and buy great art. There is a lot out there and it’s easy to pick up a big name here and there and even easier to follow trends of what your neighbor has or a highlight you read about from an emerging artist if you’re lucky to secure one.
But a truly great collection is one that is unique to that particular owner. The art they choose will essentially summarize their personality through the visual language and concepts delivered by the artwork itself. Then when the artwork is installed meticulously in the space, that is when “moments” happen. I like to call these moments because the artwork comes alive through the owner and their space in a way that it never could hanging on the wall in the artist’s studio or in a gallery. It’s different - it’s where it was meant to live and it’s what establishes a great collection when this happens throughout the entire house.
I love that! But I can imagine it’s quite a process to help an aspiring collector define their style and personal motivation for collecting. So, what’s the process when you start working with a new client?
This is a good one for me because it’s usually exciting, fun and real to get to know someone and start discussing artworks with them. It usually starts with a conversation, hopefully in person, but sometimes over the phone or on a video call. I want to understand their goals for the collection or whatever the reason is that they want to start buying art. I try and get to know them (and in some cases their partners) and find out more about how much they know about art in general, specific artist they like, colors that appeal to them, budget in mind and how much time they would like to dedicate towards building their collection. All of this is taken into consideration after the initial meeting. I will start to construct a personal private view via ArtLogic with images and details of works I think they will respond to - some positive, some negative and some challenging. I want new clients to get an understanding of what’s going on in the artworld, where some trends are but also challenging conceptual art that might connect with them in some way they never knew was possible. The more I get to know clients and the more they are open to share, the better I understand what they will like and want to live with and then it’s my job to find it for them.
How fun! I’m sure you’d have lots of stories to share. But tell us about a recent career highlight!
There is one that comes to mind immediately! It was bringing a client’s Agnes Martin painting (pictured below) to market for the first time in 26 years. She and her husband had purchased the work in 1997 and they lived with it and enjoyed the work for a long time. The artwork was installed in the couple’s New York City apartment and, as these works so often do, just made the whole room glow with joy and subtle, soft comfort. The time had come to sell it and move on and I was honored to help the owner with the process. Agnes Martin is an artist I studied deeply while at Parsons School of Design and I was able to meet the artist a year before she died in 2004 while I was working at Pace Gallery. I was able to install and handle her paintings and developed a true love for them. Bringing this special piece to market was for sure a highlight for me in 2023. I started showing the work carefully - one person at a time - until we found the right buyer and the piece will live on in a new place.
So, you're contributing to the recently released ArtCollect online program! Can you provide a quick synopsis of what participants can expect to learn in your module?
In my module, I expect participants to learn some important first steps to building your art collection from the ground up. Starting with identifying yourself and what type of collector you are or wish to become. Also - equally important - we will discuss what kind of art you want to collect as there are many different types of fine art. Participants will learn tips on how to get started, most importantly where to find art along with a detailed breakdown of contemporary art - my specialty! They will also learn how to think about and hopefully develop a specific direction for the collection shaped by their own personality.
Learn more from Charlie by participating in ArtCollect. In Module 1, alongside Alaina Simone, he will guide you through the process of building a collection, step by step. They’ll discuss the different types of art to collect and how to identify them. You’ll also learn how to navigate the art market like a pro, including the primary and secondary markets as well as collecting logistics. Overall, Charlie will show you that building your art collection from the ground up is a rewarding and exciting journey.
Charlie brings 18 years of experience in the art world to Winston Art Group. His knowledge of the contemporary art market was established through previous roles at major galleries such as Pace Gallery, Gagosian and Metro Pictures. Prior to joining Winston he founded and operated a private advisory group for several years and will continue advising clients worldwide on acquisitions and...