A Candid Confession

This summer, I was strolling through a friend’s house looking for the bathroom when I accidentally knocked a painting off the wall. It didn’t look like anything special, just a simple landscape with a few clouds in the sky, but to my dismay, I ended up paying close to $10,000 for the damage done. Ever since then, I have been skeptical and rather critical of the huge value attached to fine art, and when I heard Colgate alumnus Bruce Silverstein was coming to speak about trends in the current art market, I knew it was an event worthy of my attendance.

As I sauntered into Golden Auditorium, I scanned the sparse audience for friends or acquaintances and quickly took a seat next to junior Olivia Myers. She let me in on the fact that almost every student in attendance, almost all of whom are girls, is employed by the Picker Art Gallery and many hope to go on to a career in the art world. As Silverstein cleared his throat and began to speak, I heard a girl to my left whisper, “This is exactly what I want to do!”

Growing up the son of a photographer, Silverstein was always very interested in art, constantly drawing and going with his father on shoots, but when he arrived at Colgate, he put his dreams to the side.

“When I first came to Colgate, I was very interested in art…after I was in Colgate, that was the end of my interest in art,” Silverstein said at the beginning of his lecture.

Instead he chose to study economics and went on to become a successful commodities trader on Wall Street, but unfortunately his success did not translate into happiness. Silverstein found that no matter how much money he made, he was increasingly miserable in his job. The only source of happiness in his life came from his constantly growing collection of photographs. So one day, taking a total leap of faith, Silverstein decided to buy an art gallery where he could display his collection.

Like several others in attendance, Myers was very impressed by Silversten’s decision to follow his passion.

“I found it so interesting to learn about his transition from Wall Street to the art world and how Wall Street had actually prepared him for the switch,” she said when describing her motivation for attending the lecture. “Bruce Silverstein is such a well known and respected name in the contemporary art scene and I was very excited to hear about his experiences opening his own gallery.”

After listening to Silverstein speak, it is apparent that his interdisciplinary expertise is what allowed him to be so successful. He was able to combine two rare skills, a keen sense of business and a good eye for art, and use them to do something he truly loves.

Silverstein’s contributions to the art world are undeniable. Besides running the gallery, he has a program for lesser-known artists that allows them to get their work into the public eye, but it is his undying commitment to his passion that really struck me as his most impressive trait. He is a reminder to those of us still struggling to figure out our futures that our incomes and our passions don’t have to be at odds with each other.