COLLECTOR PROFILE: Hugh Davis and Betz Bernhard

Hugh Davis and Betz Bernhard in their living room surrounded by their art collection.

“Hugh and I have very heated discussions about the art that we collect because we often disagree about it.

What we often do is take turns. He gets to choose a piece and then the next piece is my decision, occasionally we’ll come up with a piece that we both like.”

– Betz Bernhard

We chatted with collector and artist Betz Bernhard and her husband Hugh Davis about their intuitive approach to collecting art, and their comically differing opinions about the pieces they collect. Their two dogs greeted us with cheerful energy at their beautiful home in Kirkland, and we got a taste of their curated contemporary art style. 

Q & A

Q: Where did you grow up?

A:  Betz: I grew up on Long Island, about an hour outside New York City. My parents lived in a house that my father built looking over the Long Island Sound. They traveled a lot and collected art for as long as I can remember so I grew up with a lot of cool stuff around the around.

Q: How does your own art practice influence what you collect?

A: Betz: I think it’s intuitive. Just as making my art is intuitive so is collecting. When I see a piece I know immediately whether or not I feel something about it. It’s extremely intuitive. So in that sense making art and collecting are very related.

Q: Tell us about a significant piece in your collection.

A: Betz: When I first came to Seattle one of my first friend’s was the artist Joe Max Emminger and he would come over and talk about art. In fact, Jo was just beginning to paint and I remember going to his house and looking at some of his early paintings and I remember looking at one painting in particular that now hangs in our hallway and thinking “Wow, Jo has made a very big leap in his work and it’s beautiful”.

Q: What philosophy would you pass on to a new collector?

A: Betz: Just go with your gut. Buy art that makes your soul sing.

Q: What is on your wishlist to collect next?

A: Betz: Actually we recently bought a piece by Terry Terrell which had been on both Hugh and I’s Wishlist for quite a while. So right now I don’t have any one thing in mind, but I know I’ll see a show, and something will just hit me.

Q: How did you and Hugh first meet?

A: Betz: It’s a funny story because Hugh and I first met in the personals. After I got divorced I had a hard time meeting people, so I put a personal in the Seattle weekly and I ran it for about year.

Hugh: Her personal said she was an artist and that was something I was specifically looking for. I wanted a relationship in which discussing art and aesthetic issues was not forbidden. We don’t argue very much, but we do argue about art. And it’s important that those issues matter to both of us, even if we disagree.

Betz: We argue really heatedly about art.

Hugh: There have been artists that I was interested in and sometimes for years in advance of actually buying a piece, I would be trying to decide between a couple of pieces that were available and having Betz’s different perspective always enabled me to make the best choice.

‘Ignorance Is Strength’ (center) one of three in the series entitled ‘Orwellian Steel’ installed at ZINC contemporary

“‘Ignorance Is Strength’ combines truth and beauty in a perfect meme for the current administration. When I saw it – the piece touched me so deeply – I wanted this piece and I wanted to support Holly Ballard Martz and her message by collecting it.”

– Betz Bernhard

‘Ignorance Is Strength’ installed in the Davis  / Bernhard home.

Betz’s collector philosophy:

“Just go with your gut. Buy art that makes your soul sing.”

COLLECTOR’S SELECT

LydiaBassis_Permission Slip_30x22__acrylic on paper

PERMISSION SLIP

Lydia Bassis

30 X 22″ acrylic and on paper, framed

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LAND OF THE FRED (SHAKE DOWN)

Holly Ballard Martz

22 X 32″ portion of U.S. flag with color chemically removed, plastic price tags, vinyl, thread, grommets 

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LIVING PICTURE

Sofia Arnold

12 x 9″ gouache on paper

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