"Midway through 2020, Pete Scantland started sharing photos of the art in his Columbus, Ohio, home. “I got over my Midwestern modesty and started posting my art on Instagram,” Scantland told Artsy. This might not seem like much, especially if you don’t know Scantland, but take a scroll through the images and you’ll see that he’s regularly offering glimpses into his very, very impressive art collection. With pieces by some of the most exciting artists of the past several years, such as Amoako Boafo, Noah Davis, Dominique Fung, Jenna Gribbon, GaHee Park, and others, it’s clear that he’s doing something right. “My goal is to build one of the best collections of artists of this generation,” Scantland said. And he’s well on his way to doing that.
The founder and CEO of the advertising company Orange Barrel Media, Scantland has always been passionate about art—he was even an art major in college. But his turn to collecting only really happened a few years ago, when he had the time and resources to devote to the task. Now, collecting art and supporting artists is at the heart of his day-to-day life, whether that means physically going to galleries and museums; serving on the boards of the Columbus Museum of Art and the Wexner Center of the Arts; keeping up with gallery contacts; loaning out works to institutional shows; learning about new artists online; or collaborating with artists on new projects for his company.
Scantland takes seriously the privilege of collecting such sought-after work. “In a world where there are many more collectors interested in particular artists than works that those artists are making, what am I doing to stand out and support the work?” he noted. “I try to get involved, to give back, and to build the kind of collection that artists want to be in.”
We recently caught up with Scantland at his Columbus home to learn about his path into collecting, the importance of building relationships with galleries, the artists at the top of his wish list, and his advice for new collectors.
Artsy: When did you start collecting?
Pete Scantland: I bought my first work when I was in college, from an artist friend at school. Over the subsequent 15 years, I continued to buy art that I fell in love with, but in the last three or four years I started to approach it in a much more dedicated way. Growing up in Columbus, I went to museums all the time at home and when we traveled. I made art, I studied art, and it’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember.
Artsy: Were you studying art in college
P.S.: Yeah, I was an art major with a focus on photography at Elon University. Early on, I realized I probably didn’t want to be an artist. I loved making art but I always also was really interested in entrepreneurship. And I actually started a business in advertising that relies very heavily on that art training. I learned a lot that I apply every day, and now our company’s very focused on working with artists and promoting art. I think having that art education is super valuable even for people who don’t want to become artists. Maybe the world would be better off if there were a lot more art majors.
Artsy: And your company, Orange Barrel Media, has been doing a lot of work with artists recently.
P.S.: Yes, we do a lot. Recently, we did a project called “Walls for a Cause” in New York, in partnership with Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels of We Buy Gold, which featured artists like Marcus Jahmal, María Berrío, Ilana Savdie, Chioma Ebinama, and Naudline Pierre, among others; there were 10 artists total. The idea was to enliven people’s experiences as the world starts to reopen. We also did a 30-city “get-out-the-vote” effort just before the 2020 presidential election with Jenny Holzer, Jeffrey Gibson, Carrie Mae Weems, and Tomashi Jackson
We just launched the first new digital billboard on the Sunset Strip in L.A. in 20 years. We believe it will redefine what a sign can be from a formal, content, and business-model standpoint. It received an American Institute of Architects award. We launched with The Propeller Group and have an amazing series of commissions and collaborating artists after, including Nick Cave, Catherine Opie, Pipilotti Rist, and a number of others. The sign reaches more than 500,000 people a day. So in less than a week, that’s greater than the audience that LACMA receives in a year. Of course, the context is very different from what you’d find in a museum, and I’m obviously a huge champion of museums, but it’s a different way to engage with a broader, more diverse audience, and I think artists have been realizing how important that is, even before COVID-19.
Artsy: Back to your collection, you said three or four years ago you started collecting in a more dedicated way. Was there something that prompted that?
P.S.: I was getting to a point in my life where I felt like I had the time and resources to do it, and it had been something that I always wanted to do. Before COVID-19, I traveled pretty much every week and went to museums, galleries, and got really engaged with the art world. Art was always one of the real ways that I discovered a city. So, I felt like the next natural extension for me was to begin collecting. I was able to jump in in a way that was pretty deliberate, because I already knew what I was interested in.
