Home Magazine MeetMe#16 | In conversation with Michelle and Glenn Holland

Expo Chicago is going to open its International art fair on September 19th. For this special occasion, Rossella Farinotti interviewed two passionate collectors and patrons of the contemporary art scene of the city: Michelle and Glenn Holland. The couple is based in Chicago. They are enthusiastic about both established and emergent artists, and, since many years, they have been part of art committees and boards, such as, just to quote one each, the board of the Renaissance Society for Glenn and the Society for Contemporary Art at AIC for Michelle. They are often travelling around and, in fact, during this interview, they just came back from the Venice Biennale

Don't miss our latest MeetMe: MeetMe#15 | Marina Paulenka - MeetMe#14 | Brendan Becht - MeetMe#13 | Roberta Tenconi...

On Kooness we’ve launched a highlights section with special dialogues with collectors, gallerists and founders of vivid realities that deal with contemporary art. I always thought about you both as collectors then as patrons of this system. Maybe because in the USA to be a “patron” on the cultural reality it is important, more than in Italy in which we lost this kind of attitude. Do you agree about the fact that, especially regarding where you live, Chicago, culture and contemporary art are important to sustain?

As patrons of the arts, we understand and value the role that cultural institutions play in making our city a better place to visit and to live. Our involvement as patrons and collectors of fine art plays an important role in our lives but we know that supporting cultural institutions, in general, is a very important contribution we can make that benefits a wider group of people. 

When I met you in 2014 it was thanks to an extraordinary gallerist Monique Meloche. You are friends and collectors of Monique Meloche gallery because you like both emergent and established artists. This is an interesting side of your passion for art: you like young artists, but also historical ones. Am I right?

It’s true that we have a passion for both emergent and established artists, but we do not think of them as separate categories. Our awareness of older, established artists informs our understanding of newer artists. It comes down to the concept of understanding art through the individual artist’s creative trajectory and where that body of work fits into the continuum of art that has preceded it.   


Left: Miki Mochizuka Blue Line, 2015-2106 | Right: Miki Mochizuka CYF, 2015-2106


Wolfgang Tillmans Santa Marta, 2012, inkjet print in artists frame 34x44 cm


When did you start to buy art and build a collection?

Glenn had collected a few things prior to us collecting as a couple, but the collection did not really take on a coherent point of view until we started collecting together, starting in 1987. We have tried to buy a couple of works each year since so the collection has grown slowly and steadily since then.

You have recently been to Venice for the Biennale. Have you always travelled for art?

We have always made a point of seeking out art and architecture and galleries and museums wherever we travel even if art is not the primary focus of the trip. Art-focused trips such as the Biennale, Documenta, and art fairs are great but what we learn about the cultural fabric of cities we are visiting for other reasons is sometimes at least as exciting.


Lithuanian Pavillon during the Venice Biennale 2019.


Luc Tuymans, La Pelle, Palazzo Grassi Venezia was one of Michelle and Glenn favourite exhibition during the Venice Biennale.


Read more about Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi...

Glenn came from a family that already had roots in this area. I suppose this influenced him since the beginning of the path in contemporary art? And what about you, Michelle: when did your love for contemporary art start?

(Michelle) I studied art history in college and that’s where I first became interested in modern and contemporary art. When I graduated from college and moved back to Chicago, I worked at a creative agency in the then-emerging River West gallery district. My friends and I went to gallery openings often which exposed me to more artists. Ever since Glenn and I have been together, seeing shows and exhibitions, meeting artists and visiting studios has been a part of our lives.

As patrons, you sustain a lot of contemporary art realities in Chicago, your city, from the Arts Institute to the Arts Club, from Mana studios to more emergent venues. How you manage to combine all these events with your work? And, Glenn, is your job in finance somehow related to contemporary art?

If by that you mean how do we find the time to connect with so many institutions and events, the answer is we don’t get to do as much as we would like. 
As far as any connection between our professional lives and the art world, they are really separate pursuits.

What do you suggest to young collectors or people who’ve decided to approach artists and art?

First, get educated about art. Go to museums and read the commentaries, take audio or docent tours. Read art books and catalogues. Check art guides when travelling and see what’s currently showing. Go to galleries and ask questions about the artists. Don’t limit this pursuit to any genre. Photography, video, painting and drawing, performance art….see it all. After some time, seek to develop a point of view about what to collect and why. And finally, make sure to only buy work that will continue to engage and challenge, that goes beyond ‘eye candy’ and that will continue to inspire critical thinking and discussion. 

Cover image: Michelle and Glenn Holland. 


Stay Tuned to Kooness magazine for more exciting news from the art world.

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