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Meet the Valley Couple Turning Art Novices into Seasoned Collectors

Light-filled hallway full of bright artwork
A collection of bright, colorful artworks fills the hallway of David and Leenie Engel’s home. Photo by An Pham

The art world can seem daunting to both novices and seasoned collectors alike—which is where David and Leenie Engel step in. “Anyone can ‘buy’ art,” David says. “But doing so with direction and knowledge is always better.” The couple, who have been collecting art for more than 25 years, recently launched their consulting business, Advise and Curate, to help demystify the process of collecting for others. Working with interior designers, architects, real estate professionals and homeowners, the Engels can help clients discover their tastes and create their own gallery-worthy art collection.

Q&A With David and Leenie Engel of Advise and Curate

Portrait image of a couple
David and Leenie Engel of Advise and Curate. Photo by An Pham

How did you first get into collecting?

David: While we have been acquiring art for more than 25 years, we started out as so many people do—not truly “collecting,” but buying what struck us in the moment—accumulating art. Only over time, as our tastes became identified and more sharply focused, we could say that we were truly collecting.

When did you first have the idea to turn your passion into a business to help others in their collecting?

Leenie: We are very social people, and our home gets a lot of foot traffic. When friends and associates started asking questions and seeking guidance on how to navigate the ins and outs, we knew we were on to something.

Can you explain a little about your business, Advise and Curate, and how it works?

David: This is a learning process, and only after identifying a client’s likes and dislikes, budget, timeline and overall goals, do we begin the search for artworks. Then the fun begins. We do the research, suggest potential acquisitions to the client and narrow down the possible works for the collection. We then work with the artist or gallery to negotiate the best price and terms for all parties.

Art collecting can be a very intimidating world—how do you help clients demystify the process and gain confidence in their taste?

Leenie: After an initial meeting with a potential client, we have them complete a detailed questionnaire which helps identify what they are after. Does a client want their art to simply decorate their spaces, or to impart a deeper meaning? Are they interested in art that provokes a response or soothes the viewer? Would they rather acquire works by familiar names, or focus on discovering lesser-known artists? Are there decorative objects on their wish list? Do they feel strongly about supporting living artists? All of these ideas, and more, are explored, and at the end of the day, the No. 1 overarching idea is that the client will be living with their collection and seeing it every day, so they need to love the art.

Who is your target client for these kinds of services?

David: People and companies who desire to enhance their environments but lack the know-how or time needed to learn the art market on their own. When we collaborate with a client, all parties come away from the experience knowing more than they did at the onset.

Painting of a ballerina bust
“Plie” by Leenie Engel

As professionals, what is your perspective on the art scene in Arizona?

Leenie: As residents in one of the country’s largest cities, we are fortunate to live in proximity to numerous artists, galleries, museums and public art installations. Art is all around us. David and I have served together and separately on several museum boards here in the Valley, and we can assure you, the art is out there if you know where to look.

But beyond Phoenix, we also employ a wider perspective, maintaining relationships with galleries and artists as close as L.A. and as far away as Paris. The art world is global, and our clients expect us to bring a worldview to the process.

What kind of art do you find here that excites you?

David: Our personal tastes run toward outsider art, pop art, street art and contemporary portraiture. But our job is to help clients identify and refine their tastes and preferences. All modern and contemporary art genres are explored during the process.

Do you think Arizona is a good place to begin collecting art as a novice?

Leenie: This is a great place to begin collecting. All types of art at all price levels are represented here in metro Phoenix, and with a little guidance, fantastic art collections can and have been built.

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