International Caribbean Art Fair (ICAFair)

Featured Collector

Aderson Exume (Maryland, USA)

By CAW Magazine

Posted: November 9, 2009

Wilson Bigaud

Wilson Bigaud,La Sirène Endiablée, 1952Courtesy: Aderson Exume

Aderson Exume photoAderson Exume, is an avid collector of Haitian art, as well as African art. His collection amounts to over 50 original Haitian art pieces, including masters such as Hector Hyppolite, Castera Bazile, Wilson Bigaud, and Bernard Wah. In addition to being an art collector, Mr. Exume, over the past eight years, has curated and co-curated art exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, Rome, Port-au-Prince, Berlin, Washington DC, and other cities around the world.


Mr. Exume comes from a Haitian family of artists, and as he says, "art is in my blood."


Q: How and when did you begin to collect Haitian art?


I am from a family of Haitian artists: René Exumé, Lavorancy Exumé, Reynald Exumé, Ronny Exumé, Jonas Exumé, and Ronald Exumé. Therefore, you could say that it is in my blood. I have always known that I wanted to collect and have a home full of art. I remember watching my famous uncle, René Exumé, painting and teaching art skills to the children of the Haitian elite. He would often try to engage me in the classes, but I never had any interest in producing art. I can remember as far back as when I was nine years old, or perhaps even earlier, that I had an appreciation for art and was interested in art history. In addition, both my father and grandfather were art collectors, though I continue to insist they were just art buyers. Collecting art requires a certain scholarship about the artists whom one collects; it is a way of life and a lifelong passion and commitment. They were just buying beautiful, cheap art by unknown artists. Yes, I always had a house full of beautiful art, but I always knew to go to the national museum to see "good art."


Q: Why did you decide to collect exclusively Haitian art?


I love all art genres: impressionism, expressionism, surrealism, tribal African art, the 16th Century Dutch masters, et cetera. Actually, I don't collect only Haitian art. For the past six or seven years, I have been collecting African and Haitian art. Haitian art, however, is my favorite as it is close to the heart. Also, because of my family's ties to Haitian art, I can honestly say that it found me as well.


Q: Do you recall the first painting or art object you purchased and the events leading to it?


Yes, I do remember. It was a small Wilson Bigaud that I bought for $300.00 on eBay. I think that was about seven years ago. The piece was not old per se, but it was very well executed. It was titled “Lovers,” depicting a male courting his female interest. I found it to be very innocent yet so meaningful. This is what I love about Haitian art.


Q: Have you established certain goals in terms of art collecting? Do you have a focus on a particular period, style, or kinds of art you collect?


I collect primarily naïf Haitian art, specifically the first and second generation masters. I love Castera Bazile, and I would have to say that he is my absolute favorite. I also love Wilson Bigaud's older work before his illness in the mid 1960's. Other favorites are: Celestin Faustin, Jacques-Enguerrand Gourgue, Gerard Valcin, Xavier Amiama, Antoine Obin, Sénèque Obin, Rigaud Benoit, Philomé Obin, and countless others to name here. Last but not least, I love my uncle's work.


Q: What does it mean to you to be a fine art collector?


I think it means a connection to the art or the artist by way of his or her work. I think what differentiates a collector from an art purchaser is the following: while the purchaser chooses the art, the art chooses the collector. I have often felt so connected to an art piece to the point that I really could not explain why. When I try to find reasons for not pursuing an art piece, I would always fail in my attempts.


I believe too that collecting art can be addictive as any collector will tell you. In other words, you never have enough. However, it is important to educate yourself and to know what you are buying. It is equally important to follow your instincts to not miss out on great deals. For example, I once had a wealthy client who wanted to buy a Hector Hyppolite for $15,000.00, but his wife refused. Two years later, they paid $36,000.00 for the painting they love and should have bought then. This illustrates why a collector should sometimes go with his or her gut, but I have also heard of some horror stories. The trick is to find a balance with which both partners are happy and comfortable.


Q: In your opinion, what qualifications or particular knowledge does a collector need to have to be considered a collector, as opposed to being an art enthusiast or art appreciator?


Scholarship, scholarship and more scholarship. The collector is obsessed with the artist (dead or living). He studiously studies not only the art, but also the life of the artist. Most importantly, the artist's work speaks to the collector's soul. To me, that is the key difference.


Q: What information do you need to have, or must have, before making a decision to purchase an art piece?


If you must think about whether or not you like it, then don't buy it. I feel the right work will choose you rather than the reverse. Second, do your own research on the artist and his or her work: what museum holdings are they represented in, how many years did their art last, etc. Good scholarship requires a good amount of research and training. Lastly, research the value of the piece or its comparables and record prices of the artist's work. This is often the most important component. 


Q: How has your art collection changed in the past years?


It has drastically changed. For example, I have been focusing on raising the quality of my collection, which is crucial for any collector. Your collection must grow, and this takes time and the right strategy. For example, I recently sold my Hector Hyppolite to buy a more valuable painting by the same artist. In addition, my collection now has five Castera Baziles compared to none three years ago. It is very crucial that the collector stays active and keep it fun. Otherwise, it can easily become very idle and dull. Most collectors will sell some of their art at one point. Even if you don't need the money, this is very important in order to keep the interest alive. But more importantly, to elevate your collection to the next, if not the highest level possible.


Q: Do you think it is important for collectors to loan their works to museums to exhibit? Why?


Yes, I not only think it is important but find it absolutely necessary. From a true collector's perspective, you should want to share your art with others. For me, nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing how happy my art makes others at museum exhibitions. If you really love the art, exhibiting your art collection is a way of showing respect to the artist, a way of keeping him or her alive, especially if the artist has passed. From an investment standpoint, exhibiting one's collection can only increase its value, importance, and fame. The goal is to keep the collection moving to more prestigious venues.


I also find that Haitian art collectors are not too inclined to exhibit their collections. I would like to encourage them to do what Jonathan Demme and I are doing, which is to actively exhibit the works in our collections. Collectors stay away from this for many reasons. One is the safety or lack of safety of their art. Therefore, it is very important to use professional art shippers or transporters that are fully insured, as are all museums.


Haitian art collectors must learn the importance of exhibiting their collections. Here's a case in point: Rufino Tamayo's 1946 “Cataclismo” painting trailed the value of Hector Hyppolite's art auctions. Today, that painting is worth over $1,000.000.00 while the best of Hyppolites can't sell for $50,000.00. This is simply further proof that collectors need to exhibit their collections more. The more interest that the genre garners, the greater value it will have.


Q: Do you think there is great value in collecting the art you collect?


Yes, I do. I collect Haitian and African art. I collect to also conserve my culture and history.


African art is thriving, even in this dreadful economy. And, while Haitian art is worth only half of its 1990's value, I am confident that the value of Haitian art will rise again.


Q: What message would you share with other art collectors in terms of collecting Caribbean art?


Be strategic and true to your passion. Haitian art is very popular, but there are some great Jamaican, Trinidadian and other Caribbean masters as well. Keep an open mind, even if Haitian art is your passion. For those who may wish to collect in other works, consider Jamaican or Dominican art. Barrington Watson, David Boxer, and Osmond Watson are all great Jamaican artists to collect.


Q: What artists do you feel are the most important in your collection?


Hector Hyppolite, which is featured on the cover of one of Christie's catalogs, is by far the most important piece in my collection. My five Castera Bazile masterpieces, monumental Rigaud Benoit, my 1950 Amiama, and a rare Philomé Obin are also most valued.


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Aderson Exume (Maryland, USA)

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