Spring Curatorial Intern Jason Rosenberg shares his experience meeting art collectors and Phillips supporters Beverly and Chris With.
For some, collecting is a childhood hobby; for others, collecting is a much more serious endeavor, one that cannot be satisfied by immediate fulfillment but is rather a quest for meaning and way of living with an additional benefit of monetary value. But for two long-time members and donors of the Phillips, Beverly and Chris With, the financials couldn’t be less important to their passion for collecting. For these refreshing, inspiring patrons, collecting is fueled by one thing only: an undeniable pure love and devotion to the arts, more specifically works on paper and theater.
In a world where corporations routinely purchase art for its immense investment value and subsequent advantages in tax write-offs as a legal public good, the Withs are a balm. Visiting their Logan Circle home-turned-gallery with my curatorial mentor this spring Vesela Sretenović, I came to see both the underpinnings of an art collection and the history behind forming one.
The Withs met during their studies back at UCLA, and first made their way to DC thanks to a job opening offered to Chris at the National Gallery. Art was in his veins—his parents began a collection of their own back in the day—but surely not to the scale the Withs have worked to adorn their apartment today. The Withs’ collection of prints and drawings—including some old masters but also many DC-based artists such as linn meyers, Jae Ko, Jonathan Monaghan, Barbara Liotta, and Renee Stout, among many others—covers their walls from top to bottom, recalling the centuries-old salon style presentation of art as well as the term horror vacui, or fear of empty space. But there’s a clear method to this madness, with seemingly every piece placed with remarkable precision—all the way from the staircase to the bathrooms. As I made my way throughout the house, I quickly realized I had a ticket to one of DC’s best private galleries in town.
After a brief chat and visit to nearby neighborhood galleries with the Withs, I walked away with both an idea of what a collection could be and a newfound perspective on art acquisition. For those thinking about starting their own collection, find your theme. Don’t be afraid to go out and support the up-and-comers. If you see something that speaks to you, buy it. Not all art collecting is purely financially based. For every bad news story of a corporation like Shell funneling thousands of pieces of art for profit, there’s a couple like the Withs—collecting for the joy of life and power of art.
To the Withs: thank you for all of your insight and for proving my cynicism wrong. I look forward to seeing your collection grow. Until then, I know I, the Phillips, and the larger art community of DC, deeply appreciate your work!