WHY I COLLECT: Life as a Young Art Collector (COLLECT #5)

Julia “Jules” Kirby, New York, NY / Jackson, WY

My collection runs very deep. I grew up in New York City, a museum in itself. My father dragged us as kids to museums and was always surrounded by artist friends. His mother was a sculptress who had even shown at the Met.

Julia "Jules" Kirby

I used to spend hours drawing and received a scholarship to attend Pratt, though I later left feeling they were draining my individualist ingrained talent. However, through the school (and simply being in New York), I befriended a lot of photographers and artists. I became a muse of sorts and attached myself to the gritty LES (Lower East Side) graffiti hard-partying gangs and modeled.

I switched gears at some point, quite possibly because I had to start doing the 12-hour-a-day grind. I worked as a style editor at House & Garden and an accessory and underwear stylist for Glamour, which made me get out of the fashion world completely. During this time, I would go out to the hip celeb clubs and some secret spots in Chinatown that no longer exist and befriend new artists, including musicians and actors. Still trying to figure out where I belonged in the creative realm, I picked up the guitar and began to play music again (I was raised on the piano.).

At this point in my life, I felt a bit lost in the city and made the decision to go to the airport to buy my one way ticket to the UK — and I was off. I spent months visiting museums, visiting beautiful homes, and obsessively photographing. I regained my interest in art and was really sure that I had an eye for it. I spent the next few years not doing any art of my own, just patiently admiring others.

“I returned to the US not only as a collector but as an artist agent. It made sense for me to create my own singularly operated agency as I was connecting my artist friends with my affluent friends.”

Having again moved to Jackson, Wyoming, I am learning about Western Art. Something I can honestly say I disliked. I am in the process of buying my first two true western paintings by R. Tom Gileon. So talented. His use of light and color are breathtaking. I go out weekly with Thomas D. Mangelsen and photograph wildlife and nature. He has made it incredibly apparent how special his talent is. I can sit in the same spot and not get any of that emotion he captures.

There still is plenty for me to be taught and I am eager to learn and appreciate. And so the collecting continues…

Julia "Jules" KirbyHow would you describe your collecting approach?

If I see something I love, I’ll usually bargain with the artist’s representation. Auction these days from the economy’s demise has helped my collection boom. I’ve been fortunate enough to be educated in Art; therefore, I’ve come across steals at garage sales and such.

Are you friends with any of the artists that you collect?

There is a clear emotional and personal attachment to the art that I connect with. I thoroughly enjoy being able to get to know the artist and easily, in turn, become great friends.

What is the biggest piece in your collection?

Size or big as in famous? Size: two Massimo Vitalis. Although I have a difficult time buying photographs, I own some by Jill Krementz and an original photograph from Shackleton’s 1914-1917 voyage, Endurance Stuck in Ice.

Do you have sentimental favorites in the collection?

The ones handed down to me. My grandmother was a sculptress who befriended Matisse and others. When she passed, I opened a desk filer to find holiday cards he had personally made for her. Just incredible, really.

Which piece attracts the most attention?

The Gustav Klimts. Anyone who has been to a fine art museum can recognize even his sketches. I’m obsessed with his naughty artistry and believe he’s influenced myself in some of my hobby of sketching.

Is there one that got away?

There was a print my sister picked up for me somewhere of a girl sucking on a hot pink pop. I had it framed so perfectly in gold. I’ve never found anything that connected to my being as much. I moved to Europe, and it tragically disappeared.

This Collector Profile featuring Julia “Jules” Kirby originally appeared in COLLECT #5.  Read the magazine online »