THE BLOG

How To Fall in Love... With Art

04/14/2014 05:02 EDT | Updated 06/14/2014 05:59 EDT

I fell in love with the first piece of art I ever bought. It was one of Roberto Dutesco's The Wild Horses of Sable Island photographs and it was called, coincidentally, "Love." I purchased the work in a gallery in Soho, New York City, because it spoke to me at a time when I really needed to hear its message. Just looking at those two beautiful horses in their tender moment evoked such a powerful feeling of loving and being loved, it made me realize that it's possible to fall in love with art, to feel moved - sometimes happy, sometimes sad, to catch my breath and have time stand still. I still get caught off-guard by photography and paintings, they take me away and help me escape. Art touches me emotionally and makes me FEEL.

Recently, I visited the Affordable Art Fair in NYC and I was so surprised at the range of galleries and artists that I discovered. As an amateur art collector, I know it can sometimes be very intimidating going into a gallery, and that's why I really admire what Will Ramsay, the fair's founder, has done. It is all about accessible and affordable contemporary art. He created an art experience that comes to cities all over the world and allows us to buy, learn and appreciate art. It is coming to Canada for the first time May 8-11 at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto, and its event name, "Love Art," is so fitting because that's just what art is all about and this is why I love it...

Art allows you to stop and smell the roses.

These days especially, we can be so busy with life that we are not really feeling anything, just going through the motions, but art makes you stop and feel in awe. I am very lucky because I have great people in my life to help guide me through collecting art, such as Izzy from Izzy Gallery, who helps educate me on the value of photography. He has exposed me to such amazing artists like photographers Albert Watson, Ellen von Unwerth and Mary McCartney. There's also Peter Tunney, an incredible artist who I have the privilege to know and also collect. I have many of his pieces in both Toronto and NYC, including a 4ft x 6ft piece called "Gratitude" at home and his "Time is Always Now" and "Believe" paintings in the entranceway of my Toronto office. Every time I walk by these pieces I reflect on their message...sometimes it's just a brief pause, sometimes they get me thinking deeper, but I never pass by without taking them in, if only for a moment.

Art is actually all around us.

Along with Love Art, which Ramsay started in London, England, as the "Affordable Art Fair" and spread to cities across Canada, Europe, USA, Mexico, Singapore and Hong Kong, there is also the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto which is now the biggest celebration of the art of photography in the whole world! What I love about these kinds of events is how I get to discover galleries or artists they carry that I may not have known about. I love getting lost in the experience of art...emotionally, mentally, physically wandering around the city discovering artists and their work. I am obsessed with photography (and neons) these days, Tracey Emin and David Drebin are my favourites. I love everything that CONTACT represents. The accessibility of it all and how photography is integrated throughout the city. They have 350 artists exhibited in 144 locations! It's basically like turning a whole city into a gallery.

Art, like love, grows deeper over time.

Collecting pieces of art that you love is also a great investment. And investing in art is invaluable, that's why I have respected and idolized Jane Nokes, director of archives and fine art at Scotiabank, for conceiving and establishing the company's Canadian contemporary art archive almost 40 years ago. I just find her so inspiring. Scotiabank is the only Canadian bank with archives and a fine art collection which is fully open to the public. Nokes has been influential in growing Scotiabank's investment in the arts, both as part of the board of directors for the CONTACT Photography Festival (of which the bank is the title sponsor) and the Scotiabank Photography Award, an initiative she developed alongside famed photographer Edward Burtynsky in 2010 to honour contemporary Canadian photographers. The award is meant to support the artist on their journey towards being better known both nationally and internationally. It's really exciting to discover and invest in our local Canadian talent! Peter Tunney has always been a good educator for me on the value of art, and much of my collection has gone up in value. Some of my other favourite contemporary artists are the late Bert Stern, Damien Hirst and Russell Young. Their success has skyrocketed, and I believe we will look back on many of today's contemporary artists the way we do on the Picasso's and Warhol's of yesterday.

Art is about inclusivity and accessibility.

It's not just banks (or galleries) that can afford a fine art collection. Everyone can afford art. It's not about spending the most money, it's about feeling something special and buying pieces that speak to you. That's what's so great about Love Art. They have over 50 international galleries participating with a price ceiling in effect ($10,000, with more than half priced under $5,000) and all the works are labeled clearly so you can see exactly what pieces you can afford, and it's a really open and casual. Ramsay started his Affordable Art Fair in 1999 as a way to introduce people to the joy of collecting art, in the hopes of creating lifelong art lovers. His point is, if you can afford to buy a piece of art you love you will want to learn about the artist and discover more of their work, and the work of other artists, and you'll want to keep collecting and it grows from there. LUMAS is another great way for new collectors to get into art; they make photography accessible and consider themselves "liberators" of great art. I love this because I truly believe art is for everyone, it can be enjoyed by all of us and it has something to offer everyone.

My latest soon-to-be acquisition from Peter Tunney will be for the entrance of my NYC office, called "City of Dreams," because I believe New York truly is a city where dreams come true. Someone once said to me (in a not so nice way), "Natasha, you are a DREAMER!" And I am. I dream big and art inspires me to keep doing so.

Right now in Toronto there are over 60,000 condo units that have gone up which lends itself to a lot of empty walls needing some great art! And next month, with CONTACT and Love Art coming to town, there's no better time to explore the city's art scene, and you never know, you might even fall in love.

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