When the pandemic first became everybody’s shared reality, artists functioning in isolation immediately began worrying about how they would continue to make a living when galleries, art fairs and museums were no longer safe spaces. Amidst these challenges, coupled with the fact that widespread federal arts relief has yet to fully materialize, artist Guy Stanley Philoche made a decision: rather than buying the $15,000 Rolex watch he’d planned to give himself in celebration of his latest sold-out show at Cavalier Gallery, Philoche decided to buy work from struggling artists instead. For months now, Philoche has been buying as much art has he can in order to support his community.
“Art saved my life, and I owe it a debt that I can’t pay back,” Philoche told Observer on Tuesday. “It’s been over 70,000 dollars so far. People keep asking when I’m going to stop, and I’m not going to stop.” Philoche has eclectic taste, and shared that he’s picked up everything from black and white photography to work made by incarcerated folks with limited access to creative materials.
Most of the artwork he’s bought has accumulated in his apartment, but Philoche has also been depositing his purchases in a storage unit. With the help of some deep-pocketed sponsors, the artist is working on displaying the art he’s bought in the Philoche Collection, which will be open in some form to the public. “Nothing will be for sale, but if you go and look at the collection, our staff will be able to introduce you to the artist and maybe you can work something out.” Additionally, Philoche told Observer that museums have reached out to him about purchasing some of the art he’s found for their permanent collections.
“I know financially I’m helping, but I hope I’m helping [artists] with their confidence,” Philoche continued. “I want people to dream big, and I want these artists to understand they they’re needed and loved.”