Art collector Dr. Joy Simmons offers advice on buying Black art

In the third episode of Eric's Perspective, Simmons says 'Buy what you like and put it on display'

In the third episode of Eric’s Perspective, a podcast dedicated to exploring African American art, Eric Hanks chats with African American art collector, Dr. Joy Simmons. She offers insight for art lovers who are interested in collecting.

Dr. Joy Simmons says she’s always been a visual person. Her aunt was a collector and recalls both she and her girlfriends always being enthralled when they visited her home. From the art that hung on her walls to the galleries she’d take them to, the art lover recalls this time learning from her aunt to be wonderful.

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It was while in medical school at UCLA that Dr. Simmons purchased her first piece of artwork, a print by Elizabeth Catlett. The piece is still a part of her collection today. In fact, her current home has been completely designed around the display of her collection.

When asked about how she came to design her home around her collection, Dr. Simmons says she appreciates her position as both a patron and a collector. Supporting artists is not only about buying their work, but sharing their work and loaning it out to museums for exhibits and traveling shows. It’s through this exposure that people discover art to be something tangible and helps them develop their taste and eye.

As an art dealer, Hanks says he’s noticed people can be intimated when it comes to buying art, that they downplay their ability to buy art based on their exposure. But the two agree, and say that the only requirement needed is to simply “buy what you like, and put it on display.”

Host Eric Hanks and art collector Dr. Joy Simmons. (Photo: Eric’s Perspective)

“It’s your home and space and you want to come home to something that resonates with and speaks to you,” Dr. Simmons says. “That’s what nourishes you.”

As a collector for more than 40 years with roughly 200 pieces of majority African American artists, Dr. Simmons says she knows when a piece is “it.” “You feel it,” she says. When it comes to showcasing her collection, she says it’s all about moving things around until it feels right.

For Dr. Simmons, the thrill of the chase is all about collecting emerging artists before they’re stamped as “special” by the public. The collector recalls buying, “Looking Up (She Works Hard For The Money Pin-Up Series)” a piece by Mickalene Thomas in 2004. She was completely unaware at the time of the artists she would become.

“The opportunity to support an artist in the early stage of their career is when you’re making a real impact on their lives,” Dr. Simmons says. “Support them when they’re developing and without the expectation.”

She goes on to describe this as worrisome when people purchase art with the expectation that they’ll get a return on their “investment.”

“I encourage young collectors to take the risk, develop their eye,” Dr. Simmons says. “The worst that can happen is that you end up with something that you like.” Hanks agrees and says that if you look at it strictly as a financial investment, it changes one’s approach to collecting and makes for another financial activity.

But that’s not the case for Dr. Simmons. Half the fun of collecting the art is exploring the places art is, she shares. She’s never sold a piece in all her years of collecting and says she can’t imagine ever letting one go.

When offering advice to young collectors, Dr. Simmons says it’s important to keep your eyes peeled and to go out and see the work. You can’t buy what you like until you discover what you like, she says.

“Don’t be intimidated.”

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