Art Collector Questionnaire Sponsored

Jordan Huelskamp Is Changing What It Means to Own Artwork With Salon, a Community-Backed Collection

Portrait of Jordan Huelskamp in her New York home with Jean-Baptiste Bernadet's Untitled, 2022; and Hanna Hur's Nine, 2022, courtesy of Salon. All photography by Soni Broman and courtesy of Huelskamp.

Occasionally, Jordan Huelskamp walks into a friend’s home and sees artwork she owns hanging on their wall. Rather than prompting a call to authorities for theft, it’s a welcome sight, a sign that things are proceeding according to plan. A portion of Huelskamp’s collection is co-owned by members of a global, Internet-based community called Salon. 

Huelskamp founded the group in 2022 and they’ve since acquired pieces by artists including Alicja Kwade, Mika Tajima, and Oscar Murillo. In her own New York home, Huelskamp is surrounded by works from Donald Judd, Kennedy Yanko, and Petra Cortright, to name a few.

Petra Cortright, real sex:21 “secret boxes” THE CURE FICTION OFFICE ENGLAND, 2018.

“Art and expression were an essential part of my upbringing in Central California,” says Huelskamp, who was raised surrounded by her parents’ collection of folk and historical work, courtesy of local artists. To this day, the collector maintains a preference for the primary market. “[New York] is the only place in the world with such a high concentration of working artists, galleries, institutions, collectors, and nonprofit arts organizations, each acting as a spoke on a cultural flywheel that keeps itself spinning,” she explains. 

Decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, like Salon are a rising trend in the art world, a new avenue for participating in the multi-billion-dollar market. The integration of new networks and technology is a harbinger of greater democratization, according to Huelskamp’s predictions. She’s noted greater capacity for discovery and transparency as the market makes its way online, something she’s seen firsthand during her tenure at Artsy, where she currently serves as the marketplace’s curatorial lead. 

“I’m a patient collector and am here to play long, fair ball,” says Huelskamp, who inaugurated her personal trove in 2018 with a piece by photographer Tyler Mitchell. Below, she shares her thoughts on the networked art world, the role of A.I. in collecting, and which artists she’s keeping an eye on.

On wall: Kikuo Saito, Broom Eater, 1994. On table: Rachelle Dang, Untitled (Breadfruit), 2023.

Why do you think democratization is needed in the art world?

Democratization, accessibility, transparency—these words have become rather loaded in our industry, as people clash over their definitions and what they’d necessitate. To me, it doesn’t have to be that complicated, nor does democratization require a dramatic upheaval to overthrow the art world powers that be. 

I believe democratization is inevitable as we march toward a world teeming with freely-accessible artwork and artist data (auction and provenance history, AI-assisted valuations, total artist output sizing for various mediums and series, current ownership status, social graphs that track an artist’s rise), and more peer-to-peer transactions facilitated by technology that connects parties directly. I believe a more open and participatory art world is better for everyone, and by my indications—we’re already hurtling in that direction.

What is the first piece you ever bought?

A 2016 photograph by Tyler Mitchell called Untitled (Twins), which I acquired in 2018 and hangs above my desk to this day. The work features two brothers dressed in delicate layers of lace, organza, and pearls, reclining languidly against a backdrop of pastel textiles. The dominant colors—baby pink, blue, and ivory—have the effect of foregrounding and then challenging traditional conceptions of gender. A photograph from the same sitting was later featured in Antwaun Sargent’s 2019 photography book for Aperture, The New Black Vanguard.

On wall: Donald Judd, Untitled, 1978-79. On table: Kennedy Yanko, SK16, 2021.

Which work or works in your personal collection provoke the most conversation from visitors?

Probably Broom Eater, our 1994 painting by Kikuo Saito, which has provoked reactions from “can I draw on your blackboard?” to “what mathematical proof is this?” When I explain the story of Saito’s experience as a Japanese immigrant to the United States immersed in a world full of new and unintelligible alphanumeric characters, our visitors' faces transform as the meaning of the work dawns on them.

Their initial confusion when encountering the work and trying to “get it” mirrors Saito’s daily struggles navigating a foreign environment. In Broom Eater, Saito transmutes his frustration adapting to a new culture into a composition full of yearning, melancholy, and hope. 

How do you think the Internet and technology has changed collecting habits and practices? 

Thanks to the Internet, we have all become accustomed to discovering artists, assessing talent, and at times, making acquisitions without ever seeing the artworks physically. This is unfolding against the backdrop of an increasingly globalized art world, and helps accelerate transnational, intercultural dialogue between artists and collectors. Personally, living with art allows me to see the world through perspectives that are radically different from my own—and the Internet is facilitating that for me and scores of other collectors by connecting us with artists we might not discover otherwise. 

With the dawn of augmented and virtual reality, it isn’t difficult to imagine a not-too-distant world in which physical art fairs become irrelevant. Our annual art-buying bacchanals are environmentally taxing, and unsustainable for many small and midsize galleries. I believe technology will help level the playing field, and reduce the art world’s carbon footprint.

Chair on left: Frida Escobedo, Chair 01, 2018. On wall: Mika Tajima, Negative Entropy (TAE, Cryopump, Pink, Full Width, Hex), 2020. On table: Grace Lee, Untitled 3, 2023.

How does something like Salon change what it means to own a work, or have it in your collection?

All of Salon’s participants collect individually as well as with Salon, so our communal collecting through Salon acts as another layer of participation in the art world within our collector “hivemind.” At our regular community meetings, we not only spend time discussing the artists we’d like to buy as a collective, but more often than not we’re also helping other members of Salon debate and qualify their own personal acquisition decisions. 

Our members have become an important soundboard to one another as we think about the expansion of our collections both personally as well as through Salon. The way we experience the art in Salon’s collection is similar to how we experience it on our own—Salon’s works hang on the walls of our members’ homes intermingled with their own collections. We also get to experience the thrill of walking into someone’s home and spotting a work that we share ownership in!

Which artist are you currently most excited about and why?

The core ideas that spring from Brooklyn-based artist Mika Tajima’s practice have taken up residency in my psyche unlike any other artist. I am lucky to live with a large example from the artist’s “Negative Entropy” series, which I collected in 2021 during her solo show in London with Simon Lee Gallery

The work is a visual representation of an audio recording of a cryopump at a fusion energy facility; Tajima uses an industrial jacquard loom to weave spectrograms of audio files she records in places that create, numb, harness, or are otherwise concerned with energy, from monasteries to data centers. I find the work very punk, in that it’s wrapped up in aesthetic (with a wink) compositions that lend an almost analgesic, dissociative affect—encapsulating the malaise of being alive today in a technocratic society rife with spiritual capitalism.

On wall: Sarah Crowner, Sliced Yellow, 2022, courtesy of Salon. On table: Meryl Yana, Iodised, 2023.

What factors do you consider when expanding your collections?

First and foremost, I look for art with emotional resonance. Art that really moves me. I can be moved in a myriad of ways, from an artist’s pioneering technique or use of materials, to their backstory or personal mission, or through the visual narrative interwoven through an artwork. 

The liberal arts major within me also seeks out artists in dialogue with history, literature, or other creative fields like dance and music. Conceptually, I want to be challenged, and I am attracted to art with a real point of view—especially if it helps reveal a perspective I previously lacked. My personality is maximally high on the “openness to new experiences” spectrum, and I like art that really takes me there, because wherever there may be… I’m down.