The following article is from the July/August issue of Modern Painters. To see an illustrated gallery of the figures listed here, with their descriptions, click on the slide show.
Antonio may be the biggest art collector in the Philippines. He is certainly the youngest: The 35-year-old scion and managing director of Century Properties has already amassed a cache of modern and contemporary blue-chip art that rivals that of some small museums, with works by Picasso, Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Takashi Murakami, and Richard Prince. If Antonio is young, his collection is even younger — he only began buying in 2005. It’s a point of pride that he is on the short list of Asian collectors who are players in the international market. He sees himself as an emissary of sorts, with a mission to bring the world to the Philippines. “The artists who are household names in the West aren’t there,” he says. “I want to change the psyche of a population,” to normalize, in a way, the notion of collecting and arts patronage in an increasingly prosperous country.
Antonio has a taste for artists associated with New York’s 1980s scene. He tends to buy in spurts, he says, delving deeply into one genre or another. “I really like my Bacon,” he admits, “but what represents me more is my commissions.” Many are self-portraits of a sort, conceived in collaboration with the likes of David Salle, David LaChapelle, and the Bruce High Quality Foundation. “Marina Abramović asked me 50 questions over e-mail before she agreed to do a project with me,” he notes. “I like to participate in the genesis of an idea — that way I have a stake in it.” For now much of Antonio’s art is in storage, but he dreams of opening a space to exhibit it. “Collecting art is different from buying anything else,” he says, “because it’s so damn obsessive.” — Sarah P. Hanson
New York/San Francisco
A founder of 20x200, a Web site offering affordable, high-quality editions and prints, Bekman also runs a New York gallery, Jen Bekman Projects. She now divides her time between the East Coast and the West, where she lives with her boyfriend. “It’s nice to have a clean slate, as the walls of my New York apartment filled up long ago, but it’s a bit of a challenge since he needs to like it too,” she says. “Of everything we’ve got teed up for framing, I’m most excited about the biggest piece — an 80-by-60-inch artist’s proof of one of Christian Chaize’s 20x200 editions, which will add some much-needed color and sunshine to our currently bare living room walls. I’m equally excited about the smallest, a drawing that Jason Polan made of the gorgeous potted succulent plants we’ve got sitting on our terrace. Jason did the drawing during an artists’ gathering we hosted, tore it out from his sketch pad, and handed it to me on the spot — the best housewarming gift ever!”
Alfonso Gracia Castillo
A former financial adviser, Gracia Castillo has been collecting since he was quite young. In his words, he has “been in contact with the art scene since an early age.” While he pursues emerging artists with a focus on those from Latin America, he is guided in his purchases largely by instinct, he says. His recent acquisitions include etched light boxes by Marcela Armas, cutout photographs by Jose Dávila, sculptures by Cynthia Gutiérrez, and drawings by Françoise Vanneraud.
A restaurateur who doesn’t use consultants for buying art, Cervantes lives in suburban El Pedregal with his collection and his family. Indeed, he considers his art pieces — including works by Abraham Cruzvillegas, On Kawara, Jimmie Durham, and Gabriel Orozco — family members. Only his ownership unites the collection, but he does feel that his profession “is now more influenced by my involvement in culture through collecting art than the other way around.” Most recently he acquired "Dieu," a 1974 work by Robert Filliou he’s wanted for seven years. Yet the thrill never wanes. “I honestly still feel excited about acquisitions made 5 or 10 years ago,” he says.
Executive editor of Toronto-based Magenta magazine, a journal of international art, his collection has been expanding for 12 years and focuses on works on paper, artist’s books, and multiples from the likes of Christian Marclay and Jonathan Monk, though it also includes an impressive array of pieces by emerging artists.
A producer at Detalle Films, Cosio is already an active supporter of public culture at the young age of 28. Last February he began Alumnos 47, a foundation that seeks to create learning communities for contemporary art, and launched his first major project, a mobile library that travels throughout Mexico City. The project grew out of earlier collaborations with various art institutions (including soma in South Korea and moma in New York) to design community-specific libraries. Even though he has been collecting for only four years, Cosio has made enough of a name for himself to have been included in the “New Collecting: From the Personal to the Political” panel at this May’s edition of arteBA. His collection includes work by the self-taught Mexican artist Dr Lakra, and in 2010 he helped finance a Marxist puppet show by the Mexican artist Pedro Reyes.