Artsy: Some of the collectors we’ve spoken to say that their collections often ramp up when they move into a new home—did that happen for you?
P.S.: It did. I moved to a new house two and a half years ago or so, and I’m fortunate to have a lot more walls. But when I collect, I don’t really think about where the piece will go. I’m really much more focused on picking the work that I think is the best, frankly. I tend to be drawn to works that are sometimes difficult to show, but I’m fortunate that I have some pretty big walls and I have an office building with even bigger ones. I make an effort to try to have as much of my art out in the world, not in storage, as possible.
Artsy: Are there other collectors or art patrons who have inspired you in collecting?
P.S.: In Columbus, Ron Pizzuti is a mentor of mine and just an unbelievable collector. He’s been at it for probably 30 or 40 years. I think what’s remarkable about his collection is that he’s focused on some artists for their whole career, but if you look at what he is collecting now, he’s continued to find new artists and to evolve the collection over time. And I think what Pamela Joyner is doing is extraordinary, really world class
Around six or seven months ago, I got over my Midwestern modesty and started posting my art on Instagram. And that’s opened up a lot of relationships with other collectors around the world who I’ve gotten to know, and that’s been fascinating.
Artsy: Is your family involved with collecting as well?
P.S.: Growing up, my parents took us to museums, encouraged us to learn about art, and supported my interest in art in a way that a lot of parents might not have. I think that made a huge difference.I have an identical twin brother, and recently he’s gotten quite involved in collecting with me. My wife Michelle and I have very similar interests, and while I spend more time day-to-day on art than she does, we both love visiting museums, galleries, and fairs together. The kids like to learn about the artists and works, particularly our daughter who is nine. She and I will spend hours at the museum, where she loves to make drawings inspired by her favorite works. Our son, who is five, is taking an interest as well. They’re at an age where they’re much more interested in making art than looking at it for long periods, but are starting to pay a lot more attention.
Artsy: You have some stunning works in your kids’ bedrooms and the playroom—including works by Hulda Guzmán, Chase Hall, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, and Gerald Lovell. Were you nervous about hanging art in those spaces?
P.S.: We want to live with the work that we love, but also to have a home that is welcoming and fun for our kids and guests of all ages. Fortunately, we’ve never had an issue, and have found that even very young children are respectful and careful once they understand they should look but not touch. Our five-year-old boy knows he can bounce off the walls as long as there’s nothing hanging on them.
Artsy: Is there a piece or two that you consider the beginning of your current collection?
P.S.: I’m not sure that I necessarily have a real beginning, but some early works that I think are the start of my more mature collecting include a
Derrick Adams “Floater” painting; a Hank Willis Thomas fabric work from the decommissioned prison uniform series; and Bisa Butler’s fabric works, which are actually on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago right now in her solo show there.
I rotate the works constantly. The current hanging in my house tends to be sort of what’s new—the works I can’t wait to get up—but also there are some works that I consider to be really core to the collection and that I rarely rotate, sometimes for practical reasons and sometimes because it’s hard to imagine living without them. There are a number of works by my favorite artists that I generally want to live with, but I may rotate the works. For example, Dominique Fung, Jenna Gribbon, Louis Fratino, Maia Cruz Palileo, Genevieve Gaignard, Coady Brown, Jerrell Gibbs, Arjan Martins, Vaughn Spann, María Fragoso. It’s hard to imagine replacing the Firelei Báez, Ebony G. Patterson, Noah Davis, and Derek Fordjour. We also hang works in our office building [and] my brother’s house, and I loan work to other family and friends as well. At a given moment, we typically have a number of works on loan to museum shows, which is always a joy.
Artsy: When you say you rotate the works constantly, are you thinking about it like curating?
P.S.: I think quite a lot about the relationship between different works. I think about adjacencies between works and the mechanical considerations like size, but I’m also thinking about the relationship between the content of a work and another work that might be nearby or the overall feel in the house or the office, generally. One of the things that we do at our company is we hang our whole building and my colleagues pick work that goes in their offices—it’s always really interesting to work with them on that.
