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The Thrill of The Chase: Art Collecting Tips from Ajax Gianopoulos


The Russian Ark  You have built a prominent collection of turn of the 20th century Indiana/Cincinnati artists. How did you come up with the theme and what is your deepest motivation for collecting?

Ajax Gianopoulos  My collection, the art I spend my money on, is mostly by artists who were born, grew up, studied, worked, and/or lived in Cincinnati and Indiana (more specifically, Brown County, Indiana). I fell in love with Monet at an early age, but I’m not French and I've never been to Paris or his gardens. I fell in love with art at 14 when I saw Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, but unless I marry a very wealthy woman, I’ll never be able to afford an original Michelangelo.

I've driven the back roads and experienced summer sunsets that only Indiana can provide. The emotions I get from that atmosphere is the same set of emotions I get when I look at a really good landscape painting by a Brown County artist. When I look at their combination of colours and brushstrokes, I can feel Indiana. That’s a powerful thing and not every artist can authentically create that emotional interaction.

Those personal connections go deeper than any connection I’ve had with a Monet painting or a Manet, and I’ve had some once a lifetime experiences with those.


First encounter with Monet in person at Cincinnati Art Museum, 2010, Rocks at Belle-Ile, Port Domois. Photo © Ajax Gianopoulos

"I fell in love with Monet at an early age, but I’m not French and I've never been to Paris or his gardens."


AJ  I spent two years in Cincinnati for grad school and encountered the work of Frank Duveneck and Lewis Henry Meakin and their circle of artist friends. I wrote my thesis on how these two artists went to Europe to study, they came back to Cincinnati to teach and display their work, and then they started advising wealthy collectors in the city that eventually donated their masterpieces to the Cincinnati Art Museum (similar to how Mary Cassatt was advising wealthy American collectors).

I learned all there was about Duveneck and Meakin, but out of the two, I was always drawn to Meakin’s landscapes. His ability to create an illusion of depth with a combination of vertical and horizontal brushstrokes and subtle changes in colour are absolutely brilliant.

In regards to Cincinnati artists as a whole, it’s their stories that I’m attracted to. They left their city to study in Europe under the best artists, and rather than chasing fame and fortune in Europe or New York and Boston, they came back to Cincinnati to teach at the art academy, participate in various art organizations in the city and region, and through many other ways, made a huge impact on the artistic identity of Cincinnati. That’s dope to me. When it comes to collecting, Meakin’s work is my main priority. However, his really good pieces go for $8,000+, and that’s completely out of my budget, so I have to be patient and wait for the right oil or watercolour to come along.

Lewis Henry Meakin, Sunset, Watercolor.j
Lewis Henry Meakin (Cincinnati), The Dan
Meakin Watercolour