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Going off on pop culture

Close up on a collector

Rhonda Vitoulis, an employee of fashion label Alice + Olivia, had no intention of becoming an art collector until one day about 10 years ago she walked into Stefan Stux’s Chelsea gallery.

“It just really never seemed like anything that would be in my realm of reality or affordability,” she said.

But on that day, she was absolutely taken with a piece by artist Inka Essenhigh.

“It just hits you,” she said. “All the sudden you’re in front of a painting, like, ‘Whoa, I have to be able to look at this every day for the rest of my life.’”

Stux brought out two chairs, and they sat and looked at the painting, each sharing their thoughts on the work. From there, they negotiated a price, and as Vitoulis put it, “I got the fever.”

During the last decade, Vitoulis has sought out works of a similar pop style, noting that many of the paintings she owns are coincidentally enamel paints on canvas. She’s forged personal relationships with the artists she collects, and she displays nearly all of their work in her Williamsburg loft.

A savvy negotiator, Vitoulis is proud to note that she’s never paid more than $5,000 for a piece and that everything she’s bought has gone up in value. But that’s not why she collects.

“My goal is never to sell it,” she said. “[But] it’s my goal to know that it will become a powerful and big piece one day. Maybe it’s my own ego trip.

Tags: Art , Art collecting , Rhonda Vitoulis

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