Artsy: How do you typically discover new works? How do you go from seeing a work to buying it?
P.S.: I make lots of lists, and I have artists that I know I’d like to try to collect works by, but I’m also pretty open to spontaneous things that happen. I discover new artists all the time from talking to other artists—who I think are honestly the best source—as well as gallerists, curators, other collectors, and of course, using Artsy, Instagram, other social media, and art fairs.
I have priorities, but I don’t approach it in a really rigid kind of way; I’m always open to discovering someone new and collecting their work. I found that if you’re open to those kinds of opportunities, you can end up getting a hold of some works that you might not be able to collect later.
In terms of collecting though, what I’ve found is that it’s a lot of discussion, and ultimately, while I think technology and the internet help facilitate that, at the end of the day, it is a very relationship-oriented industry. I spend a lot of time going to galleries, talking to gallerists, and working quite hard to get access to the work that I want to collect.
Artsy: You mentioned before that you traveled often pre-COVID-19, but what is it like forming and maintaining those relationships when you’re not based in New York or L.A.?
P.S.: Our company has business in both cities, so I’m there quite often, and I always make time for art. Another thing I also realized early on is that galleries love it when you come to their gallery; I think sometimes even the people living in those cities don’t take time to go and see shows. A lot of my relationships have started when I’ve literally walked into the gallery and introduced myself and had a director walk me around the show. I’ve learned from that, I’ve discovered new things, I’ve built relationships that way. And so I always make it a point to try to find time to go and see shows, which is I think the most rewarding thing about all of it—going and seeing the art.
Artsy: How do you typically describe your collection? Are there certain themes that tie the works together?
P.S.: Yes, my goal is to build one of the best collections of artists of this generation, which means that I am mostly focusing on emerging and mid-career artists, and really with a very global lens. We’re at this really unique time where I think the world has realized that we need to reflect a view that’s much broader than a Western, European, American view, and that’s fascinating not only in terms of the breadth of the issues that artists are dealing with, but also what I believe will be, in retrospect, a historically important time in the story of art. And so my collection tends to be focused on artists who are dealing with identity, social justice, the most important issues that people are thinking about right now, in this really unique time.
Aesthetically, I don’t have really strict parameters. I have to love the work, but I don’t limit myself between mediums or have rigorous formal considerations, like focusing on figuration versus abstraction. I think, interestingly, most artists don’t think about it in this really didactic way anymore either. And so aesthetically the work could be quite different, but I think the narrative thread through all of it is that it’s artists who are focused on the core issues of being human in this world.
Artsy: Can you share a bit about your interest in ceramics?
P.S.: I absolutely love ceramics, particularly the work of Magdalena Suarez Frimkess, Sharif Farrag, Jennifer Rochlin, Melvino Garretti, Eric Croes, Heidi Lau, Woody De Othello, and many others. I first got interested as a student, taking classes in high school and college, which contributed to my appreciation now as a collector of these truly amazing artists. Ceramics are easy to care for, don’t compete for wall space, and are relatively accessible. In a way, they’re more personal than paintings.
Artsy: You have some really highly sought-after artists in your collection, like Amoako Boafo, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Claire Tabouret, Julie Curtiss, and many others. You’ve mentioned before that often by the time everyone’s talking about an artist and they’re super popular, it’s kind of impossible to still collect them. How do you navigate that?
P.S.: Well that’s not always the case, but if I see a work and I love it, I’ll take a chance. And I think that’s led to some really great pieces in the collection that would be much, much more difficult to collect later. There are, of course, lots of things that I’ve missed, some of which I just have to sort of resign myself to the fact that I’ve missed them. And some of them I realized that I have to work harder to get access to them. I realized that collecting is a two-way street, and I think about how I can be a more valuable collector. In a world where there are many more collectors interested in particular artists than works that those artists are making, what am I doing to stand out and support the work? I try to get involved, to give back, and to build the kind of collection that artists want to be in.
Artsy: Can you talk us through some works that are especially meaningful?
