A Bad Case of “Collectoritis”

A Bad Case of “Collectoritis”
A conversation on collecting among Emma Berg and Kristoffer Knutson, partners in mplsart.com, and Dan Schissel.


Founder and owner of Stand Up Records Dan Schlissel has strong opinions about collecting. He buys what he loves whether there is space for it or not. Kristoffer and I meet Dan at his office, located in the same warehouse as printmakers Burlesque of North America and design firm WeWorkForThem. We pull up seats around the classic “office desk”, Dan positioned prominently behind it. After some brief niceties, Dan jumps into where his habit for collecting began, in the “middle of nowhere”.

Dan: I was living in Lincoln, Nebraska, it’s not as bad as the town I grew up in but it’s the middle of nowhere. Nothing ever came through town, so if something came through like a cool show and there was a poster hanging in the record store, you would try to get your name on that. I managed a record store so when a cool Frank Kozik piece was hanging in the window for a Jesus Lizard show in Omaha, well, that poster went home with me when the show was over. That’s really where the collecting of art started. And then it developed, Juxtapoz [Magazine] started coming out in 1996 and in every issue there was one artist that jumped out at me, significantly. And what I would do is…back then they would list how to contact the artists so I would e-mail one artist from the magazine. And I started corresponding with Shepard Fairey and Isabel Samaras that way. Turns out that over time Frank Kozik did a show in Kansas City, I went down there to meet him and we became friends through that. Then he wound up doing a poster for me in ’96. The first original I got was the sketch he did for that poster. For a long time that was the only original I had.

mplsart: When did that change? When did you start collecting more original artwork?

Dan: My wife Suzanne and I went to San Francisco on our honeymoon and met Isabel Samaras for the first time. And, you know, we just built up a relationship with her and the first pieces I bought from her were when George Bush gave that first tax rebate. I don’t remember, was that 2000? 2001? When he gave that first tax rebate we took every dime we had from the rebate and put it towards buying pieces from Isabel. ‘Cause we were like, “Ha ha! We’re supporting the arts with government money. “…well, with my own tax money but… We bought three pieces from her, two scratchboards and a watercolor on paper. The watercolor piece that we bought was called Wonder Woman Licks Communism; it was an important piece to me because it was the only color piece of hers that I could afford. Those first pieces were the basis of what’s become incredibly compulsive and sick in my mind. You know, I just have to do it every once in awhile. It just became like…I’ve had enough with the prints. I have a lot of prints. If I hung them all on the wall I wouldn’t have any room to look at anything else. So now it’s time to proceed to, look, where do the ideas of these prints come from? What’s the actual wellspring? The wellspring’s usually what people put on canvas.

mplsart: Do you still have all those original prints?

Dan: I still have them. They’re in my house hoarded right now in tubes.

mplsart: So what do you think it is that allowed you to take that step, to say “Okay, I’ve had enough with the prints. I want more original work”?

Dan: It expanded through the poster stuff first and then I realized, “Wait. These guys make original pieces and in order to get to what the artist is really getting at, you have to get original pieces from them.” And with OX-OP opening in Minneapolis and offering prices that weren’t East Coast/West Coast prices…it put the art and my limited resources on the same level. So I could actually afford to buy a $400 [or] $600 painting. And not feel like I was too stressed out about it. Now, when it came to buying bigger pieces…those were always like, sitting there with my head in my hands and a heavy heart and just like, “How am I gonna do this? Can I even afford to eat if I buy this piece?”

mplsart: It’s clear that even back with posters you never bought work because you looked at it as an investment. You bought it because you wanted it.

Dan: Yeah, yeah, and the sad part about buying it because I wanted it is I didn’t have enough wherewithal to go “Hey, wait. I don’t have enough wall space to hang all this stuff.” I just kept buying because; it was like, “Oh, this is the greatest piece ever.” And then I’d put it aside in the stack of other stuff and then another piece would cross my mind, “I’ve gotta have this piece!” I have collectoritis, I sort of go overboard.

mplsart: Are you still purchasing pieces?

Dan: I have bought a couple pieces recently, but I’ve slowed down since OX-OP has closed.

mplsart: Who are you buying?

Dan: The last thing I bought was a piece by Vicki Berndt in LA. She does a lot of big-eyed Keane sort of girls, but like punk rock icons. She also does these liturgical Catholic portraits of pop culture folks like Salvador Dali and Lucille Ball and things of that variety. I bought a piece; it’s called Little St. Richard, that’s the newest piece that I have. The second newest piece I have is the Dave Wong piece, the Monkey General.

mplsart: Who do you have locally?

Dan: Locally I have John Grider. When I commission a piece of art [for Stand Up Records album covers] I generally try to buy the original. I have prints by Aesthetic Apparatus and test prints by them. I have prints and a test print or two from the folks at Burlesque. I have two original Dale Flattum [Brother Tooth] pieces. He does a lot of cut paper pieces. Pretty much, if you’re a poster artist in town I own some of your posters. Yeah, you know if you’re on the radar at all, I have some of your stuff.

mplsart: Its evident there’s been a Juxtapoz/Lowbrow theme to your collecting; does it diverge from that at all?

Dan: Only slightly. I have a huge tapestry of a Toulouse-Lautrec poster that my dad gave me years ago. When he saw me collecting the posters…he knew I was into this Kozik stuff pretty rabidly, he said, “Why don’t we go to Omaha, there’s this Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit that you would really like because it’s the same sort of stuff that you collect but a hundred years earlier.” So we went to this show and it was a very moving show for me. It was just like my dad saying, “I understand where you come from and I approve of what you do”. He gave me this enormous jacquard woven tapestry of the Moulin Rouge poster. It was just this wonderful, wonderful gift. It was the last thing I did with my dad when he was healthy. So this piece, it’s something that is very important to me. My mom framed it for us as a house-warming present when we finally got a house. So that’s the one piece that doesn’t really fit with the others.

mplsart: What are some of the other pieces that are up?

Dan: One is the Herman Munster oil painting, I was so proud of myself when I bought it…that one’s up all the time. The Baseman piece, Red Skeleton, is also up ’cause that’s like one of Suzanne’s favorites. The Cubed Crusader by Dave Burke is also up at the moment, beyond that a lot of things right now are in a stack leaning against the furniture

mplsart: So as far as the collection itself, it’s really about your enjoyment.

Dan: Yeah, I just like to have what I have. It’s for me. I flip through it every couple of days just to look at it, and remind myself what pieces are there. Art’s one of the only things that really matters. And I think that you’ve gotta make every effort to incorporate even a little bit of art into your life.

mplsart: Agreed, cheers to that.

This interview is part of the ongoing series “Art on the Wall” conducted by mplsart and initially published on mnartists.org September 20th, 2007. Information on the images shown and more images from Dan’s collection can be found at mnartists.org.

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