ICP Faculty: Alice S. Zimet

ICP faculty member and Acquisitions Committee chair Alice S. Zimet discusses her experience with collecting photography. Registration is now open for Zimet’s fall 2019 classes.
Aug 28, 2019
© Alice Zimet
© Alice Zimet

When did you begin to collect and what triggered your first purchase?

In 1984, I was on an International Center of Photography field trip with Sam Wagstaff (Robert Mapplethorpe’s partner) to see a portion of his collection at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, NY. I fell in love with one image, Andrew Bush’s Columbines. I tracked it down at the Julie Saul Gallery and that was my first purchase. However, I felt the need to purchase a second companion piece. In retrospect, that should have been an early warning sign of a manic collector: you can’t have just one. My collection now hovers around 300 museum-quality pieces from the mid-twentieth century through the present. And to this day, I still buy in pairs. Or even threes...

What’s your philosophy in terms of collecting?

Buy with your heart, then your mind, but never your ears…just because somebody says it’s “hot.”

What makes your workshops for collectors and photographers unique?

I feel that I've become a comprehensive resource on the subject and my approach is personal and down to earth, not dry and academic. I have over 35 years of collecting experience to share and deep-seated personal relationships to tap. I feel that I've become a sort of living, breathing encyclopedia with plenty of insider tips. I’ve bought from all sources—galleries, auctions, trades, art fairs, and nonprofit benefit auctions, to name a few—and my workshops are driven by my own collecting stories, and a great desire to nurture buyers as well as to inform photographers about the market.

© Alice Zimet
© Alice Zimet

What do collectors walk away with from these workshops?

I feel that most collectors—whether nascent or more seasoned—have two common insecurities: 1) wondering whether the price is fair, and 2) being nervous to close the deal. I want to empower students to make informed decisions, and know what questions to ask. I always try and take students behind the scenes on private gallery visits. When I began to teach about 10 or 12 years ago, one dealer raised his eyebrows and questioned the need for a class like this. He had no idea how intimidating a gallery visit can be—how daunting and how snobby. The workshop and the gallery visits, especially as a group, break down any feeling of intimidation.

What’s the biggest challenge to a photographer today? 

To understand that communicating about your work is almost as important as making it. Today, everyone is a photographer. But not everyone has a body of work. The great challenge is how to write and speak effectively about your images. You are your own best billboard—at openings, when meeting a collector, when presenting in front of a dealer, or at a portfolio review. A friend was once at a cocktail party and was introduced to a woman whom he dismissed as pretentious because she asked whether she’d know his work. As an emerging photographer, he thought this was absurd. Of course, she wouldn’t. And he walked away, only to discover that she was one of the biggest collectors in the US. It costs nothing to have a few memorable buzz words and a great business card along with the willingness to make the effort. 

© Alice Zimet
© Alice Zimet

What’s your connection to ICP?

ICP has been my “school yard” for as long as I can remember. In 1975, I was a very young intern working with ICP founder Cornell Capa’s administrator, Ann Doherty, to organize the institution’s first benefit, “Moonlighting Stars,” held in the original museum space at 94th Street and Fifth Avenue. And I’ve been involved ever since!


Register now for Alice Zimet’s fall 2019 Continuing Education workshops: Dos and Don'ts of Collecting Photography: Insider Tips and Behind the Scenes and Making Work…Now What? Getting Out into the Art World.