Damien Hirst, British citizen and richest living artist submerged his first real 14ft tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde in 1991. It sold in 2004 to art collector and hedge fund king Steven A.Cohen for $8 million.
The Fortune 500 list is full of art collectors. They are cosmetic heirs, insurance tycoons or the Emir of Kuwait and they don't blink at dropping $80 million at Sotheby's for a Francis Bacon. But who are the collectors of beautiful AND more affordable art? The people who might look at art as an investment but for which it is primarily a gift to themselves, picked and chosen because it resonates with their sense of beauty?
Meet my friend Deborah. Her and her husband Eric live by the beach in California and they are enthusiastic art collectors. She is a choreographer and teaches ballet and he is an architect. They bought many paintings from me along the years (which I will admit I am thrilled to visit everytime I drop by for a cup of tea). I stopped by their home this morning to interview Deborah about her art-buying habits and take a few photos of their walls.
IB- Why did you decide collecting art and how long ago did you get your first pieces?
D- We started shortly after we got married. Actor and photographer Dennis Hopper was a friend of ours and visiting him was always extremely inspiring to us. He had a huge art collection and his house seemed alive and vibrating with art. He gave us advice about how to start collecting along with great deals on his own photography. He also said to paint our walls white to give a neutral background to the artwork.
IB- How many pieces of art do you think you have acquiered since you started?
D- Probably between 150 and 200 including sculptures.
IB- Where do you usually purchase art from?
D- The most expensive pieces we have, mainly Pop Art pieces like signed limited edition prints by Keith Haring, Warhol or Basquiat, were bought through a gallery we trust in L.A.
But most of our art was bought almost "by accident". We might see a painting we like at someone's house and track down the artist to visit his studio. We also buy art students' work. We bring back artwork from our travels. We found great prints from Magritte at the Jeu de Paumes in Paris. We occasionally find things we love at art festivals.
IB- Do you and your husband have mostly common taste when it comes to art? Do you try to compromise or do you take turns choosing?
D- 98% of the time we are in complete agreement when choosing a piece. We pretty much love the same things!
IB- How important for you is your home decor when you pick art?
D- Not important at all. The art we pick stands on its own. The least of my concerns is that it matches the couch and the drapes. Each piece is a valuable treasure in itself.
IB- Do you feel that the personality of the artist plays a part in your decision to buy?
D- Yes. We like to connect with the artist and are interested in the creative process. If we don't care for the artist we would rather not buy the art.
IB- Can you describe what kind of work moves you personally? what style? what influence?
D- I am not much into pure abstract art. In order to connect with an image I like to find realistic elements or symbols in it. I love Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt and also Surrealist art.
IB- Do you ever buy art for gifts?
D- We often do but I have to admit it is a little risky, you are never sure how it will be received. We have been known to give art as presents to our daughters, which of course ends up in our house !
(Feel free to get in touch with me if you would like to know the names of the artists whose work is shown in these photos, I will be glad to ask Deborah for you).