Enticed by Realism

Scott Fraser, Reign, 2012, oil on canvas, 89 x 84"

Wes Hempel’s Burying the Evidence, 2014, is emblematic of the collection of Tom and Robert Adamson in their Provincetown, Massachusetts, vacation home.


Robert is founder and CEO of Accountable Healthcare Staffing, one of the largest providers of supplemental staffing for hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country. Tom is director of marketing.


They first began collecting after buying an 8,000-square-foot home in Florida. “In the beginning it was fun to buy paintings. It was a rush and a buzz trying to fill the wall space,” Tom admits. “We became more selective and found that contemporary realism resonates with us and moves us. One of the galleries at the Gallery Center in Boca Raton where we lived specialized in antiquities. The dealer encouraged us to take things home to see how the ancient pieces worked in a contemporary space. They looked awesome.”


Today, in both their homes, antiquities live comfortably side by side with paintings and sculpture by some of the best contemporary realists. The Hempel contains both—a contemporary, shirtless young man and a classic marble head. It hangs above a second-century Vietnamese bronze food container.


“We like Wes Hempel’s messaging. Gays and lesbians haven’t been very well represented in contemporary art and Wes feels it’s his responsibility to overcome that,” Tom says. Hempel has written, “By presenting contemporary males as objects of desire in familiar looking art historical settings, I’m able to imagine (and allow viewers to imagine) a past that includes rather than excludes gay experience—and ride the coattails, as it were, of art history’s imprimatur.”


The couple’s love of antiquities has developed into giving pieces to each other on special occasions. Since their tastes are so similar—“We’ve never disagreed,” Tom says—the gifts are always a pleasant “surprise.”


“We seldom go on art walks or to visit galleries. We rely heavily on the internet and on Karen Jenkins-Johnson and her galleries in San Francisco and New York.


We had seen Wade Reynolds’ painting of the chef Tony Corke of Chaparosa Grill in Laguna Niguel and thought about it for a while before telling Karen we’d like to buy it. She told us, ‘It’s gone, but let me talk to Wade.’ He and Tony agreed to do a different portrait. It now hangs here in our Provincetown home. We had originally paired it with Janice Urnstein-Weissman’s Red Kimono but thought later that Red Kimono and our earlier purchase, Tattoo VIII, a painting of two beautiful tattooed women, looked better together.”


What will “go” with what when hanging a collection is always problematic, including what will work in one home and not the other. “We brought a Claudio Bravo up from Florida and couldn’t make it work here. We couldn’t control the light and it looked terrible in the light that fills this house,” says Tom.


The collectors sometimes work with artists on commissions and buy others in depth. They have become friends with West Palm Beach sculptors Luis Montoya and Leslie Ortiz and own several of their pieces. “I think Robert would like to have one of their sculptures on every table in both our houses,” Tom admits. “They often include found objects in their sculpture and we both love them. They always stir conversation. They have invited us to watch them casting at the foundry and we’ve often brought guests to watch.”


Simie Maryles is a painter and gallery owner in Provincetown. “She’s done a series of paintings of couples walking their dog in the snow on Commercial Street,” Tom says. “We liked the idea, but we’re not dog people, so we asked her for a painting of a couple walking without a dog.”


They own three paintings by Scott Fraser including the large, 82-by-76-inch Reign, 2012. “It references a lot of his other small work that either we have or we have seen,” Tom observes. “There’s a time-lapse video of Scott setting up the still life and making the painting showing the magnitude of the work.”


Robert is of Scottish descent. On a trip to the U.K., the couple discovered the work of Scottish painter John Bellany (1942-2013). They particularly admired his work from the 1960s. Flowers Gallery in London helped them acquire three large-scale paintings.


Their collection also includes photographs, notably several from the series Love Hotels: The Hidden Fantasy Rooms of Japan, 2005, by Misty Keasler. “These are an interesting snapshot into Japanese life,” Tom says. “In the hotels, theme rooms can be rented by the hour and the décor ranges from the G-rated, like Hello Kitty, to the more aggressive with bondage imagery. We did some research after we bought the photos and learned that about half of the love hotels are owned by private equity firms in New York.”


The collectors “make an effort to have something in both homes if we like an artist. We like hanging them together so we and our guests can appreciate them better.”


“We don’t move many things around,” Tom explains, “because we have hardwired the lighting to eliminate electrical cords. “We buy what speaks to us,” he continues.


“We don’t buy for long-term investment. That commodifies the art in a bad way. If they appreciate in value, that’s great. We still love them regardless. We buy things that bring us happiness.”