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Collecting Stories: Sebastian Campos' Artistic Admiration

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By FRANCK MERCURIO

Sebastian Campos credits his father with sparking his interest in art as a boy.

“My parents came to this country in 1970. My father studied medicine, and my mother was with him—she’s now the administrative assistant for his clinic—and their big escape was going to auctions and galleries and collecting,” said Campos during a Chicago Artists Coalition Chartwell Collectors Circle event held at his home this past July.

According to Campos, who is also owner of The Mission (a virtual gallery that was previously located at 1431 W. Chicago Ave.), his parents began their collecting habits with traditional paintings, but eventually gravitated toward Latin American modernist works. These pieces, in particular, grabbed the young Campos’ attention, and his admiration continues as an adult. Contemporary Latin American art is a mainstay of his gallery, as well as his personal collection, which he has built with his wife and business partner, Jennifer Andrade.

In their Ukrainian Village home, Campos and Andrade showcase an eclectic blend of art, where traditional pieces speak to modern ones, and figurative works contrast with geometric abstractions. Again, Campos cites his father’s influence.

“My father was introduced to Joseph Albers, but didn’t know that much about him,” said Campos. “And then, he bought a Joseph Albers, and a Carlos Cruz-Diez, the Venezuelan artist—both had this big idea of color theory. So, that changed [my father’s] notion of collecting only figurative work or landscapes and helped his eye mature. I was lucky enough—being at a young age—to get involved with that.”

Campos eventually received his formal education at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but he did not set out to become an artist; he was interested to learn the processes of art making.

“I never went to SAIC knowing ‘I will become an artist,’” recalls Campos. “Rather, I wanted to be able to explain ‘Here is how they made this,’ whether a painting or a sculpture or mixed media. From there I went on to work at the gallery, and that’s how I started collecting.”

During the July open house, Campos gave visitors a tour of his collection—which has grown exponentially since his younger days. Although the genres that Campos and Andrade collect might appear to be different, one thing is clear: the collection itself is united by a number of themes and interests shared by the couple.

“The things that I look for [in an artwork]: a little bit of obsessiveness, process, and humor,” explained Campos. “And also things that I’ve taken from my father’s collecting habits, such as geometry.”

The following works are examples of the types that Campos and Andrade collect, explained in Campos’ own words.

 

Sebastian Campos: Kenji Nakama is a Japanese-Peruvian artist—this [area] is my Peruvian quarter here. What he does is he cuts paper to about a quarter inch and then binds it like a book, lays it out on a piece of glass and frames it so it comes out as this beautiful, optical piece. I would say, what draws me to his pieces is the clear obsessiveness, because the process takes so much time.

 

SC: And this Jose Carlos Martinat piece—he is interested in graffiti and logos. This is the logo of PetroPerú, the gas company in Peru. He found the logo on a wall and painted resin on top of it. Two days later he went out, cut it off the wall, then dipped it in fiberglass. You can still see the [texture of the] wall behind the logo.

 

SC: John Sparagana is a local artist. This work of Batman vs. The Joker is based on the comic. It’s made up of comic book images that John has enlarged before  he burnishes the page by hand in his pocket for two weeks—each page, the same page—when you see him, you’re like, ‘What are you doing with that paper all the time?’ And he’s like ‘You know, I’m just making some art.’ He then flattens the page out and cuts it into 8-inch strips and glues them down—he obscures the whole image. There’s something about that, too, the obscurity. You don’t know exactly what you’re looking at, but I enjoy it.

 

SC: Again, the obsessive process, you know? Jason Lazarus’ work, when I heard the story behind it, I loved the humor, whether or not he thought it was funny. Jason was doing a residency in Tampa, FL when he got this canary, I guess, as a little pet. He decided to release it in his room—thinking it was a great idea, in the beginning—and two hours later, he’s trying to put it back in its cage. Aesthetically it’s beautiful, but the story makes me laugh so much. I think it’s brilliant!

 

SC: I grew up with this paintingby Andre Derain—it’s really gorgeous, and it’s a later piece that’s not as favored as [Derain’s] Fauvist stuff. But I think it’s a great little painting. It came from my dad’s collection.

 

SC: This is another really great piece—Jac Leirner—she’s a Brazilian artist. She collected these cruzeiros, the Brazilian currency that was still being used at the time. It was pretty worthless, so she was able to collect thousands of notes—I mean thousands. She did a beautiful piece with these notes at the Walker Art Center [in Minneapolis] that actually went all the way down the stairs—that’s how valueless they were. This piece was one of the last available to buy. It’s an earlier work. The beautiful thing is that I met her, and we hit it off and had a really nice friendship.

 

SC: This is Mariana Sissia, an artist we show at The Mission. These toboggan slides go down into caverns. And the caverns she sees as security blankets—which seems like the opposite for most people, right? Her brother’s a land surveyor, so she goes out with him and photographs in the countryside outside of Buenos Aires. 

 

SC: We have a lot [of art] in our bathroom. The main reason, one of my father’s things was ‘You’re in the bathroom everyday of your life, so why not put your favorite things there?’ I’ve always loved this Zach Buckner painting. With contemporary art, it’s hard to have a favorite, but the [Buckner painting] is one. That painting solidified my friendship with [Chicago dealer] Andrew Rafacz, so it has a sentimental value too.

 

Additional images: 

 

Top image: The home Sebastian campos shares with his family is filled with an eclectic mix of art, from prints to artifacts. Pictured left: Jeroen Nelemans, (In hall), Johanna Bock (photograph), Cody Hoyt (ceramic on far table), Robert Burnier (sculpture on large table), Ceal Floyer (dot paintings)