© Haitham Al Mussawi, 2019

Executive Director of The Cultivist Joey Lico is next to answer our quick-fire questions in the latest PHOTOFAIRS In Focus – a series where we interview members of the PHOTOFAIRS New York 2023 Advisory Committee. Here she shares why collecting works by emerging artists is so key to their creative development. 

PHOTOFAIRS NEW YORK: How did you start collecting?

JOEY LICO: It was really a byproduct of my career in the art world; I had (and have) the privilege of engaging with a number of really incredible artists early on in their careers. Seeing how much impact collecting at that level has for artists, not only with regard to the financial need to keep studios going, paying rent and buying supplies, etc., but also the psychological impact of someone really believing in their practice enough to support that early, well, I decided then that collecting works was another way to support under-recognized and emerging artists beyond my roles in programming and exhibition making. And I’ve remained committed to that.

PNY: What was the first artwork you saw that made an impact?

JL: David Alfaro Siqueiros’ Our Present Image, 1947. I couldn’t have been more than 13 years old, and I remember feeling like there was such ambivalence in it – so much politics, so much poetry. And using those feelings as the impetus to learn more about Siqueiros really made me understand how much power artists have; how, more than anyone (in my opinion), they can make us feel, make us see, make us open to new or different ideas and truths. To change our minds. And, of course, to inspire. 

Lizania Cruz, Portrait of a Detective in Seville, 2022 – courtesy of Joey Lico

PNY: Tell us about a favorite work in your collection.

JL: That doesn’t exist! Every work in our collection is extremely special to us. I will share that my latest acquisition was Lizania Cruz’s Portrait of a Detective in Seville, 2022, which was included in a recent exhibition of hers at Proxy Co Gallery in New York. I am in awe of Lizana’s practice and how she thinks through history, the role of migration, research, recording, and archives, and its influence on the present. 

PNY: How do you think the increasing interest in new technologies will affect, or has already affected, the process of collecting?

JL: In general, I approach new technology as an expansion of tools and mediums for artists and creatives to use and expand their practice..  Seeing how artists are historically taking unique approaches to all materials/tools available (from found objects to drones) I don’t have a ‘Doomsday’ outlook to any of it. The only thing that I see as different from past technology advances is that tech seems to be moving a little bit faster than past generations, so we don’t get the distance to really step back and see its impact in the same way. We are learning and living and advancing all at once. Still, I admire the artists that are taking risks and playing with what’s available to them. 

Case #2, 2022 © Rodrigo Valenzuela – courtesy of Asya Geisberg Gallery

PNY: What artists or exhibitors are you looking forward to seeing at PHOTOFAIRS New York? 

JL: Oh, Rodrigo Valenzuela at Asya Geisberg Gallery. He is a force—certainly one of the smartest and hardest-working people I know (artist or otherwise). Outside of the intellectual and visual creativity his practice prioritizes, the sheer agility he has in the making is like nothing else I’ve seen – that’s not to say it doesn’t exist (!) – so I’m always excited when I see he is exhibiting somewhere because I know it will be something new from him and I trust it’s going to expand my perspectives on whatever subject he is addressing. 

And Throckmorton Fine Art is presenting a booth of photography focused on women in Latin America, which includes photographs by incredible artists such as Graciela Iturbide and Tatiana Parcero, who’ve I’ve admired for the better part of my career. Curatorially, I see a lot of conversation points that could be had between Asya Geisberg Gallery’s booth and Throckmorton Fine Art’s… I’m eager to see if that plays out the way I imagine! 

Joey Lico is The Cultivist’s Executive Director. Before joining The Cultivist, Joey was in director positions at the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), followed by Independent Curators International (ICI), where she nurtured a huge variety of projects across all disciplines of art. 

From 2008-2016, and under the Obama Administration, she worked with The White House as an adviser on their ACT/ART Committee bringing contemporary art into public policy. Joey also serves on the Contemporaries Executive Committee for the Whitney Museum of American in New York.