Gopalkrishnan has always been passionate about art. She once collected ukiyo-e, Japanese wood-block prints, particularly first editions by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, “best known,” she says, “for his violent interpretations of traditional horror stories.” However she lost the collection four years ago and “was left looking at bare walls and a tight budget. Right around that time,” she says, “I began transitioning from a successful corporate career to a more experimental, asymmetric philosophy that I call ‘simply transformative’: the process of aligning outside with inside, image with inspiration, who you happen to have become with who you were meant to be.” This approach guides her nascent lifestyle consultancy venture. “At its core, this philosophy explores contrast and exploration. It rests not in erasure or absolute reconciliation but in that space between sound and silence, journey and destination,” she continues. “This is my commitment, in life and work as in art. I am drawn to pieces that are composed, clean to the touch of the eye, but then invite deconstruction and realignment that is authentic to my experience and aspiration.” Recent acquisitions include work by Canadian artist Tom Burrows, Bratsa Bonifacho, and Izima Kaoru’s "Nagasaku Hiromi wears Louis Vuitton," 2001. — Orit Gat
Alon and Betsy Kasha
The Kashas established an interior design firm specializing in renovating and reselling Parisian apartments in 2004; they started collecting art 10 years earlier. “We bought a painting on our honeymoon and decided to buy a work of art each year on our anniversary,” they say. “We buy what we like, not with an eye to investment.” They recently added a 1951 painting by François Willi Wendt to a collection that includes multiple works by John Zinsser, as well as pieces by Richmond Burton, Cindy Sherman, and Louise Bourgeois. Overall though, “it is the younger, lesser-known artists” — such as the sculptor Nils Darsonval and the painter Julien des Monstiers — ”that truly inspire us. This includes furniture designers whose works we have incorporated into our own designs.” The couple’s collecting activities work in tandem with their profession: They often put newly collected works and pieces of furniture into their designs and sometimes sell them to clients. — OG
Founder and editor of Mapa das Artes, a Brazilian art guide with both digital and bimonthly printed editions, Fioravante started his collection in 1996 while working as an art journalist. Today it includes some 500 drawings, paintings, sculptures, and photographs. Among his holdings are pieces by Eliseu Visconti, Antonio Maluf, Sergio de Camargo, Franz Weissmann, Amílcar de Castro, Vania Mignone, and Egidio Rocci. “About 90 percent of my collection was purchased at auctions and galleries. I rarely buy directly from an artist’s studio, unless he or she is not represented by any gallery,” says Fioravante, who in 2010 created the annual Exhibition for Artists Without Galleries, with artists submitting their work for consideration via an open call.
Arthur de Ganay
As a young architecture student in Paris, de Ganay was inspired to begin collecting art after encountering Hiroshi Sugimoto’s large-scale photographs in 1995. He has since expanded his collection to include works by a number of architectural and landscape photographers like Elger Esser, Thomas Ruff, and Arwed Messmer. A building that used to be a jam factory along the river Spree now houses his collection and is open to the public by appointment.
The owner of Essex Street, a Lower East Side gallery that he recently relocated from its eponymous block to Eldridge Street, Graham, formerly director of Renwick Gallery in SoHo, is an art dealer and curator. His move to the LES reflects his interests, which tend toward artists — including Mandla Reuter, Joëlle Tuerlinckx, and Helena Almeida — whom he feels get more attention in Europe than they do in New York. As a gallerist Graham seeks to correct this wrong: Just last winter, for example, he mounted the critically acclaimed New York return of text-based artist Peter Fend. To inaugurate his new space in April, Graham turned to Owen Land, a well-regarded American filmmaker who nonetheless had yet to have a solo gallery exhibition in his home country.
Originally from Beirut, Grahne now lives in New York, where he is pursuing an M.A. in art business. His collection focuses on contemporary Middle Eastern works. “There is a significant level of artistic talent and creativity coming out of the region,” he says. “New Yorkers are enamored when they visit my apartment and see all the Middle Eastern art on the walls.” (Grahne also keeps a blog tracking his own interests and discoveries at artofthemideast.com.) Recent acquisitions include work by Reza Derakshani (Iran), Mohannad Orabi (Syria), and Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui (Lebanon). The latter artist created one of Grahne’s prized pieces, a suite of paintings called “3 Divas.” The series “came from the artist’s desire to pay tribute to some of the greatest singers and musicians in the Middle East and France: Oum Kalthoum, Edith Piaf, and Asmahan.”