You’re Never Too Young to Start Obsessing Over Your Art Collection

Michael and Hanna Manes with their custom creation, nine-month-old son Harvey. (Hung stained glass in background by unknown artist.)
Photo by Clark Hodgin

Michael and Hanna Manes are decades younger than most of their art-collecting peers, and already their nine-month-old son, Harvey, is involved in the family obsession, accompanying his parents on their searches for great finds. Michael is the Gallery Director for Blue Spiral 1 Contemporary Fine Art + Craft in downtown Asheville, and Hanna, through her interiors business Hanna Manes Design, assists homeowners with art procurement and placement. 

Mónica Subidé, Desayuno en el trópico, rey y bufón (breakfast in the jungle with the king and the jester), 2018, oil and collage on wood.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

Their collective taste runs a gamut of mediums, from functional handmade ceramics to paintings, drawings, and sculpture — but the majority of their pieces are two-dimensional. “We can’t seem to stop collecting,” Michael says. “It’s kind of ridiculous at this point,” Hanna confirms. 

The Maneses, who are in their thirties, enjoy sharing the method behind their beloved madness. By supporting local artists, they also build relationships with fellow collectors, and are eager to convince other young couples that collecting isn’t out of their reach. 

The Maneses take advantage of built-ins in their older cottage. “We’re bursting at the seams,” jokes Hanna.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

Can you describe your collection and its focus? 

Michael: We’re keen on collecting pieces by lesser-known students and teachers from Black Mountain College [an avant-garde local institution that flourished in the mid 20th century]. We’ve donated a couple pieces to the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, as well. I’ve been on their board a few years and also head up the Collections Committee, which helps the museum procure pieces for their collection. We collect the work of local and regional artists primarily, though we also have pieces we’ve gotten on our travels. 

Hanna: I have a love for 1950s and ’60s abstract paintings; I’m drawn to their colors, simple graphics, and energy. We enjoy scouring auctions and estate sales for treasures — as far as provenance, we’re all over the place.

Chris Musina, Here Kitty Kitty
Photo by Clark Hodgin

Were you each collectors prior to meeting?

Hanna: We were confirmed collectors well before we met, but we’ve amassed a lot since getting together. We’re on the same wavelength and have similar instincts.

Michael: And it’s something that bonded us once we got together. 

Sounds like art and collecting are saviors of sorts for you.

Michael: When Blue Spiral 1 closed down in the beginning of the pandemic, it became a safe haven for us. We’d bring Harvey, get out of the house for a bit, and it made us reflect on how we hope to raise him — to love and honor art as much as we do.   

Hanna: It’s all about the hunt for us; our collecting focuses give us direction. Every time we look at our pieces at home, we get the warm fuzzies. 

Ray Johnson (1927 – 1995), Paddle with Bunny, mixed-media found object, circa 1980; (framed drawing): Frank Hursh (b. 1929), BMC Drawing No. 9, circa 1949.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

How do you display pieces?

Michael: We hang them “salon style” [large groupings that extend higher and lower than single-row, eye-level “museum style”], which is appropriate for our 100-year-old house [with] finite space. 

Hanna: An older home with character is a great backdrop, but we’re bursting at the seams. We constantly rearrange things because we’re always seeing new connections between pieces. 

Michael: We rehang the whole house about four times a year. Our philosophy is, there’s always room for another piece. 

You’re younger than most art collectors.

Hanna: We’re two or three decades younger than most of those in the small, tight-knit collecting community members we know. We want other younger people to know that collecting isn’t beyond their means. We’ve dreamed about starting a young collectors’ group. 

Michael: Fine art is more accessible than many think. Artists are willing to work with you, especially when you love something. We’ve arranged creative ways to buy pieces many times. Once we negotiated for two days to purchase a piece we adored by Barcelona artist Monica Subide that we spied at a Miami show. 

Hanna: It’s important to surround yourself with beauty — don’t question why you love something; if you love it, it’s meant to be. 

The couple’s record collection and reclaimed-wood furniture puts them in the moment. Painting by Kat Green, Impulse, 2018, acrylic on canvas.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

What pieces are you loving lately?

Hanna: An incredible painting of a hairless cat on a Persian rug, with tattoos all over his body. 

Michael: We have similar strong connections to pieces. There was a Chris Messina painting at a Blue Spiral show that was in the stairway wall on the way to the Lower Level Gallery. I knew I wanted it. Hanna came to the opening and said, “There’s only one piece I’m interested in.”

Hanna: Guess which one it was? 

Hanna and Michael Manes, Asheville. For more information, see Blue Spiral 1, 38 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, 828-251-0202, and Hanna Manes Design, and on Instagram: @hannamanesdesign.

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