The Nicest Dorm in College
A conversation on collecting between mplsart.com’s Emma Berg and FOX News journalist Robyne Robinson.
Welcome to the first in an ongoing monthly series from mnartists.org and the local arts calendar mplsart.com which will introduce you to a variety of Twin Cities collectors who share a passion for investing in and surrounding themselves with original art. Through these informal visits we hope to plant the seed of a passion for collecting in you too, as well as offer some practical insights into how you can begin to develop a collection of artwork that reflects and enhances your own unique vision of the world around you.
Fox news broadcaster, arts patron, and former gallery owner Robyne Robinson has been an amazing supporter of the local arts scene since arriving in Minneapolis in 1990. Her Minneapolis gallery, Flatland, was open from 2000 to 2003 with a focus on local emerging artists. She has served on the Basilica’s Arts Advisory Committee and on the arts boards for the Walker Art Center, Outsiders and Others, MCAD, and Independent Feature Project Minneapolis.
I visited with Robyne for tea at her Uptown townhouse, where I was introduced to her extensive art collection which spans all three floors. After spending some time chatting about the warm July weather, work, and the borders of uptown, we grab our tea and begin.
mplsart: Can we take a tour of your collection?
Robyne: Yeah, take your tea.
We begin our walk through the house. Looking around, I see that there is art everywhere: works line the walls, sculptures are grouped in every corner or hung from the ceiling, ceramic pieces paired with art magazines populate the side tables. It is absolutely inspiring!
Robyne: Here are some of the local artists that I really treasure. Jon Nelson, that is such a beautiful piece, and I like to pair it with Seth Wolk because Seth has an appreciation for Rauschenberg, but he also does the light box; I just love to pair the two because when you light them up it’s just gorgeous, especially at sunset.
Robyne: Rauschenberg here, I worked really close with Doug Flanders [in purchasing it]. He is inspiring in so many ways.
mplsart: How important is it to have a curator or gallery owner, someone like Doug [Founder of Flanders Contemporary Art], guide you in building an art collection?
Robyne: [Doug is] a community treasure in terms of helping young people collect. You know, he encourages you. He never tells you you’re going to get in over your head, or I can’t make that happen for you. He will look for pieces for you that will fit within your budget. I trust Doug. I count on Doug and when the show came out with Rauschenberg, he encouraged me. He said, ‘don’t pass this one up.’ It’s a good piece to have and it’s pretty high in the series. I’m thankful for that.
mplsart: How did you begin collecting?
Robyne: I started stealing posters off walls in college. If I liked the poster, I would just rip it off the wall and have it framed. I had the nicest dorm room in college. It wasn’t until I moved to Minneapolis and joined a contemporary art forum at the Walker that I started seriously collecting. I was inspired by New York photographer Dawoud Bey—I saved up and made a down payment in 1996. It took me two years to pay for it!
mplsart: You have so much sculpture in your collection, what draws you to it?
Robyne: I really love sculpture. If I could have it outside, I would have more. To be able to breathe life into metal, I’m in awe.
mplsart: Or ceramics, like this piece?
Robyne: Edith Garcia, she was here, but now lives in London. She was one of my first shows at Flatland. People just didn’t really understand her but Mary [Abbe] at the Star Tribune really loved her work.
mplsart: How long has Flatland been closed?
Robyne: A long time now. It closed in 2003. What’s nice is that people still mention it, which is very cool. When I see artists I had in shows having exhibits at galleries in town and out of town, I feel so good. I feel like I did know what I was doing, and I wasn’t just making it up as I went along. I really do have somewhat of an eye; I try to stay close to people that do have an eye. And I just really enjoy seeing people’s careers expand. It makes me feel good, like I really contributed something.
We continue the tour and a Frank Gaard piece pops out at me.
mplsart: Oh, a Frank Gaard! The solo show that Lonni Ranallo curated at Flanders last year was my favorite. The space was all painted pink with his works layered on top … it was just color and energy!
The piece hanging in Robyne’s house is a study on men’s underwear, purchased during a fundraiser event at the Soap Factory.
Robyne: Yeah, I love Frank and I am really pleased he asked me sit for a portrait. So I keep telling him, ‘hold on to it, I’ll come back for it!’
We begin to descend the stairs to the lower and final level of our tour. We pass prints by Nathan Caberra, Shepard Fairey, Aesthetic Apparatus and Mark Ryden. On reaching the landing I am struck by the pieces “hiding” in the basement.
Robyne: This is my Rose Gallery. I am very proud of all of the artwork down here. I don’t want to flaunt stuff, so I keep it down here. Robert Indiana, Frank Stella … just gorgeous. And, this, I’ve had since I was in college. It could be an original Salvador Dali, but I’m not sure. The whole idea about this series: it was about his wife Gala and when he was trying to woo her, all the things he did. He says she seduced him—it was her back, he loved her back, she had a godly back. I just think it’s beautiful. Even if it’s not a Dali, I can dream. When I’m old and dead, they’ll say I had like a 23 million dollar lithograph lying in my house, and I didn’t know!
mplsart: And this isn’t even your whole collection! You said earlier that you also have work at your place in Greece?
Robyne: I have several pieces over in Greece. I want my apartment in Greece just to be really nice. I have a lot of Eric Lunde, Kate Pabst, Doug Padilla, Amy Rice, Shep Fairey, Ernest Bryant, BJ Christopherson. I’ve met some fabulous people over there, and I’m working with them on a couple of projects, trying to get Minnesotan artists over there. I’ve been very fortunate and it’s just kind offostered something I needed. I really feel passionate about collecting and making a record for local artists. I hope that I can put together a repository, a collection of some sort, that can be gifted to one of our institutions here so we can show what Minnesota artists, particularly Minnesotan artists from this period, have to offer. Not to just our community but to the world. It’s a very fertile time for Minnesota.
About mplsart.com: mplsart.com is an online guide to gallery openings in Minneapolis managed by Emma Berg and Kristoffer Knutson. Along with weekly updates, photo galleries, reviews and featured artist profiles the site and those behind it present frequent art exhibitions in alternative spaces around town.
Emma Berg is the director and founder of mplsart.com, which she first launched in 2005. Emma’s genuine enthusiasm for the creative culture within our wonderful city keeps her out at art events weekly, supporting artists and galleries alike.