The Collector: Rob Davis, Toronto

Rob Davis, Art Collector at Home in Toronto

Hearing the many stories about how Rob Davis, a governmental relations consultant in Toronto, came about each piece of art in his home, it would appear that his collection was amassed over many years of unintended purchases: this piece from a road-side vendor en route to

Kwamaritane game reserve in South Africa; that piece on a chance meeting with the artist; and this piece from a thrift store in downtown Toronto. Intentional or not, Davis has assembled an impressive collection from international and local artist and craftspeople.

In Toronto’s west end where Davis shares his home with Lena, a Border Collie-Retriever rescue, wall real estate is limited. Nevertheless, Davis manages to display a selection of his favoured pieces which he juxtaposes with a few pieces of his own works of art. For each piece he creates, he intentionally challenges himself to experiment with different mediums. “Exploring different mediums is a visceral, tactile experience, and in doing so, I feel more measured in the way that I produce the work rather than trying to master it”.

On one chilly day in early 2016, SCW sat down with Davis to ask him a few questions about his collection from the perspective of an occasional experimental artist.

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Does your collection have a specific theme or focus? I am almost exclusively interested in afro-centric images. I am intrigued by the exploitive imagery used in advertising and marketing of products in the last century and contrasting that with more positive images created by members of the diaspora. My works consist almost exclusively of images of Black strong men and women which contrasts against the media images of Black people in roles of servitude. Images on the Uncle Ben’s rice box or Aunt Jemima pancakes is a social commentary on the state of how Black folks are perceived by mainstream society. Those companies spend millions of dollars portraying people of colour in a demeaning way in order to make money.  I think it’s incumbent upon those of us with the means to support creators of works who are reflecting the truth about racialized people.

What is your most treasured piece of artwork? That would be the equivalent of asking a father which of his children does he loves more. I think each piece brings its own special meaning which serves its purpose at different times in my life and during different times of the year. I appreciate all my collection, equally.

Do you rely on art advisors or critic when making a decision concerning a purchase? I listen to my gut. I look for pieces that speak to me and reflect where my consciousness is at the time. My aesthetic and understanding have evolved as I have grown. My appreciation for the arts was developed at a very young age by a family friend, Canadian-Hungarian artist Zsuzsa Bucsanyi, who took me under her wing and exposed me to a vast array of expressions of visual arts.

What work of art do you wish you owned? I wish I had any piece by Basquiat.

How will your collection change in the next 10-years? I am hoping to be able to support more avant-garde works by some of the many up and coming artists who need support. When all is said and done I am hoping that my collection reflects the times in which I lived. I am hoping that the collection is also reflective of the true diversity in the diaspora.

What advice would you give to new art collectors? Be daring. I think that if anyone wants to take the leap from by prints and posters to original works that they consider being somewhat daring. It is also import to do research. There are many really smart artist and academics who can assist you in making an acquisition. I think this will help you decide what you like and what you want your collection to be. The numbers can seem daunting, but they don’t have to be. I have purchased pieces for as little as $15 and as much as $1,200. I enjoy those two pieces equally. Collecting can be fun and provide you with a window on a whole new way of thinking.

If your art collection had a soundtrack, what 10 songs in your music library would make the cut? Sugarman, Sixto Rodriguez; White Sails, Marques Toliver; Life on Mars, Seu Jorge; The Waterfront, John Lee Hooker; Summertime, Angelique Kidjo; All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix; Living for the City, Stevie Wonder; Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes, Paul Simon; Change is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke; Untold Stories, Buju Banton.

Thank you, Rob!



  • Hello…
    I was hoping that you may help me find more information about Bucsanyi… I have an original painting from 1963. I’ve been trying to look him up, and hopefully find other images of his work. This has been unsuccessful.
    I would really appreciate any help.

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