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Talking Collecting with Tess and Ben Gigone

I was first introduced to Tess Gigone and Ben Gigone through an Instagram Reel documenting their recent art purchase: A painting by Maxine McCrann to celebrate their recent wedding anniversary. I was smitten both with the painting and the story of the acquisition. I knew I wanted to chat with the couple to learn more about their art-collecting journey. 

While new to art collecting, Tess and Ben Gigone are seasoned collectors. They share a passion for collecting vintage watches that they both wear. Keep reading to learn about how they view art collecting and the similarities between collecting watches and art. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Tatum Dooley: Maybe we can start by introducing who you are.

Tess Gigone: I am a photographer from the GTA. I'm also a content creator on TikTok. That's a big part of my job.

Ben Gigone: And I work in tech, I'm an engineer. I co-founded a startup, a Toronto-based startup about a year ago. 

When did you start collecting art? But also, were you always collectors? Did you collect things from a young age?

BG:  I've been a collector since I was very young. I started with books, got into bands, started collecting guitars, and then Tess and I got into collecting watches, which has been our primary [collection]. Art is a newer thing. Tess's sister and brother-in-law are artists, so we've always been around art. They've had art in the house and gifted us pieces. Art has not always been a primary collection base for us. But it's something that we've loved doing together. We love marking an occasion or event with something.

TG: I was not a collector ever. I didn't even really understand it. Then, Ben introduced me to the concept, and I got into it when we started collecting watches. But I was not a natural collector at heart.

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

What makes you a collector from birth? What were you interested in? And then, on the other side, Tess, what got you excited once you started later in life? 

BG: I love things with a story, and I love the idea of passing things down as well. With books, it was always interesting learning about these first editions, which were maybe only out for a very specific period of time or something that was signed. Then, as we got into watches, a similar kind of thing [occurs] where a few of ours have engravings. They're from the 60s and 70s. It's fun to think about; these objects lived a life before you. It's interesting to see how they can be carried on from there. 

TG: I loved the concept of seeing everything together. When we got our first watches, I was like, wow, I love this. Then it felt like we needed another immediately. I just love seeing a collection together. When we get a new piece, our favourite thing is standing back and looking at it together. 

BG: I think it's also very representative of being passionate about something, or again, I come from a science background. Tess was also an engineer from school, so we both have a little nerdy background, if you will. So there's a fun concept to be into something and represent that by having multiple pieces.

I'm interested in hearing about the watches and the art. You said you bought a watch together; do you share the same watches, or is it a collection primarily? What are your research steps?

BG: For watches specifically, we share 95% of our watches. I prefer smaller ones. I'm not into the big, chunky guys rolling around a lot now. For our first anniversary, for example, we picked one out, and then we both wear it.

TG: It's been fun to do together. It's ours; it's not like he and I get one. We're going to do it together. 

BG: Art is new to us. So we go directly to artists most of the time. Whether that's in Instagram DMs or emailing the artist. For watches, we use a lot of online marketplaces. And then there are a few kinds of vintage shops in Toronto that we'll always peruse if we can try some things on and plan to get some person.

TG: When we travel, we always make a point of going to a vintage watch store or some sort of watch store.

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Do you have similar taste in art, or are there some things you're like, I like this, and the other is like, no way? 

TG: I think we have similar tastes. Sometimes, we don't agree, but it's based on an actual art piece, not necessarily the genre of art or style.

BG: From a thematic standpoint, Maxine is a good example. Everything is very colourful. We like those abstract settings. Everything is minimal and neutral in our house, so it's nice to have some louder pieces on the walls.

When you're collecting art, what are you looking for? For it to be deemed "an important piece" or is it more about the personal emotion attached to it?

BG: I think it's been personal emotion for us because we're getting into the game. We are initially attracted by something, and then we'll chat from there. Services like Peggy are great. We only sometimes have the chance to hop into galleries and see what's new and fresh. Whereas again, to draw the parallel to watches, it's easy for us to get on a marketplace and see a bunch of examples and compare. I think the point Peggy addresses is making art more accessible, which helps us.

TG: I know where to look for a watch. But if I were to look for a piece of art, it's very difficult to find unless I know the artist I'm looking for. It's more intimidating, I think, to get into that world. You're not just going to Google "colourful art" and try to find an artist.

BG: Exactly. You need a little more help with the curation, but it's easy to feel like I may not belong here because I don't know enough. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

You were chatting about how you like to get art for your anniversary. Maybe you could talk about where that idea came from and what it's looked like over the years.

BG: I think, as any coupled-up person knows, there are a lot of gift-giving opportunities throughout the year: birthdays, holidays, and all that kind of stuff. So we discussed the idea of doing anniversaries where we always join in on one gift to mark the occasion. We had always planned to get a watch every five years to mark the fifth anniversary. This was the third year, and we talked about doing art in the in-between years, waiting for that fifth.

TG: Watches are hard because they're not often an approachable price point. But for art, you could find art at any range. To me, art doesn't have to be $20,000. If I love the piece [that's all that matters].

BG: It becomes a nice tradition, too. We plan months ahead. I'm like, Hey, what would we love to get this year? What can we both get excited about? So it's been something that we look forward to. It's nice to mark the years with something more important to us.

Do you feel like you're starting to have a curatorial vision where you only want to collect one thing, for example, Canadian artists?

BG: We're in relatively early days, but everything we have collected is eclectic in that we've got a little bit of everything. We have some ceramics, we have a painting from Maxine, we've got photography, we've got collage, we've got hand-drawing. I would love to support Canadian artists more, and that's how we connected with Maxine. It's great to be local, and we got to pick up the work and meet her, which was super fun. When we think about collecting again, it's more of what resonates with us.

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

Photo by Tess Gigone, 2023. 

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