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How Young Collectors like Richart Ruddie Keep the Artworld Going

How Young Collectors like Richart Ruddie Keep the Artworld Going

Viola Eldridge
Collector Richart Ruddie beside a work by Yayoi Kusama in his home.

There are no doubts that the pandemic has upended the art world. Quarantine and travel-bans have forced collectors to stay at home or relocate to secondary residencies or new homes, museums to close their doors, and biennials and other large-scale global art events to be pushed forward. Galleries, auction houses, and art fairs have managed to shift their programming online, fairly quickly, and many others have developed online programming. This summer, New York galleries opened outposts in the Hamptons to stay close to collectors as well-heeled New Yorkers fled the city. In short, professionals in the art world have found new ways to stay in touch and cater to their audiences.

As many in the art world suffer activating collectors, patronage, and fundraising is a hot topic, which is why we decided to interview Richart Ruddie a young collector hailing from Baltimore and based in Fort Lauderdale. After our series Artists on Coping, we thought it time to gain insight into young collectors – arguably the art market’s second most popular demographic (after the 0.001%, ie. deep-pocketed Russian oligarchs). This ominous and hard-to-define group is especially attractive for gallerists and art advisors to foster long-term relationships with. Easier targets than seasoned collectors as they often have fewer loyalties and are developing their interests. Ruddie has collected art for the past three years and has with dogged dedication entered the art world guided by gallerists and armed with the belief that patronage can help the art world progress.

Where are you right now and what artworks surround you?

At home, surrounded by a Retna, Rashid Johnson, Yayoi Kusama, David Yarrow, and Pablo Picasso. I’d say I’m in good company at the moment.

When you started collecting art some three years ago you certainly hit the ground running as you now have work by Yayoi Kusama, David Yarrow, Takashi Murakami, Retna, Andy Warhol – the list goes on, in your collection. What are your criteria for buying?

Art that speaks to me is the most important factor. Every piece hits somebody a different way and that is what makes art dynamic. If I end up thinking about a piece long after seeing I move it onto the ‘acquire list.’ For me buying is intuitive, I had dreams about a couple of pieces and knew I had to have them. Every case is not the same, guided by passion, I have also bought work as investment.

When did you start collecting?

When I bought my first house. I was drawn to the idea of purchasing pieces to decorate the walls and it has since become a healthy addiction. I feel that overall art is a better investment than say, exotic cars, that have come to impress me less than a good Picasso. Art and design has permeated my life through media and pop-culture since childhood, however, Don Thompson’s book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark helped me realize the impact art can make in a built environment and its financial value.  

What are your views on patronage?

For those wondering what patronage is, it means supporting artists that are not deceased and that are part of the community. Patronage is striving to develop the arts community by investing in up-and-coming artists as well as working with curators at museums. Patronage can include monetary gifts to emerging artists to help them create new work without expecting to receive pieces, or anything else, in return. Patrons are respected by everyone in the community because they are genuine. Gallerist and friend, Carrie Eldridge taught me that when you think open-minded about not just art but life you have the ability to progress- That is what I love about patronage, thinking beyond the box, and why I strive to do my part and donate to artists and causes when I can.

How many gallerists or dealers do you talk to on a regular basis?

Before the pandemic broke out, I was skiing in Aspen and ventured into the ChaCha Gallery and had fun negotiating with their French owner Charlotte Lena-Souki as I acquired two panda pieces by Domingo Zapata. Closer to home operating out of an unassuming shopping center in North Miami Ken Hendel, owner of Gallery Art, deals the secondary art market. With an impressive collection of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Peter Max works and a wealth of knowledge he is an invaluable advisor and friend. There are a few regulars that I encounter at the art fairs, through travel, and emailing about pieces I am interested in – my Rolodex is growing. 

How often do you visit artists in their studios?

I am in talks with Sean Kelly whom I met at TEFAF in New York about Wu Chi-Tsung. He is doing commissioned pieces during the pandemic and when it’s safe to travel, I plan to head to Taiwan to meet the artist and pick mine up in person.

And, finally, before you became an entrepreneur and investor you worked in crisis PR so, I am curious, which is your favorite art scandal of all time?

Stéphane Breitwieser’s story – he stole for the love of art, not money, he never sold anything. As far as we know, he is the biggest “Artnapper” of all time – counting the number of pieces stolen and museums robbed. He hit over 200 locations.

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