Found treasure 

A local collector displays a curated collection of pieces by unknown artists at Artspace at Untitled.

The Art of Collection: A Collaborative Exhibition is on display at Artspace at Untitled through March 14. - ARTSPACE AT UNTITLED / PROVIDED
  • Artspace at Untitled / provided
  • The Art of Collection: A Collaborative Exhibition is on display at Artspace at Untitled through March 14.

Emily Reynolds is not your typical art collector. Rather than subscribe to industry-wide trends that place high value on works forged by esteemed artists, Reynolds opts for pieces tailored to her own tastes and preferences, a practice rarely observed in many curatorial circles.

Originally from Boston, Reynolds began collecting artwork nearly two decades ago, gradually adding more pieces to her growing assortment. Her only requirement was she had to like the items she purchased.

In a town not far from her home, vendors and enthusiasts gathered in south-central Massachusetts for the six-day Brimfield Antique Show, an event abounding with over 6,000 antique dealers converging on a piece of land with over 100,000 customers. Always in search of an opportunity to add to her ever-expanding art collection, it didn’t take long for Reynolds to learn there were a number of works out there that, despite being masterfully crafted, were not attached to a name associated with any sort of creative prestige.

To Reynolds, the sense of the unknown that often accompanies these pieces provides them with a certain intrigue absent in many mainstream collections.

“I like things that are a little bit unusual and outside the box,” she said. “I think it’s neat the mystery behind a lot of these pieces.”

As time went on, her collection grew, and so did her desire to share these works with prospective owners interested in purchasing one for themselves. In 2010, she moved to Oklahoma City, where she continued to build her expanding collection. Six years later, in December 2016, she founded Anonyma Fine Art, a platform for interested parties to purchase or request certain pieces they might otherwise be unable to find.

Reynolds made it her mission to find pieces from lesser-known artists — pieces she finds personally appealing — and sell them to individuals looking to diversify their own collections.

“There are just so many people who’ve made stuff over the last hundred years who were really talented, but maybe they didn’t have much recognition during their lifetime. So I’m finding all this stuff,” Reynolds said. “It’s fairly modern stuff, but it’s a different way for people in Oklahoma City to buy art to make their collections more eclectic.”

Among the pieces in her collection are a variety of paintings and sculptures with an emphasis on abstracts, nudes and portraiture. In building her artistic estate, however, she has made it a point to avoid specializing in subjects related to Native Americans and the Southwestern United States in an attempt to “introduce people to artists from outside our region.” In this way, Reynolds has been able to establish her own style markedly different from that of her contemporaries.

Her approach appears to be working. Just two years after establishing her dealership, business continues to flourish. Reynolds currently runs operations inside her home, where she invites prospective buyers to see her collection consisting of works from countries like Saudi Arabia, Japan, Cuba and other places across the globe.

click to enlarge Emily Reynolds, curator and owner of Anonyma Fine Art, gathers interesting art pieces by mostly unknown artists. - ARTSPACE AT UNTITLED / PROVIDED
  • Artspace at Untitled / provided
  • Emily Reynolds, curator and owner of Anonyma Fine Art, gathers interesting art pieces by mostly unknown artists.

Personal aesthetics

One of her biggest challenges thus far has been staying true to her own tastes. As many curators eventually come to realize, their own thoughts and reactions to certain pieces do not necessarily mirror those of the general public.

“I have to straddle that line between buying strictly stuff that I would put in my own home, you know, that I like at a personal level, and then keeping it broad so that it isn’t narrow, it appeals to a broad group of people,” she said.

One of these people happened to be Artspace at Untitled co-founder Laura Warriner. According to Warriner, a few years ago, she collaborated with Reynolds’ husband on a poetry-inspired exhibition. She began hearing positive comments regarding his wife’s collection, and when Reynolds joined the committee for the Steamroller Festival hosted at Artspace last April, Warriner finally had the opportunity to meet the curator she had heard so much about.

Eventually, Warriner visited the Reynolds’ residence and was immediately impressed by the pieces Emily Reynolds had in her possession.

“I was kind of intrigued and I really liked her eye,” Warriner said of her initial impressions. “[Her collection] was varied in texture, in content, but the thing that stood out to me was the real quality of the work.”

She was especially taken by Reynolds’ rationale for acquiring these pieces. Rather than seeking big-name artists or pieces that might one day hold considerably more value as a means of investment, Reynolds was going after those which appealed to her own personal sense of aesthetics.

“You’ve gotta to buy it because you love it, because it speaks to you,” Reynolds said. “I know immediately whether I’m gonna buy a piece or not. It’s just a gut thing.”

Warriner also seemed to have an immediate reaction to these works. Shortly after her initial visit, she offered Reynolds a chance to create her own exhibition. Reynolds accepted the invitation, agreeing to display approximately 40 pieces from her collection at Artspace at Untitled.

Mysterious history

The exhibition opened earlier this month and serves as a representation of Reynolds’ entire collection, featuring a variety of eclectic works often centered on principles of minimalism and modernity. While these pieces might elicit an initial sense of attraction, many possess qualities that create a deeper sense of appreciation.

For example, the original creators behind a number of these works are not known, and many of the stories behind these pieces will remain forever untold.

“If people want to buy art for a particular artist or they want to be able to sit down with the artist and have a glass of wine and hear the artist’s story, I can’t provide that because that connection has been lost over time,” Reynolds said. “I can tell them what I know, and sometimes it’s a lot and sometimes it’s a little. And sometimes, it’s nothing.”

This lack of knowledge and history behind the pieces only serves to strengthen their appeal for many viewers.

“They’re conversation pieces,” Reynolds explained. “If someone buys something and it’s either unsigned, the signature is illegible or there isn’t much information on the artist, you get to kind of create your own story about it.”

The Art of Collection: A Collaborative Exhibition with Emily Reynolds and Anonyma Fine Art is now on display at Artspace at Untitled, 1 NE Third St. Those interested in experiencing the exhibition firsthand are encouraged to attend A Discussion with the Exhibition Curator 6-7 p.m. Feb. 28. The closing reception is 5-8 p.m. March 14. Most pieces are available for purchase.

“I think it gives permission to a lot of people who are afraid to buy art unless it’s by a name that they can recognize or understand,” Warriner said. “It’s a good way to educate people to understand that you should be buying the art because it speaks to you.”

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