In March, as the world was on the precipice of a global health crisis, queer Houstonians Cody Fitzsimmons, 29, and Chris Scott, 32, were launching their Christopher + Christopher Art Advisory. This new business endeavor seeks to penetrate the sometimes impenetrable world of art collection and curation by identifying artwork and artistic solutions that can enrich the experiences of art collectors and their local communities.
“We launched the week before the COVID-19 lockdown. Could you think of a better time to start a business?” jokes Fitzsimmons. “But you know what? Despite what’s going on in the world, it’s gone really well.”
Both Scott and Fitzsimmons, who are also partners in life, credit their successful launch to the deep relationships that they have developed with galleries and artists all over the world. While those relationships have been easier to maintain through social media and videoconferencing, nothing is more effective in business than established, personal relationships.
“All the relationships that we have with galleries around the world were built remotely, even before COVID. The art world is so transient and constantly moving. Whether it was the art-fair circuit, museum shows, or traveling gallery shows popping up all over, we had to engage with that stuff pre-COVID with remote technology. The modes of communication haven’t changed. We have still maintained those close relationships which allow us to continue [locating art] for our clients, even during a pandemic,” says Scott.
Both men have deep roots within the art community, although neither boasts of a degree or formal art training. “Neither one of us is trained in art, apart from our own observations and a lifelong obsession with aesthetics and objects,” says Fitzsimmons.
Fitzsimmmons’ background is based in years of experience working in commercial galleries, where his responsibilities ran the spectrum from walking the gallery owner’s dog to negotiating six-figure deals for collectors acquiring art.
Scott’s experience, on the other hand, is rooted primarily in his intellectual and academic interest in art, which he sees through the filter of being a queer and Indigenous person. Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Scott is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. His experiences have allowed him to develop a broader view of the kind of art he believes is worthy of being placed in the cultural canon.
Like their backgrounds, both men also have diverse personal tastes that collectively create a well-rounded approach that can better serve a wide range of clientele, whether they be new collectors or established individuals.
“I am always looking for ‘new.’ That’s what I love. I don’t like to look backwards. I like artists that subvert our own ideas of what art is,” says Fitzsimmons. “One artist that comes to mind is Martine Gutierrez. She is a trans-female artist who has a body of work called Indigenous Woman. It is basically a self-made fashion magazine that she created using self-portraiture. She is actually having an exhibition at the Blaffer Art Museum next year.”
“Cody likes to focus on the hyper-contemporary,” observes Scott. “I love that work, but I am also really drawn to underrepresented historical figures in art history. There is an artist that I am obsessed with, Laura Aguilar, who passed away in 2018. She was a Chicano lesbian photographer working in the ’80s, ’90s, and into the 2000s. Her work focused on rebelling against the stereotype of the ‘perfect’ female body. She reacted against the dominant aesthetics in the art world, and I am drawn to artists with that focus. In that regard, she is similar to Martine Gutierrez.”
On the horizon for Houston’s art community is the opening of a new exhibition space called the Blue Rose Gallery in north Houston. Both men are very excited about that project, which is being led by the Los Angeles-based artist B. Anele. It will be the first Black- and queer-owned gallery in Houston. The space, which was formerly known as Private Eye and Common House, has been a gallery and artist residency space on and off since 2015. The current GoFundMe campaign has surpassed its initial ask, although those that are interested can still contribute at gofundme.com/f/blue-rose-gallery.
Other galleries of interest to Fitzsimmons and Scott are the Jonathan Hopson Gallery, a young gallery in Montrose with a very diverse, inclusive program; and F Gallery, founded by Adam Marnie. The two men also love the David Shelton Gallery, which shows a variety of artists from marginalized groups.
“We always say that art is for anyone. Most of our clients are young people interested in art, but find it intimidating or don’t know where to start. We have a client in their 20s who we met through Instagram. Other clients have been collecting for 25 years and want to diversify or edit—or are looking for new ways to support the arts. Our business intends to serve all of them,” Fitzsimmons emphasizes.
For more information on Christopher + Christopher Art Advisory, visit christopherchristopheradvisory.com.
This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.