Outside In-announcement

Opening Reception: White Box Art Center, Thursday October 3rd, 6PM 

(NEW YORK, NY) – On October 3, White Box will open Outside In, a selection of works from the collection of Cleveland collectors Andrew Rayburn and Heather Guess.  Assembled since 2004, this array of Chinese artists spans two generations from those who emerged in the 1990s, including Ai Weiwei,  Cai Guo Qiang and Lin Tianmiao,  to the youngest artists now showing in China, such as Chi PengMi MaiChen Wei and Liu Di.  This select exhibition offers a comparison between those two groups of artists, underscoring how an older generation focused on the Cultural Revolution and other historic material while the younger generation looks to the future in ways that transcend a Chinese identity.   The exhibition, curated by Barbara Pollack, reflects how this collecting couple moved from an outsider’s perspective on Chinese art to a more intimate place inside the art circles of Beijing and Shanghai.

To read full press release click here.


RANY’s Heather Zises conducted an exclusive interview with collector Heather Guess:

HZ: How did you begin collecting art?

HG: Collecting art came out of loving art. My husband Andy and I have always shared a widespread appreciation for the arts. Whether it is literature, music or visual art, we continually find ways to immerse ourselves within their creative parameters. Collectively, we enjoy living with beautiful objects that have stories. However, Andy and I approached collecting art from completely different perspectives. As for me, I always wanted to be an artist. As someone who grew up in a modest upbringing, that was never an option. So as a career, that is something I got back to later in life. In the meantime I chose to collect art if I could not make art. Regarding Andy, his literary background (a French Literature major from Dartmouth) regularly informs his natural connoisseurship skills. He often connects to artwork through various books he has read and finds that process to be an enriching and rewarding experience. For us, collecting is more than a hobby; it is a lifestyle. It has outfitted us with lush lenses that let us see and experience the world through images and objects.  Furthermore, we appreciate how art sheds pictorial insight on specific movements, genres and culture. China’s development as a burgeoning new world power was really interesting to us, therefore our collection became a way to observe these historical changes.


HZ: What is the first piece of art you bought?

HG: The first piece of art we bought was a painting by Brian Alfred entitled McD’s. We were walking down the street in Chelsea one day and we saw it from outside Max Protetch gallery and thought it was great. At the time, we didn’t realize that we both liked it because it looked like something that was inspired by Ed Ruscha. So we walked into the gallery, met Max, started talking to him about the piece and bought it on the spot. From there, we started building a relationship with him.

Brian Alfred, McD's, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 80" x 100"

Brian Alfred, McD’s, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 80″ x 100″

HZ: How did you get started collecting Chinese contemporary art?

HG: Max (Protetch) was one of the few dealers in New York at the time that was showing Chinese contemporary art. He was a silent partner in Beijing Commune in China, which was founded in 2004 by Leng Lin, who is now president at Pace Beijing. It was really interesting because Leng was very insistent on Max keeping a low profile of his ties to Beijing Commune because his brand was not as recognizable in China, and he feared Chinese collectors may not want to buy from someone they did not know. So Max had this inside track to Chinese art and artists, but he was not able to build his brand in China. I found the dynamics of this situation to be fascinating, and that was my first entry into being curious about how things are done in China. We were not yet traveling over there yet to buy art (although Andy had frequently traveled there in the 1980s for business), but it was really that first step into Max’s gallery that began our journey of collecting Chinese contemporary art. Andy and I started to learn about Chinese artists and began to collect works by Hai Bo and Yue Min Jun through Max’s gallery. During this time we hadn’t fully committed to building a Chinese contemporary collection. I was in graduate school at Christie’s Education and the majority of my time was devoted to my studies. However, through my degree I learned how the auction world worked and this opened up the option of acquiring artwork through auction houses. Within time, we had built a significant collection of Chinese art and we chose to make it our focus. The curator of the exhibition, Barbara Pollack, has played an instrumental role in bringing our collection to life. In 2010 I had the great fortune of accompanying Barbara to China to meet the many talented artists whose works hang upon my walls. It was an incredibly exciting experience to be in a country that was undergoing so much change. My continued travels with Barbara have been equally fulfilling, and I look forward to continuing our journey.


HZ: It’s really interesting that Brian Alfred served as a gateway to collecting Chinese contemporary art for you.

HG: Yes. But aesthetically I can see why Alfred’s work bridges pop art to the first wave of Chinese contemporary works. Although brightly colored, many of his pieces exude an unsettling feeling and are inspired by propaganda posters, which is not unlike many Chinese contemporary pieces such as works by Wang Guangyi. McD’s most definitely embodies a heightened surface tension; the way the image has been placed—the way it seems to fall off the corner—and the use of positive and negative space always makes me think it is has been hung crookedly on the wall! Clearly, both Andy and I were attracted to the asymmetry of the composition, and I like that the painting offers so many perspectival shifts.


