An interview with Telfair member and honorary lifetime member of the Telfair’s Gari Melchers Collectors’ Society Dwight Emanuelson

dwightemanuelsonTelfair member Dwight Emanuelson, an avid art collector and generous donor of gifts of art to the museum, has been named an honorary lifetime member of the Telfair’s Gari Melchers Collectors’ Society. Beginning in the 1980s, Emanuelson has donated 65 works to the museums’ permanent collection. He is a past member of the Telfair Board and is a current member of the Telfair Collections Committee and, of course, the Melchers Society.
Closely involved in the 2007-2008 exhibition East End Artists: Past and Present, which showcased the art of first- and second-generation Abstract Expressionists living and working on the eastern end of Long Island, Dwight ‘s donated works include a group of etchings and lithographs by Miró, early 20th-century views of New York’s Central Park by Gifford Beal, fascinating mid-century collages by Conrad Marca-Relli, abstract compositions by Esteban Vicente, James Brooks, David Budd, Syd Solomon, and much more.

Here we learn a little more about this esteemed and generous supporter:

How did you get started with collecting artwork? I got started collecting artwork years ago when I first started in the investment business in St. Petersburg [Florida]. I called on artists who lived in the Sarasota area and became very friendly with them, started buying works from the artists in order to support them. A lot of them turned out to be quite famous in their fields- this is including James Brooks, Syd Soloman, Conrad Marca-Relli, James Rosenquist etc.

How long have you been collecting? I have been collecting for 42 years – started when I was 35.

What sort of pieces did you collect at the beginning? Has that changed over time? I collected abstract expressionism, particularly in the 1950s. It has changed over time somewhat to modernism as well as other artists that have interested me in these times- particularly people like Jennifer Bartlett who does very interesting landscapes and Malcolm Morley who is one of the great artists and one of my favorites.   He really was the originator of neo-realism and is doing very very wonderful things and is still painting in a very avant-garde way.

Which piece is your favorite that you have donated to Telfair Museums? The Tom Wesselmann Blue Nude. One of my all-time favorites and one of the great artists of our time who passed away 4 years ago.

Is there a piece of work that you wish you had been able to acquire? Any work that “got away” from you? I once sold an Alexander Archipanko sculpture because I needed money because I had a capital call on a project I was doing in Florida. Sold it back to gallery and made a little money, but left an awful lot on the table because he became even more famous as time went on.

[I] never regretted giving away any pieces to the museums, which include Johnson Museum (Cornell, alma mater); Columbia Museum of Art (SC); Gibbes Museum in Charleston (SC); Norton Museum of Art (WPBeach, FL); and of course, the Telfair.

I’m sure you have plenty of stories of interacting with artists. Are there any who stick out in particular? Syd Solomon was one of my favorite artists (to hang out with) for several reasons.   He was an excellent artist and really got me very interested in abstract expressionism, lived on Siesta Key in Sarasota Fl,   was a wonderful storyteller, introduced me to a lot of very good artists.   He had wonderful parties. We used to do a lot of fishing together and just plain hanging out at his wonderful home at Midnight Pass in Sarasota, which unfortunately was washed away by the tide over the years. Syd passed away quite a few years ago from Alzheimer’s and will always be remembered for generating my early real interest in art.