The Really Cool Collection was started in earnest in 2018 with the objective of building a legacy collection that transcends eras, techniques, and subject matter. The collection oscillates between three primary aesthetic focuses: figurative abstraction, meditative repetition and fresh materiality.
In the collection’s exploration of the realm of figurative abstraction, the work of Cecily Brown is an important inflection point. Her practice, viewed in the context of Surrealists such as Salvador Dali or Joan Miró, explores the psychological nature of abstracted figures and the way their bodies (or their vestiges) interact with environments, real or imagined. This exploration follows through to the contemporary works of George Condo, Jo Messer and Katherine Bradford who question the inner world, dream world or memories of their figures. Also included is Aboudia, who examines the anxiety of interactions between people and their environments. Brown’s work, when viewed through the lens of Marc Chagall and Jean Dubuffet, who touch on Faux Naïf within the scope of Modernism, relates to artists such as Katherine Bernhardt, Shara Huges, Yoshitomo Nara, and Purvis Young. Finally, Brown’s work, considered self-referentially, with its emphasis on the line of the body and its convergence with the surrounding environment, serves to amplify the later works of Mira Dancy and Tunji Adeniyi-Jones.
The Really Cool Collection also includes many objects that explore the meditative nature of art, specifically pieces by Asian artists or of Asian-decent. A ceramic sculptural head by Yoshitomo Nara serves as a departure point to explore serenity, religious deities both as subject matter and as a meditative and reverent approach to artistic practice. Yayoi Kusama and Julia Chiang - doyennes of different eras - draw the viewer in with their hypnotic practice. Kusama’s repetitive yet intuitive approach often hinges on her preferred motif: the polka dot. Her aesthetic can appear almost scientific or biological, as if she is merely addressing repetition and abstraction that already exists in nature. Chiang’s work is at once highly exacting and also clearly handmade; openly announcing the presence of the artist. Meticulous in her approach, her works are often calm yet spark curiosity. She too explores nature or the biological, in her practice, specifically as it merges with abstraction.
The collection also explores materiality: the hand of the artist and its manipulation of the very constituent materials of the work. This approach is exemplified by the highly-tactile practices of James Benjamin Franklin with his pseudo-sculptural nature, Hans Hofmann with his densely layered paint and swathes of color, and Zhu Jinshi, with thick, luscious curls of paint that writhe off the canvas as they layer outward, reaching toward the viewer. This area of the collection extends through to the sculptural work of Louise Nevelson -- herself once the student of Hans Hofmann. Her monochromatic approach draws the eye to the textures and material juxtapositions at play in her practice.
As the collection grows, the focus will continue to span both emerging and established artists. To date, there has been a preference towards acquiring exceptional smaller scale works so each work can be lived with, but this is not an exclusive rule and will expand as the right works become available.
Nicole Bray, Founder of Mercer Contemporary, is a respected and trusted art professional in New York. Mercer Contemporary is an Art Advisory, Appraisal, and Legacy Planning firm based in Manhattan and the Hamptons. She advises multiple clients in the U.S. and Europe on acquiring, selling, managing, and displaying their collections. She specializes in 19th, 20th, and 21st Century Fine Art, and has extensive experience in Prints and Multiples, Photographs, 20th Century Furniture, and Southeast Asian and Himalayan art.
Nicole was awarded the Emerging Curator Fellowship by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in 2014. In 2016, she was awarded a Curatorial Residency in Mexico by the Curatorial Program for Research. Nicole worked for Phillips Auction House, and a distinguished private collector before starting her business.
Nicole completed her Masters of Arts (Hons) in Art History at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, New York, and her undergraduate degree is in Modern History and Political Science. She has also gained various certificates through Christie’s Education, New York University, and the Appraisers Association of America.
Nicole started working with Really Cool Art in 2018 since the start art program and has successfully advised and sourced art for the collection since then.
Nicole is USPAP certified and an Accredited Appraiser with the American Appraisal Association. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.