Bright Abstract Creative: Joshua Roth Art Collector Interview
Name: Dr. Joshua Roth
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Family: Meghann (Wife/Lead Photographer), Lucas (Son), Kopi (Labrador Retriever)[
What is the first work of art that you bought? Were you thinking about it terms of a home furnishing or more as an object that you were drawn to?
The first work of art I recall buying was from a painter named Ha in Hoi An, Vietnam back in 2002. I was on a term abroad there during my undergraduate studies and was really impressed by the influence of the French impressionists on many contemporary Vietnamese artists. I chose this particular piece as a home furnishing and also based on the general design aesthetic.
What is it that spurred you into making the purchase? Did this immediately lead to the beginning of your collection or did that happen over a longer period of time?
I was spurred to buy this piece because I like abstract art, I like bright colors to activate living spaces, and I wanted to support the local artists who were struggling to make a living in those times before tourism in Vietnam was more popular.
This purchase did get me thinking about being an art collector, but as a poor undergraduate student I didn’t have much expendable income to support that habit (at least outside of Vietnam). This particular piece only set me back a few U.S. dollars… I got much more into buying art years later after I completed my PhD studies, started my career as a cancer researcher, and had a bit more cash and wall space to dedicate to art.
Do you have a particular theme that you think about when buying art?
The common thread in my art collection is abstract pieces, bold colors (often bright reds and/or blues), and things that evoke a sense of happiness when I look at it. I’m very inspired by Mark Rothko and Hans Hofmann paintings, design from Charles & Ray Eames as well as Paul Smith, and Bauhaus design principles. I think these inspirations come through in many of my art pieces.
How often do you go out to view art?
Once every month or two—usually when I’m traveling for work. I like to make sure I have reserve time for extracurricular activities when I’m at conferences presenting my scientific research. Favorites include MOMA in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I also go to my hometown Seattle Art Museum 2-3 times a year with my 18-month-old son Lucas. I’m hoping to get him into art as well.
What are the favorite pieces in your collection?
Shawn McNulty’s Carnival is probably my favorite piece in my home. I love how it is so bright and attention grabbing, and it brings a lot of life to my home as it is a centerpiece in my living room. Additionally, my wife and I display several photographs from our wedding and our travels, and those have a lot of sentimental value to me. I’m attaching a one example I really like of a photo of a piece of the Berlin wall printed on canvas.
How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
I like to know about artists’ backgrounds and inspirations, but I haven’t met most of the artists who created the works in my home. This is mostly due to me buying many of my pieces online—I would definitely like to meet more of the artists.
What do you enjoy the most: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?
I’m definitely most drawn by the joy of owning art pieces (vs. thrill of the ‘hunt’). They become a part of my home and bring my family happiness on a daily basis.
I indulge in the ‘hunt’ aspect of collecting more in my beer collecting…Many of favorite breweries release very limited beers on a daily or weekly basis, so there is more a need to search, track, and rapidly buy.
Do you collect anything else besides art?
Yes, I also have a large collection of beer—mostly barrel aged stouts and sours that can be cellared for up to a decade. I’m a mediocre homebrewer and it makes me really appreciate the very creative and high quality stuff being produced by many U.S. craft brewers these days. I view that high-level brewing as an art too, and I like to try all of the new cutting-edge stuff to see how brewers are pushing the boundaries of many styles. Speaking of which, I’d be very happy if anyone has a hook-up for Forager Brewery in your neck of the woods…I have been chasing their beers ‘Nillerzzzzz’ and ‘Magnus’ for a while with no luck to date…
Describe your art collection in three words.
Bright. Abstract. Creative.