When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

Art Love: A Collector shares her Passion

From Knyttes Deck, 2005, West Fraser (b. 1955)

My favorite way to spend a free day is wandering through the galleries of a Museum, exploring the exhibitions and collections. Whether it’s right here at the Gibbes or when traveling, museum visits are always included in my agenda. While spending time in LA last fall with my daughter, Laura, we went to The Broad where we happened to catch the Jeff Koons exhibit just weeks before the artist spoke at the Gibbes Distinguished Lecture Series. This past October my husband, Steve, and I visited The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and explored just a fraction their huge permanent collection spanning 5,000 years of art. Following the V&A, we walked over the River Thames to the Tate Modern, and entered into a roomful of people lying on the floor gazing up at large moving panels suspended overhead. We decided to lie down and join them! When I fly up to NY in February, I’ll visit The Whitney Museum or MoMA. There are so many amazing and creative exhibits going on around the world and I want to see it all!

L: Anywhen, 2016, by Philippe Parreno (b. 1964), in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. R: Wendy Dopp with her grandson and daughter, Laura, in front of Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994–2000, by Jeff Koons at The Broad.

In Charleston, I love to visit the art galleries and participate in the monthly Art Walks. That’s where I met West Fraser shortly after moving here in 1991. I not only loved his work, but I enjoyed getting to know him. Stopping by his gallery—now the Helena Fox Fine Art Gallery—was always a highlight during Art Walks. When he told me he was going to travel to Sweden to visit his wife’s family and to paint, I was so excited! My mother is Swedish, so I was looking forward to seeing what he would bring back. I attended his show after he returned and had my eye on one painting in particular, titled From Knyttes Deck. It was a fairly large painting with a view of the rooftops from a Stockholm neighborhood. The colors and the light were amazing—I loved it! Steve and my anniversary was coming up, and when I woke up that morning and walked downstairs, there it was hanging in our dining room. Best gift ever!

In 2012, we loaned this painting to the Telfair Academy in Fraser’s hometown of Savannah, GA, for one of his shows. We drove down for the opening-night member reception of the exhibit, A Native Son: Paintings by West Fraser. West led a small group of us on a guided tour of his work, and gave us some insight into his thoughts and creative process. He talked about his interest in environmental causes and said that he paints to record certain places before they become lost to development, which is happening rapidly everywhere!

L: Cavort, 1997, by William Halsey (1915-1999). R: This is What I Heard, 2007, by Le Quoc Viet (b. 1972)

I enjoy supporting local art galleries wherever I am, but collecting for me has to be fun! I’m not looking to buy a painting just for its long-term value. First of all, I have to love it. Maybe it’s the colors or the subject matter or the style. Maybe I’ve spent time getting to know the artist and I like his or her story. Or maybe Steve had enough wine to say, “Let’s buy it!” I love our painting by William Halsey, and I love the 7 foot scroll that I bought at Art Vietnam Gallery where my daughter worked. But for every reason I mentioned above, my favorite is my West Fraser painting. Art Love.

Wendy Meyer Dopp, Board Member, Gibbes Museum of Art

Painting the Southern Coast: The Art of West Fraser is on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art from January 28–April 30, 2017. Visit gibbesmuseum.org/events for related programming.

Top image: From Knyttes Deck, 2005, West Fraser (b. 1955)

Published January 27, 2017

Related Content