11 Questions with Pete Scantland

We had the opportunity to sit down, albeit virtually, with Pete Scantland, the founder and CEO of the advertising company Orange Barrel Media, and Columbus-based contemporary art collector. Over the past four years, Scantland has amassed quite an impressive collection of some of the most sought after names in the art industry today. Scantland’s home illustrates his deep passion for art and for building an important collection — “I focus on artists of my generation, with a particular emphasis on artists that present a global and diverse perspective on the most important issues facing us as individuals and as a society,” he says.

Installation view of Maia Cruz-Palileo, The Duet, 2019; Amoako Boafo, Green Shirt, 2019, and Jasmine Little.

Can you tell us a bit about your background in media and what your role as CEO of Orange Barrel Media looks like?

Our company develops and operates iconic outdoor media displays and in 30 major cities. From the beginning, we’ve been focused on growing by developing a business model that delivers benefit to the communities we operate in, and we do that by partnering with artists, institutions, and other stakeholders at the local level to create a platform they can use to advance their mission and to share their work in an extraordinarily public way, and also, by sharing revenue such that the cities benefit economically. I spend most of my time working with our team to develop these relationships. This work allows me to unite my interest in art and design with our business, and is a major point of differentiation for our company in our industry. For example, we just launched a new project in West Hollywood, on the Sunset Strip. We partnered with the City to set a new ambition for what a sign could be – from a formal standpoint, from a content standpoint, and for how the business model could work. The project was awarded an AIA award – we believe the first for a billboard ever, and we will have a number of major original art commissions this year. We just finished with the Propeller Group, and have just debuted a new work with Nick Cave, who has developed a new execution of Truth Be Told, his work that was ordered down at Jack Shainman in Kinderhook. It’s launching on this project in West Hollywood, and then going nationwide on more than 200 of our other digital screens on the Fourth of July. Later this year, we have projects with Pipilotti Rist, Catherine Opie, Cauleen Smith, and others. We use our platform to try to improve civic discourse and enrich people’s lives. For example, last year, we partnered with Jenny Holzer, Jeffrey Gibson, Carrie Mae Weems and Tomashi Jackson to launch a nationwide Get Out The Vote campaign that reached 300 million people before election day.

Installation view of Robin F Williams and Gina Beavers.

Do you think art plays a role in the world of media? If so, how? 

Absolutely. Most artists today have a lot of interest in engaging a much larger and more diverse audience than they would by limiting their practice to the studio. Think about an artist like Hank Willis Thomas. His public practice is impacting the lives of millions of people. He’s incredibly sophisticated not only as an artist, but as a communicator and as a marketer, and his work shapes the dialogue far beyond the artworld. 

Installation view of Somaya Critchlow.

When did your interest in art begin? What was your first experience? 

I’ve been interested in art my whole life, and studied art in college, but thought I could have more impact by being adjacent to art rather than as an artist. I was attracted to advertising because it leverages many of the skills you learn as an artist. Honestly, I believe the business world would be a better place if we had more people trained as artists. When I reached a point I thought I could begin to contribute, I began to get involved in arts in our community. I was the youngest trustee at the Columbus Museum of Art, where I’ve been on the board since 2009, and I’m on the Wexner Center for the Arts board as well. Together with my family, we’ve recently endowed the director of learning position at the CMA and also made the first gift in what will be an ongoing commitment to helping the museum build an important collection capturing this period in our history.

Installation view of Naudline Pierre.

When did you begin collecting?

I bought my first work while in college, but began what I would consider to be my mature collecting career about four years ago.

Installation view of Gahee Park.

What attracted you to emerging artists over established? 

I love art from prior eras, but I didn’t believe I could build a great collection from an earlier period. Focusing on art from my generation (loosely defined) allows me to be more fluent in the ideas explored by the artists, and as a result of that, I think I’m far more capable of knowing who and what is going to be important.  Putting aside the economics and the availability of material, which would also make it impossible, you could never do that by focusing on another area. The ideas explored by artists of this generation are more relevant and interesting to me, because they’re focused on the world I’m also living in. And you can build a relationship with galleries and artists that are my contemporaries, and carry that through their careers as a gallerist, as an artist, and mine as a collector. Of course, today, many of the artists I started with just a few years ago are much more established, and I’m continuing with them, but also super excited about artists just finishing school. 

Installation view, from left to right, of Jennifer Rochlin, P-22 with Hollywood Sign, n.d.; Dominique Fung, Stay Home, 2020; and Firelei Baéz, Errantry (a minor key that alters the structure of the major form within), 2019.

Do you work with an advisor or source on your own? 

I have help with collection management, and I will sometimes buy through an advisor if they have something interesting, but most times, I am dealing directly with galleries. I have lots of mentors and others that I find to be knowledgeable and interesting, and love getting advice where I can.

Installation view of Ebony G. Patterson.

Do you have a favorite piece in your collection? 

It would be impossible to name just one, so I’ll name some recent acquisitions I’m excited about: Jade Fadojutimi, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Yesiyu Zhao, Hayley Barker, James Bartolacci, Danielle McKinney, Gina Beavers, Robin F. Williams, Mimi Lauter, Nadia Ayari, Jammie Holmes, Keiran Brennan Hinton, Brenna Youngblood, Cristina BanBan, Brianna Rose Brooks.

Installation view of Derek Fordjour.

Installation view, from left to right, of Sharif Farrag, Robert Nava, Rain Catcher, 2020; Simone Leigh, Stretch (black), 2020.

What’s next on your wish list?

I just saw the Janiva Ellis show at the ICA Miami, and I’m obsessed. I’m also very interested in Kenny Rivero, Maria Berrio, Guimi You, Sasha Gordon, the list goes on…

Social media has introduced so many great young artists. Are you ever torn between buying art that you love versus art that you think is a good investment?

I don’t ever buy anything because I think it’s a good investment, but I do believe that my collection will turn out to be a great one. Not that I would ever sell, and hope instead that it will help to advance the story of art made during this momentous time.   

Installation view of Claire Tabouret and Aubrey Levinthal.

Installation view, from top to bottom, of María Fragoso, You’ve Heard This One Before, 2020; Tanya Merrill, GaHee Park, and others including hand-shaped chair by Pedro Friedeberg, 1970.