If you ask Scott Hunter about a piece of art in his Dearborn Park home, it’s likely he’ll pull out a piece of paper with a complete list of titles and artist’s names. With 250 works in his collection—two-thirds of them hanging on the walls of his town house—it’s hard to keep track of their provenance.
The University of Chicago pediatric neuropsychologist moved out of his South Loop loft into his current home (Dearborn Park is a complex of townhouses in the South Loop) five years ago when he ran out of wall space. “I got really quickly convinced it wasn’t intimidating to go to galleries,” says Hunter, who started collecting 12 years ago when he was particularly enamored with outsider art. One of the first pieces Hunter acquired (for $10, which went directly to the artist) was this painting made by a colleague’s patient in her art-therapy practice.
His musical family (his mom taught piano lessons and his grandmother was a concert pianist) and frequent trips to the Smithsonian from his home in Arlington, Virginia, fostered an appreciation of art since childhood, but it was his friends at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and cues from an active collector friend in New York that provided the true inroads to collecting art as an adult. Hunter learned to meet with the artists (as well as gallerists) to talk about their background and practice to find a deeper connection with the work. “I recognized that if I liked something, making that investment felt like an important step in terms of both supporting artists and [their] practice and also engaging with my own passion.”
From the staircase wall to the fireplace mantel to the kitchen, the pieces, most of which feature highly detailed abstract imagery, are fairly small in size. The clearest through line, however, is the fact that for the most part, Hunter’s collection celebrates Chicago artists such as Laura Letinsky, Richard Hull and Theaster Gates who trained or established themselves in the city. “I felt it was important to make a commitment to Chicago, seeing the tension that exists about being able to stay here and feeling supported or feeling pulled to one of the coasts,” he says.
Now, with most of his wall space occupied, it’s a constant process of rearranging and even leaning pieces against the wall from the floor, just to keep them around. While Hunter is working on rotating works in his collection, he concedes some will probably have to be sold to pay for new additions.
Three tips for new collectors:
• Get works on paper framed—Hunter likes MCM Fine Framing (2019 N Damen Ave, 773-252-7525) and Seaberg Picture Framing (831 N Lessing St, 312-666-3880)
• Don’t be afraid to buy well-made prints
• Attend benefits for art organizations such as threewalls (three-walls.org) as well as student shows to find work from young artists on the cheap.