Khalil Saab of Sorenson Gross Construction Services and his wife, Ann, a retired curator who now does volunteer work in the Cultural Center, reside in a beautiful house in Fenton, amidst their incredible art collection.
Ann has master’s degrees in Art History and Museum Practice. She was the curator at the Flint Institute of Arts for some time, but retired when the couple married in 1978. The Saabs have lived in their current home since 1985, after living in Saudi Arabia for about seven years.
Describe your art collecting process.
Ann: Because I have a curatorial background, I feel as though I should research before purchasing, but I don’t. We have certain veins in which we collect. If we see something that we think would look good with what we have, I’ll do the research after. We’ve never purchased something because of its monetary value; we buy it because we love it.
Will your collection ever feel complete?
Ann: Khalil hopes there’s an end to it, but not me! There’s always a new treasure around the corner!
Khalil: We’re running out of wall space! There has to be an end at some point.
What types of art do you primarily collect?
Ann: The pieces in our collection include what is termed the fine arts, such as painting, sculpture, drawing and graphics, and the decorative arts, such as ceramics and textiles. We enjoy both antique and contemporary objects. Some of our collection came from my parents, and we added to that. Other items were collected over our travels throughout the Middle East and Europe, as well as from local art fairs, galleries, and antique shows. Our collection is a kind of jumble, but I think it is interesting and fun to look at.
Khalil: One of the oldest pieces we have is a carpet from Lebanon. It belonged to my parents and has been in my family since I was six years old.
What do you look for when considering a piece for your collection?
Ann: In general, authenticity is important. For instance, a drawing or painting should be an original work. An antique object should be an actual vintage piece, and not a reproduction.
Khalil: We don’t look for any specific painter to collect, but we do find them. We know an artist from Lebanon; she became famous for her work depicting Lebanon before the war and now – how the historical structures were, how they were demolished, and now with modern structures. Her paintings do have some sentimental attachment for me, as well as the visual interest.
What is your favorite aspect of collecting?
Ann: What we have always loved is not just the visual appeal, but the history of the piece, or the artist, or the tradition. It’s not just visual attraction for us, it goes beyond that. But of course, it’s the visual that strikes you first.
Why do you think collecting is important?
Ann: Feeling comfortable looking at art is important. Sometimes people will look at a piece in a museum and feel turned off because they think they don’t understand it. It’s the experience of seeing, just being able to enjoy what we are looking at. If we enjoy looking at a piece, it doesn’t really matter if we comprehend it or not. Collecting is a way of preserving, in a way. And, collecting is educational.
Khalil: Works of art are historical; they tell you about a different place, a different time. They tell you about what an artist considered important enough to put on canvas. Any piece is so revealing. If you focus on any piece, it enriches your life in so many ways. And that is when the research becomes the most valuable.
What is your advice for someone who would like to start collecting?
Ann: If you’re just starting out, start in a resale shop, a yard sale, antique shows. Look in art books, visit museums, go to art fairs. Start with something small and work from there.
Khalil: Time, money, or space constraints – none of these are reason enough to not collect. Start small and take your time.