Welcome to the Seavest Collection: a privately held group of contemporary artworks, which we share with the public through loans to museums and through this website. The collection has grown through curiosity and serendipity—and so, in that spirit, we invite you to browse freely and make discoveries.
The Seavest Collection encompasses more than 1,000 works of contemporary art: all of them made in one or another of the many strains of realism, with the majority created by American artists. A great many of the notable painters and sculptors who have been committed to representational art over the past three decades are now represented in the collection. Nevertheless, the collection does not claim to be a survey of contemporary realism, let alone a comprehensive one. Rather, it is the outgrowth of a personal, intuitive engagement with contemporary art.
Among the pieces that planted the seed of the collection, in the early 1980s, were recently completed collages and watercolors by an American master, Romare Bearden. These were pictures of everyday subjects: the jumble of New York’s buildings, a fondly remembered vaudeville show, a mother putting a protective hand on her child’s shoulder. Bearden’s bold, vibrantly colored forms danced across the pictures’ surfaces; and yet these images, for all their bursting life, always seemed to be poised and serene.
What moved me when I first stepped into the gallery scene, with an untrained eye and no preconceptions, was this sense of a commonplace reality that had been translated into a heightened, timeless moment. This is the feeling that I pursued in different ways, together with my wife Monica, over the subsequent years.
As the collection grew in the early 1990s, those Bearden cityscapes were joined by the Photorealist street scenes of Richard Estes, Rackstraw Downes and Robert Cottingham. Bearden’s evocative Mother and Child found itself in the company of the haunting figures of Kent Bellows, the idiosyncratic portraiture of Alice Neel and Alex Katz, the nudes of Philip Pearlstein with their classically solid, gleaming forms and knotty poses. Still other works seemed to match the humor and theatricality of Bearden’s vaudeville scene. Among these were Ron Kleeman’s view of Bugs Bunny, floating above the Thanksgiving Day parade, and Larry Rivers’s paean to a Vanished World: Garbo and Boyer.
The collection continued to evolve in the ensuing decade, with new subject matter and new approaches to artmaking making their appearance. Great public events and political themes began to make themselves felt: in Malcolm Morley’s aeronautical adventures (Hiding Behind History and Icarus), Kara Walker’s Shiny Penny and Wayne Gonzalez’s arresting portraits of Bush Administration officials. A more Conceptual approach to the figure begins to be seen: in Richard Prince’s Mission Nurse, for example, or Richard Patterson’s Girl in Blue Bikini. In recent years, the geographic scope of the collection has also expanded, especially with the inclusion of Tracey Emin, Sarah Lucas and other Young British Artists. And you find humor and wonder, sometimes in the same piece. There is Amy Cutler’s fairytale image of Bird Watchers, for example, or Allan McCollum’s array of candy-colored sculptures, which might look abstract at first but are the actual casts of a dinosaur’s footprint.
The works that first moved me were the ones that seemed to offer (in Robert Frost’s words) “a momentary stay against confusion.” If a painting felt right to me, it focused the eye and mind and filled me with the peace that comes from understanding. The many different paths toward that understanding are the subject of the Seavest Collection.