Combining two complete households and all that has accumulated with each can be challenging both personally and physically. When Carole Pillinger and Fred Kotoske married seven years ago, they met this challenge by buying and renovating a home with an eye toward showcasing their respective art collections, one of several shared passions.
Carole and Fred have purchased most of their art but inherited some pieces from Fred’s mother. Each acquisition has a personal meaning that reflects the unique story of their art and their life together. That’s why it is hard for them to choose a favorite piece. “We like it all,” Fred says. “Each piece is a favorite because there is a separate, meaningful story behind every acquisition.”
Carole describes the commonality in their collection as whimsical, soulful and deliciously colorful. Though both describe their favorite genre as European Modernism, Carole is also a major fan of fantasy art. When asked what piece in their collection is her favorite, she says, “I have two. The first one is ‘Shards of Empire,’ painted by Robert Bober. It is one of my oldest fantasy art pieces. I love the visual effect of the piece, especially the details in the butterflies.” Her other favorite piece is also one of Fred’s favorites, a stone lithograph of a pained Christ hanging on the cross created by Salvador Dali. Fred explains, “Dali did this piece during a phase of his life when he was looking for religion. He was looking so hard yet never found it.” The piece exudes the emotion of Dali’s pursuit as much as it provides visual imagery of Christ’s crucifixion. Fred and Carole’s collection also includes two oil paintings by Peruvian artist Diana Mendoza. One is titled “Madonna and Child” and the other is “The Magi.”
Pablo Picasso reportedly said, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Picasso could very well have been describing Fred and Carole’s collection of art. A montage of paintings adorns the walls while collections of kaleidoscopes and antique microscopes beckon from shelves and sculptures of bronze, glass and whalebone invite the curious in for a closer look. There also is a letter opener made from a mammoth tusk, urns of different media, porcelains and a life-sized plush tiger that peers down from the landing on the stairs. Their home – warm, bright, comfortable and fun – is a visual delight, and the couple happily shares their art and their stories with whomever is interested.
When asked to give advice to others who are contemplating starting an art collection, Fred and Carole willingly share 10 sage tidbits:
- Start where you can. If you can’t afford the art of famous people, start with local artists because local art can be really good. Carole and Fred are fans of several local artists.
- Do not buy a piece of art you don’t really like just to fit a space on a wall. Wait and you will eventually find the perfect piece.
- Charitable events and auctions are great places to pick up nice pieces at reasonable prices.
- Take it slowly. Buy when you can. Never buy something you don’t truly love.
- Buy good art. Buy the best you can afford and build on this as you have more money.
- Do not be afraid to ask about purchasing a piece of art from an obscure venue. Carole once bought a piece of artwork off the wall of a jewelry store in Manhattan. Another piece came from a local restaurant. “One of our favorite pieces we call ‘Solstice Man’ because we bought it off the wall at Solstice,” Fred says.
- Try the art out, if you can. See if you can obtain it on loan for at least three days. Place it on an easel or in a location that you walk by frequently so you can see it in daylight and at night.
- When you see a piece of artwork that you really love and can afford, buy it right then. Do not wait because it may not be there when you get back.
- Your art will need to change places as your collection expands, so do not be afraid of putting nail holes in the walls.
- @ Enjoy your art, and light it up.
Due to the size of their collection and the fact that they are always on the prowl for more, Fred and Carole find the placement of their art to be an ongoing process. They depend on the help of Alice Perritt from HoFP Gallery not only for purchasing artwork, but for assistance in placement and also in proper lighting. Carole says that she cannot walk into Alice’s gallery without finding a new piece of art she loves. “I have to practice great restraint sometimes,” she says appreciatively. “Alice, Fred and I knit the disparate pieces together. It has been fun, but challenging.”
Low-voltage Kable Lite pendants installed in the great room and the dining room feature small halogen spotlights in multiple locations to light each piece to best advantage. The spotlights can easily be moved around and more added if necessary.
Days are extremely busy for Fred, owner of multiple Taco Bells in the Midlands, and Carole, a pathologist who loves teaching. They have done an incredible job of creating a home that is beautiful, comfortable and restful to retreat to in the evenings. Carole has even morphed her home office space into a resting place by using a desk with curved features, a comfortable chair and ottoman, and even a large painting of a woman in repose. And Fred, a self-taught French chef, finds relaxation in the kitchen, which he designed to accommodate his love of cooking and entertaining. It also provides even more space to include inspirational artwork for himself and others. And what happens to their art that eventually gets displaced? “We either put it at our vacation home, give it to our children, or donate it to charity,” Carole says.