I have a large GaHee Park work, Shadow Kiss (2019–20), that was from Perrotin, from her solo show that she did last year in their Lower East Side gallery in New York. I’ve been collecting her work for some time and first I discovered her through Taymour Grahne, who had a solo show of her work in London two or three years ago
Above my staircase there’s an Ebony G. Patterson tapestry from Monique Meloche from 2018. The work references night gardens in her native Jamaica, and addresses visibility and invisibility, embellishment, youth, and “bling” culture. The Pérez Art Museum did an amazing solo presentation at the same time as Monique’s gallery show. There’s a work by Noah Davis that I had been working to acquire that is a real treasure and is a really core part of the collection. Also, works by Dominique Fung, who is another artist I’m just absolutely blown away by. And Vaughn Spann is another one. I have a dalmatian painting, one at the office and one at my house, and every day I walk by, I see something different in his work. One of the pleasures and joys about living with art is that you continue to see more in it the more you look.
Artsy: What about the works in your gym—how did you decide to put such amazing works in there?
P.S.: To make sure I have the motivation to visit every morning! The current installation sets a fierce tone, with Ellen Berkenblit’s massive lion, a Berkenblit screamer, and a Cassi Namoda painting that pays homage to Malangatana Ngwenya. Plus, a very trippy painting by Haley Josephs.
Artsy: And at the moment, you have a Robert Nava painting in a pretty prominent place in your living room. What drew you to his work?
P.S.: I discovered Nava through one of my favorite galleries, Night, in Los Angeles. I love how intuitive and immediate the work is. His choice of subject matter and compositions are inventive, totally original, and deceptively sophisticated. The work is magical and inspires a remark from almost anyone who visits.
Artsy: So you’re primarily collecting through galleries?
P.S.: Yeah, almost entirely through primary-market galleries. I’ve bought a few things at auction, but that’s not a typical route for me. Occasionally, I’ll see an artist who might still be in school and is not represented, and I’ve bought a few works directly from artists, but mostly I’m working with galleries.
Artsy: Was that hard at first to figure out how to develop relationships with galleries?
P.S.: Yeah, of course. One of the things I focused on, as I said before, is really working on relationships. I found that, when galleries understand your collection, your goals, who you are, it really changes the conversation and makes it much more rewarding on both sides. I also realized that sending an email to someone at a gallery I don’t know and asking about their hottest artist is not a great way to start the relationship. So I’ll generally work to build a personal relationship, and see what happens from that.
Artsy: You mentioned before that you’re speaking with galleries often. What are your experiences with collecting online?
P.S.: There’s been an interesting discussion during COVID-19 about buying online. I sort of am; I’m seeing things on my screen, but it’s really more of a multi-channel experience that is facilitated digitally. I would say it’s very rare that you’re not also having a conversation offline.
One of the challenges for collectors I think is around transparency in pricing. I love that we’re moving towards more of that, and I think that will open up the art world to a lot more collectors. For example, I have lots of colleagues who are interested in collecting, but it can be intimidating to start. I think the practical reality of collecting is that you have to have the resources to collect a certain artist, so the price does matter, and knowing where that is and being able to focus on artists that are within your capacity is important. Taking price off the table from the beginning allows the conversation to be about the work and not the value.But then for the galleries, I think the challenge is that they have an obligation to the artist to understand what’s the home that the artist is entering and does that collector have good intentions or not. There needs to be some way that the galleries can get to know the collector beforehand. And I think that could happen online in the future.I’ve noticed now that I’m posting more of my art on Instagram, galleries that I didn’t have a relationship with before are seeing it, so when I start talking to them I can avoid some of the usual conversation that happens around what I’m collecting.
Artsy: Are you using Artsy?
P.S.: I’ve found that for galleries that I don’t have a relationship with, Artsy is a good entry point because they see my Artsy profile, the artists I’m following, the section that allows you to describe your collection and your involvement with museums, etc. That is much better than just a cold email saying “Hi, I’m Pete….” I also use Artsy to see shows before I’ve seen them physically. I try to keep up with what’s happening with different galleries, but I’ve found that it’s impossible to always know, and so I’ll find out that there are artists I’m interested in and might not be having a show at the moment, but I see them on Artsy and that spurs me to get in touch.
