Gut Check

Mikki and Stanley Weithorn aren't driven as art collectors by trendy artists or the pretentious critics who crown them the "next big thing." Nor do they equate the work of emerging artists to mere financial investments.

But that doesn't mean the Weithorns' collection of sculpture, paintings and mixed-media works by celebrated artists including Faith Ringgold, Kara Walker, Sue Coe, and Leon Golub doesn't possess great marketability and, more important to the Weithorns, intellectual value. So says Heather Lineberry, the curator of "The Other Mainstream: Selections From the Collection of Mikki and Stanley Weithorn," which opens Friday, January 21, at the ASU Art Museum.

"One of the amazing things about the Weithorns," says Lineberry, "is that they follow their gut instinct and curiosity."

Since becoming art collectors in 1988, the Weithorns -- who split their time as "social and political activists" between Scottsdale and New York -- have amassed 300 works of what they call "outsider art," by artists from around the country, especially minority artists. But, the Weithorns insist in an interview with Lineberry that will be published along with the exhibition catalogue, they don't simply search out minority artists, or even "political" art. Rather, they're drawn to art that reinforces their own ideals.

"No, we don't have exclusionary criteria," Mikki Weithorn told Lineberry. "Dealers will sometimes call and say, 'I've got this African American artist.' I'm not honing in on a piece because it's by an African American. In fact, I would hope one day that art would just be listed as art without these ethnic categories. I have to love something; the ethnicity is not what I'm looking for."

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Joe Watson