Hand to Paper

Works from the Collection of Martina Yamin

Martina Yamin is a devoted collector with a keen eye for the immediacy and intimacy of works on paper, the dynamic relationship between language and line and the expansive possibilities of “drawing” as an artistic practice. Yamin has also been a paper conservator for nearly fifty years; this lifelong work informs her collecting ethos and drives her tireless pursuit of new and diverse voices in the world of contemporary drawing.

Yamin in her conservation studio in New York, 1989
Yamin at David Nolan Gallery, 2012

What first attracts me is the visual aspects—the freshness of that artist’s eye. I see form first and then meaning. I’m attracted to works that turn out to have content that I didn’t realize at first was there.

Martina Yamin

Yamin was raised in Philadelphia and gained an early appreciation for art, often visiting galleries and museums with her parents. She studied art history at Wellesley College, where she was initiated into the “Wellesley Method,” which asserted that in order to faithfully write about and critique art, one must have the direct experience of creating art. Studio courses were integral to the study of art history and it trained Yamin to approach viewing work as a “hands-on process, rather than a strictly intellectual process”.

After graduating from Wellesley in 1958, Yamin began studying conservation and working at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. In the early 1960s, she established her own paper conservation practice and has been working closely with galleries and museum ever since; this also put her in a favorable position to develop relationships with artists and gallerists and begin building her impressive and highly personal collection.

Ultimately it comes down to your own eye. I think looking at art is very much like learning a new language. You really have to get under the skin of the artist and spend some time understanding where they’re coming from, what they’re trying to show, and how successfully they’ve done that. It takes everything you’ve got, and you can’t think of anything else.

Martina Yamin

This present collection of over two-hundred works on paper (along with a number of three-dimensional works) illustrates how Yamin believes that looking at art should be a demanding experience that engages all of the senses. The works in this collection inhabit many moods—some works shout, while others hide; some dazzle with their density and others revel in sparseness. Many works shirk their duties of being tidy, complete thoughts and instead are fragments of ideas, explorations of material – a feeling being worked out through the intimacy of hand to paper. Not all of the artists represented in Yamin’s collection consider drawing to be their primary medium, but they do all regard the immediacy of drawing as essential to their practice.

Over her many years of collecting, Martina has kept detailed notes pertaining not just to the particulars of a work, but also of conversations she’s had with artists, reviews of various gallery shows and literature about the evolution of artist’s careers. Her profound commitment to works on paper and celebration of distinctive artistic voices is deeply felt in this collection that at turns delights and bewilders with its sensitivity and insistent energy. Yamin currently serves as a co-chair of the Museum of Modern Art's Contemporary Drawing and Prints Associates, is a member of the Morgan Library Modern and Contemporary Collectors Committee and is on the National Arts Club's Curatorial Committee. She continues to delight in finding fresh new visual insights on paper.