Artsy: Have you bought works without seeing them in person?
P.S.: I have done it. And I’ve done it for artists where I’ve seen their work in person before and some where I haven’t. I will occasionally do it if I feel like I don’t have the option to see the work physically. I think honestly, being able to do things electronically now is sort of essential, at least in the area I’m collecting in. If you insist on seeing everything in person before you make a decision, you’re going to be too late. But that’s partly why I make a point to go and see gallery shows, so that when the time does come and chances are I’m not able to see the work, I already know it.
Artsy: Who are some of the artists you’re excited about now who you have in your collection?
P.S.: Some of my new acquisitions are from artists with recent shows, like Ilana Savdie from Deli Gallery, Maia Cruz Palileo from Monique Meloche, Gerald Lovell and Aaron Gilbert from P.P.O.W, Asuka Anastacia Ogawa from Blum & Poe, Jammie Holmes from Library Street Collective, Danielle McKinney from Night Gallery, Cara Nahaul from Taymour Grahne, Kate Pincus-Whitney from Fredericks & Freiser, Melvino Garretti from Parker Gallery, Lily Wong from Kapp Kapp, Jadé Fadojutimi from Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, and María Fragoso from 1969 Gallery.
Artsy: Wow, that’s exciting. Who are some of the artists on your list who are not yet in your collection?
P.S.: Robin F. Williams, Mikey Yates, Salman Toor, Hilary Pecis, Che Lovelace, Janiva Ellis. That’s kind of my shortlist.
Artsy: Was there a particular moment or a piece that you bought that made you feel like a collector?
P.S.: I’m not sure if there was a particular piece, but there was a point when I started thinking about how a work will relate to others within the collection. I stopped thinking about individual works in isolation and rather about how the sum of the works form a more comprehensive story.
Artsy: Did you start getting involved with museums around the same time as collecting?
P.S.: I joined the Columbus Museum of Art board when I was 28. I was very passionate about art, but that was 2008 and I wasn’t collecting in the way I am now by any stretch. Similarly, I’ve been involved with the Wexner Center since long before I was collecting. I joined the board about a year ago. I think I’m the first member who’s served on both boards simultaneously. And frankly, I’ve learned how to be a better board member. I’ve been on the Columbus Museum board for 11 or 12 years now, and just like anything else, when you’re able to dedicate more time and develop more experience, you can give a lot more
I think that the role of museums is continuing to evolve towards one that is much more focused on the needs of the community, or should be anyway. And that’s certainly what we’re doing at the Columbus Museum and the Wexner Center. We’re focusing on not just what we’re doing, but much more deeply about who we are doing it for. As always, a museum’s job is to help to interpret history and art of our time, but what else are we doing to make it relevant to a broader segment of our community, to bring context to it, to teach creativity and other skills that benefit our society. And that’s, I think in the broadest possible terms, what museums should be doing today.
Artsy: In your opinion, what goes into being a collector beyond buying the work? What does it mean to you to be a collector?
P.S.: It’s pretty obvious what the artist’s part is, but what are the duties and obligations of the collector? That’s something that I think should be talked about more. And I think there are lots of ways to collect, but for me, I’m really passionate about sharing the work more broadly, in the hope that art can have as transformative an impact on others as it has on me. We’re going to announce something soon around how we’re supporting the Columbus Museum of Art, and I hope that it will advance this goal.
Artsy: What kind of advice would you give to a new collector?
P.S.: I think the number one thing is to first go and see a lot of art. See it at museums, see it at galleries, learn about it. One of the things that has been really helpful to me is having my education, understanding art history; by understanding the history of art, you can understand the context for art today in a much more complete way. In terms of the practical “how do you start”—go to the galleries, talk to folks, demonstrate that you’re interested in learning. These are people who are dedicating their lives to sharing their passion for art and when they find other people that are interested in the same thing, it can be a pretty welcoming community."