Note from Kenn Holsten
Dennis and Barbara DuBois have been dear friends and from time to time clients for nearly thirty years. They live in Dallas and have a world class collection of contemporary glass art. I was so happy when they agreed to the following interview:
Interview with collectors Dennis and Barbara DuBois
Kenn: How did you two get started collecting glass? I remember working together in the 1980’s when Holsten Galleries had a location on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
Dennis: In 1985, I was general counsel for a major Canadian developer. I used to stay in the Yorkville district of Toronto. I happened to wander into a small gallery there owned by Sandra Ainsley and I bought Barbara two hand blown perfume bottles. Barbara liked them and kept them prominently displayed for the next few months so when I next went to Toronto I bought a third bottle. A year and a half later we were introduced to glass sculpture and purchased our first serious piece.
Barbara: We had always collected something, even when we were young. I remember the first time coming into your Palm Beach Gallery knowing nothing (about glass sculpture). You would always educate us and tell us which pieces were important. You were showing Harvey Littleton’s grouping of tall pieces then and I wish we had bought one.
K: Have the two of you been collecting glass on a regular basis for the entire 28 years or so since that time or did you take time out at some point to pursue other interests?
B: There was never a time we took a break.
D: We have over 350 pieces now so that’s an average of about 12-13 pieces per year.
B: It’s an addiction we cannot get over!
K: I’ve heard other glass collectors use that same term. What do you think it is about glass that makes it so interesting to collect?
D: The material. Definitely the material. There is no other medium that reflects, refracts and absorbs light like glass does. Our pieces look very different depending upon the time of day, the amount of artificial or natural lighting. And the artists have found such a huge variety of techniques to bring out the full potential of glass as an art medium.
K: Who are some of your favorite artists and why?
B: That’s a difficult question. There are so many
D: It would be difficult to name a favorite piece but I can name some of our favorite artists.
B: Yes, that’s right. There are Dailey, Morris . .
D: The big three for us have been Dailey, Morris and Marquis. Dailey and Marquis partially for the sense of humor they both bring to their work. We have one Dailey piece called "View of Lust" that is one of Dan’s early flat vitrolite wall pieces. It is a man chasing a naked lady.
K: I guess Morris would be the third one to balance out the humor in the other two with work of a more serious tone?
D: We like Morris pieces partially for the subject matter.
B: And for the technical brilliance.
K: Actually all three of your favorite artists are technically brilliant.
D: Yes, Marquis was the first artist to bring back to the U.S. the ancient murini techniques from Murano in the 1970’s.
K: If for some unexpected reason you found it necessary to keep only a handful of your pieces, which ones would that be?
B & D: To name just a few, our Ivan Mares 650 pound Nautilus. Our favorite Clifford Rainey piece. A six feet tall Vladimira Klumpar casting. We commissioned Dan (Dailey) to create a vitrolite piece called, "Woodpecker." Definitely our Howard Ben Tre "Moon Bench" And our Rhyton Bull by William Morris.
K: I know you two have traveled fairly extensively in pursuit of your glass passion. What are some of the standout moments for each of you?
B: One of our favorite trips ever was the one to your Stockbridge, Massachusetts gallery organized with studio visits in Western Mass. We visited the studios of Tom Patti, Michael Pavlik and Bob Dane. Rosol was still Pavlik’s assistant then and we bought one of Martin’s "Fan" pieces. We still love that piece.
K: Yes, that was the first Fall Foliage Glasslovers’ Weekends we ever had. I believe that was probably around 1992. Later those annual events became the June Collectors’ weekends.
D: I remember when we visited the Pattis, Tom brought out a file on the piece we already owned and it identified us as the owners and had the full title, dimensions and even the weight. We were very impressed. I also remember that Tom, unlike most other glass artists who love to share their techniques, would not let us visit his studio and so that part of the event was a dinner in their home in the country.
K: In all the years I represented Tom he never once let me into that studio which was in an old barn on their property!
B: We also really enjoyed our trips to Japan as well as to Germany and Prague where we visited many artists’ studios
D: And a great trip to Australia where we visited Melbourne and several other cities and all of the artists were so hospitable.
K: You two started collecting during what I would call the formative years of the studio glass movement. That movement, if we can still use that term, has reached a level of maturity and sophistication that I could not have even imagined 30 years ago. Do you have any thoughts about the future of contemporary glass.
B: I certainly don’t think we have reached a peak.
K: So you don’t think that the great glass artists like Chihuly, Dailey and Lino Tagliapietra will end up being the best ever?
B: Those three will always be among the best ever, but I think others will join them in that category. Every time we go to an art show like SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Function Art – every fall in Chicago) we see lots of young artists who are doing incredible work and have the potential to become great artists.
D: Take Karen LaMonte for example. Karen is still relatively young and she is creating some of the most sophisticated glass art around today. Her exhibition at SOFA last month was a sell out and people are willing to wait for a couple of years to have her make a piece for them. She has the distinction of having two one person museum exhibitions at the Venice Biennale next year.
K: I agree that there are certainly artists out there who are technically and artistically deserving of the term "great." How about the collectors though? It takes collectors and also museums to make an artist well known.
B: We need more new and younger collectors to become active in glass collecting. We are on the Board of AACG (Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass) and we are constantly looking for new members (NOTE: You can visit www.contemporaryglass.org to learn more about this organization).
K: I actually have a fair number of new collectors who seem to find my website and end up purchasing glass. Some of them are from cities and areas where there is no brick and mortar glass gallery nearby. I find this very encouraging.
B: That’s great to hear.
K: In 2009 you were honored with an exhibition highlighting your collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston called "Pioneers of Contemporary Glass" and a book by that same title published by Yale Press. How was that experience for you?
B: It was wonderful.
D: They brought in Suzanne Franz for the lecture and when we got there the auditorium was so full that they had to make some room for us and our children way in the back of the room. We looked up and saw slides of our pieces up on the screen. After the lecture we walked out for the opening and there were over one thousand people there. In the five months of the show over 50,000 people visited the exhibition.
B: There was one bad moment though. One of our pieces we had had for twenty years was broken because it was not displayed properly.
D: But overall it was a great experience. It was very validating. When Peter Marzio, the late director of the Museum, visited our home to preview our collection he spent an hour looking around without saying a word. Then he said, "Anyone who sees this work and doesn’t think this is fine art doesn’t know what fine art is."
B: That was a great moment for us.
D: And the Museum has its own glass collection which they exhibit throughout the Museum. You might see one of their pieces next to a Jackson Pollock or David Hockney.
K: Is there any other question that you wish I had asked you?
B & D: No, I think you’ve covered the subject very well.
K: It’s been such a pleasure reconnecting with you two. Thank you very much.
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