Meet the collectors: Christine Symchych

Christine Symchych is a member of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s board. She and her husband, Jim McNulty, focus their collecting on photography.

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897–1966). Salpetersäurebetrieb, Absorptionsanlage Bamag, Ruhrchemie, Oberhausen-Holten (Salpeter Plant, Absorption Facility Bamag, Ruhrchemie, Oberhausen-Holten), 1938. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Christine A. Symchych and James P. McNulty.

Q: Which picture will you miss the most while it is on view in Milwaukee Collects?
A: The Albert Renger-Patzsch picture is one of our personal favorites. It’s not our biggest, it’s not our flashiest, it’s not our most valuable (in the common sense of the word), but it’s really one of our favorites.

Q: What work of art started your collection?
A: The first work of art that really started our collection was a piece by Jules Olitski. I was working in a gallery in London that was coordinating a show for him, and he gifted a work to me to show his appreciation.

Q: How did you begin collecting photography?
A: Photography was never not a part of my life. I grew up doing photography, spending hours and hours of my life, starting in high school, in the dark room, taking pictures, developing film, printing pictures. My grandfather had also done a lot of photography in the teens and twenties in China. Photography has always been a part of my collective memory and seemed like a natural fit.

Q: What is your favorite story about a work in your collection?
A: Our Moonwalk by Andy Warhol is very special to us. We looked at them for a long time—he did a run that was a pair, one pink and one yellow. We looked at auction a number of times but never found the right one in the right condition. After working our network of connections, we got access through the dealer he printed for to a treasure trove of the unique monoprints he made of the same image. They were perfect—they had never been displayed, never seen the light of day. The entire experience of the hunt and the find was so spectacularly fun.

This print is very special to me because my birthday coincides with the Apollo 11 moonwalk, and the addition of this piece to the collection has sparked a bit of a subcategory in our collection of moon images.
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