HZ: What is the best Chinese contemporary exhibition you have seen recently in New York?

HG: Last year The Asia Society mounted an exhibition by Lin Tianmiao called Bound Unbound. It was extraordinary. It was like a visual symphony of color and form. On a personal note, I am a champion of any woman who is successful in a male dominated field. It’s a big part of why I love her work…aside from her being exceptionally talented! I love the tension that she imbues in all of her pieces. For example, the juxtaposition of sharp, tool-like objects delicately wrapped in silk thread is both lyrical and edgy. They look like toxic flowers—beautiful yet pernicious.


HZ: Where do you see the market for Chinese contemporary art being in five years?

HG: I think the market will continue to grow. I think the main reason for that is because the Chinese support it more than Americans. A lot of it has to do with the fact that there is such a negative slant in Western news about China—their business practices and their politics—they are not accepted over here. Many Americans see China as this major threat to the United States therefore there are collectors who would not touch Chinese art. Yet the art market in China is huge, and fortunately the Chinese are really interested in their own artists. Plus there is growing wealth in China and with that growing wealth and numbers of people it’s heavily supporting Chinese contemporary art. Whether or not the market will continue to grow in the United States is to be determined.


HZ: Do you have a favorite museum or gallery space in New York?

HG: That’s a really tough question. There are numerous places that appeal to me. I like venues where it’s not entirely about the space as it is about an experience. I like going to Morgan Library because you feel tucked away into floating micro-worlds of words and wonder. I like the Neue Galerie because they offer a beautiful way in which to experience a private collection. I like visiting The High Line because you are immersed in a space that is inclusive to the community through delicate gardens, interesting sculpture, and spectacular views of the city. For the longest time there have been these art institutions that have felt like a “one size fits all” with one general message…so when an opportunity like The High Line becomes available, the viewer gets to create their own experience and it feels customized.


HZ: You run a nonprofit in Cleveland, The Human Fund. How has that made a local impact? And do you support any nonprofits in New York?

HG: Running a nonprofit in Cleveland is really about filling a need. The Cleveland public schools cut arts education and sports programs in 2005. Starting The Human Fund was about filling in a void, because all the major league teams in the city helped cover the sports programs. The Browns continued to pay for football, The Cavaliers continued to pay for basketball and The Indians continued to pay for baseball, so the public schools had other sources of support for their sports programs.  We took it upon ourselves to try and maintain rich arts programming in the public schools. The mission behind The Human Fund is centered on the importance of the creative community and continuing to build a creative workforce. A significant portion of Cleveland youth lack support systems at home.  By providing an opportunity in which these children can make a difference in the world through art is an incredible gift to give. The children who participate in the School of the Arts have nearly a 95% graduation rate, compared to the children that do not partake in these programs (who only have a 50% graduation rate). Furthermore, the children who participate in our arts and afterschool programs have a 98% rate of going to college. So generally speaking, the children who are involved with these programs are far more successful because they have an outlet for their creativity. I also think its worth mentioning that the creative sector is an important component in our economy now. It has a significant impact that it did not have before. From 1900 to 1980 only 5 – 10% of jobs came from the creative sector. But from 1980 to today, 33% of all jobs now come from the creative sector, which is a big difference. That’s 2 trillion dollars of our nation’s economy. This shift indicates that now, more than ever before in our nation’s history, the continued development of the arts is essential.

As for New York, we enjoy supporting two nonprofit organizations: Dieu Donné and The Nouveau Classical Project. Dieu Donné is a boutique papermill in Chelsea that serves as an artist workspace dedicated to the creation, promotion and preservation of contemporary art in handmade paper. Not only do they have a really great program, we feel that we have a greater chance of interacting with living artists as opposed to supporting an institution or foundation where the artists are no longer living. The Nouveau Classical Project (NCP) is a collective devoted to re-outfitting classical and new music through multidisciplinary projects. Spearheaded by classically trained pianist Sugar Vendil, NCP collaborates with composers to create music for live fashion shows and is currently pursuing large-scale projects that challenge traditional performance formats.


HZ: You sit on the board of Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). What role do you think MOCA Cleveland has played in the evolution of the Cleveland art scene in recent years?


HG: MOCA Cleveland is incredibly important to the community because cultural institutions help to maintain a thriving cultural scene. Cleveland will never become a market the way a city like New York is…New York is a destination marketplace to buy and sell art. Conversely, Cleveland is not a destination for people to come and buy art. However, as a secondary or tertiary market, as long as there is a solid cultural scene with great institutions, it will draw interesting architecture, wonderful restaurants, and the like. That said, MOCA Cleveland has been an integral part of the renaissance that is currently happening in Cleveland. The city is being revitalized and it has brought more job opportunities. Cleveland has a better chance of retaining young talent that would otherwise go off to college and look for jobs in other cities. The city’s revival is helping to prevent the notion of “brain drain” as they call it.


HZ: What’s your next project?

HG: It’s top secret. Stay tuned…