Collage Center Coming to Milton, Pa: If You Build It Will They Come?


Pavel Zoubok, proprietor of an eponymous collage gallery on 23rd Street in Chelsea, is parlaying his encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and his long-running connections with collectors and artists’ estates into a nonprofit art center in Milton, Pa.

“I started the gallery because at the time, no one would let me focus on collage the way I wanted to, so I had to do it myself,” Zoubok told A.i.A. Zoubok’s International Collage Center (ICC), slated to open in about a year and a half, has already secured funding for its first two years and started building the core of its permanent collection, which includes artists like Rauschenberg, Motherwell, Ray Johnson, Javier Pinon and Alice Attie. The ICC will focus on a broad range of collage-related arts, including assemblage, photomontage and mixed-medium installations.

Zoubok got to know the small Pennsylvania town on the Susquehanna River while visiting friends Don Joint and Brice Brown, artist-dealers who live part-time in Milton. He bought a home there four years ago and almost immediately started eyeing a three-story stone-and-brick building constructed in the 1930s, which he is currently in the process of buying. Aside from a drug rehab center or halfway house, it’s unlikely that another local buyer would purchase such a large structure. In the vein of Mass MOCA, Zubok envisions the ICC helping to revitalize the culturally underserved area in and around Milton. Renovations to make the building art-ready will begin as soon as the sale is finalized. He’s using all local labor for the renovations, and hopes “this will help the community feel a sense of ownership” of the art center.

The area—not as inconvenient as it seems, Zoubok points out—is located a few hours from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In addition to gallery-style exhibition spaces that will eventually open to the public, the ICC will include a library and other facilities for university students studying collage or curators researching exhibitions.

So far Zoubok’s only employee is Rachael Lawe, who became director of the ICC this past spring. She met Zoubok at Art Basel in 2006, while she was on staff at Fred, a London gallery that was showing a collage artist Zoubok was interested in. Lawe’s been working with the board (a mix of collectors, artists and gallery owners) to build the ICC’s permanent collection, and to launch the center’s first touring exhibition, “Remix: Selections by the ICC.” “Remix” will be on view in Lewisburg, Pa., at Bucknell University’s Samek Art Gallery (Oct. 14–Dec 4), and will travel to the Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine, and the Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville next year. The ICC is also co-organizing an exhibition of contemporary Italian and American collage and mixed-mediums work for Sala 1, an art center in Rome.

Ray Johnson, Untitled (Andy Warhol Profile with NOT “F”OLD and Lewis Letter), 1979-88-89-92, Collage on illustration board, 13.5 by 15 inches. ©Ray Johnson Estate, Courtesy Richard L. Feigen & Co.