Christel Citko’s Art Center
“You hear things through the grapevine that a collection is available,” says Christel Citko, staring with admiration at the 17 immense stainless-steel sculptures fabricated by Chinese artist Yuyu Yang.
Citko has traveled the world looking for coveted works of art for her clients and herself. She is the owner of the newly opened Art Center, part of Augustine Arts based in Lake Tahoe, and she prides herself on the caliber of the international art she’s bringing to Reno.
“Not many galleries can feature an entire museum show, which is what the Yang collection is,” Citko says. “Without being bold about it, I truly feel like we’ve brought our experiences and a world class collection to Reno. And the nice thing about us is you get to take these pieces home. You can take a master artist home.”
The salient size of the Yang pieces and their mirror-like surfaces—replicating the works hanging on the walls in distorted miniatures—make them jump out from behind the storefront windows at wanderers-by. And there are other Yang pieces in the 7,000-square-foot gallery. Thirty woodcuts, which are imprints stamped onto paper from carved-out wood, render images of 1940s and 1950s Chinese culture. Art Center is also in possession of many of Yang’s ink paintings, oil paintings and drawings.
Citko and her husband got wind that Yang’s work was sitting in storage. Yang’s pieces had been shown around the world, but since his death in 1997, they were stored in a warehouse waiting for a buyer. Citko and her husband started researching Yang, and their interest in his work and their desire to show it to a large audience flourished.
“We slowly got more and more interested,” Citko says. “It evolved. We realized it was meant for us to discover it and to bring it out for the public to see. It’s become a mission to somehow have this shared. Because Reno is becoming such an arts and culture center, we thought is should be displayed here.”
Citko hopes that a generous sponsor or the city of Reno might be interested in purchasing parts of the Yang collection, either the sculpture pieces, the woodcuts or the paintings, each of which she believes should not be separated from their own series. She wants them in a public, accessible setting.
Yang isn’t the only Chinese artist in the gallery. Art Center displays a number of Asian artists. Citko says it’s safe to say that her collection of Ting Shao Kuang paintings is the largest in the United States. Kuang is known for his mother and daughter paintings that mix ancient Chinese artistic customs with the severity and simplicity of modernism. Citko appreciates Kuang’s art because it is hands-on and labor intensive.
Citko also is partial to the works of master Mexican artists, and she has some festively colored, classically Mexican pieces in her shop. Although she admires all sorts of art, she admits sculpture might be her favorite, being more tactile than other forms.
“I love sculpture and the patinas that the artists do. I love the fact that they can be touched. The more you touch [sculpture], feel it, interact with it, the more you become a part of it. It’s like using fine silver.”
Citko says she “plays” with her own sculptures. She repositions them time and again around the house, uses them in centerpieces or in floral arrangements. She sees nothing wrong with sticking a sculpture in the bathroom—a place where it can be seen and appreciated every morning before a person heads into the rush of their day.
Like all sculpture, Citko says that finding a place for Yang’s massive metal pieces where people could sense them and experience them would be ideal.
“We need to put them where you can see them, enjoy them."