12 Art and Design Heavyweights Share Their Stunning Collections
Collecting is a curious art. What motivates one to pursue historic architectural manuscripts, turn-of-the-century jewelry, or Andy Warhol–inspired cookie jars? For some, a collection is driven by emotion, desiring objects that strike us like lightning. For others, it’s more systematic, prompted by a strategy developed over years. Whatever the approach, a collection speaks of a person’s intimate passions, inspirations, and unique view of the world. Here, we asked top art and design talents to share the stories behind their treasures.
1. Larry Warsh, Publisher
For me collecting is about understanding the energy of the times; it’s about reading between the lines and making choices,” says New York collector and publisher Larry Warsh. “I think collecting is also about assessing, evaluating, and absorbing an artist and the unique narrative of their work. Good collecting is not about following the latest trend; it’s about vision and courage. I often ask myself, Why is this artist important? What is this artist communicating? That helps guide my thinking process.
“I started collecting art in a focused way during the 1980s,” Warsh continues, “and I was friendly with Rene Ricard, an important critical theorist of the day. Rene was a brilliant person who wrote a lot about art, and his thinking was influential to my perspective and journey as a collector. He attuned me to the intensity of the moment and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and that led me to the action of collecting.
The combination of intuition, timing, influence, and exposure really gave me a sense of confidence in how to assess and collect. “The art-car collection began thanks to gallerist Adam Lindemann. I owe it to him for inspiring me to start collecting after I loaned the Haring car to his ‘Piston Head’ exhibition during Art Basel in Miami Beach in 2013. It occurred to me this was an interesting area. Again, it was that same combination of timing and intuition.” — Rozalia Jovanovic
2. Brett Gorvy, Amy Gold, and Tamsin Gorvy, Art Dealers and Their Daughter
It’s never too early to start collecting. Just ask Tamsin Gorvy, the 13-year-old daughter of art-world heavyweights Brett Gorvy, cofounder of the Lévy Gorvy gallery, and his wife, art dealer Amy Gold. When Tamsin was born, the couple, who met at Christie’s, decided they would gift her an artwork every birthday.
Tamsin’s bedroom now features an impressive array of works by Lorna Simpson, Gabriel Orozco, Lauretta Vinciarelli, and her favorite, a small watercolor by Brazilian artist Jac Leirner. “We felt it would be something meaningful to share with her,” says Gold. And while the style of works has developed from the whimsical figuration of Marcel Dzama to an early abstraction by the Japanese Gutai group, nothing is childish. “We bought things that she would have forever and grow with her,” says Gold.
The couple’s own collection, which is prominently displayed throughout their elegant Upper West Side apartment, is dedicated to photography and works on paper and ranges from Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly to radical feminist artists such as Hannah Wilke and Sonja Sekula. “Living with art is a privileged experience, and it allows a special connection with the artists,” says Brett. “We wanted to instill a love of art in Tamsin’s world.” — Lucy Rees
3. Amy Fine Collins, Journalist
“There is no real life in clothes until they’re on a body,” says journalist Amy Fine Collins, whose vast wardrobe includes runway samples from Geoffrey Beene, James Galanos, and Thom Browne. Collins’s relationship with Beene was “one of these perfect kismet matches,” as she describes it. “I couldn’t imagine any other designer’s clothes on my body because he just completed me in such an ideal way.”
After Beene’s death in 2004, she started searching for more of his original designs in thrift shops, resale stores—even her friends’ closets. Yet she never retired pieces, just cycled them in and out of storage while she waited for the silhouettes to come back in vogue. “It’s not just collecting clothing as objects; it’s collecting clothing as usable objects, little masterpieces.” — Jill Sieracki
4. Patrick Seguin, Design Dealer
French dealer Patrick Seguin was first struck by the work of architect Jean Prouvé in the late 1980s, long before his midcentury creations were on the top of every designer’s dream-house checklist. Since then, Seguin has devoted his career to collecting not only his furniture pieces but also—impressively—his demountable architecture.
He purchased his first Prouvé house in 1991: the 1948 Ferembal House, which he had architect Jean Nouvel readapt. “These structures deserved to be recognized as important works of midcentury French architecture,” says Seguin, who now has 23 houses, which range in size from 390 to 2,066 square feet and are stored in a large warehouse. (He has sold a few to friends, notably Richard Prince and Miuccia Prada.) “Prouvé’s work as an architect combined a practical and honest approach, a relentless search to exploit his materials to the best of their ability, and a consciousness of his surroundings.” — Jacqueline Terrebonne
5. Fiona Druckenmiller, Jewelry Gallerist
Vintage jewelry purveyor Fiona Druckenmiller recalls at an early age admiring her mother’s weighty 1970s gold chains and oversize Tiffany & Co. peridot studs. In her 20s, she began acquiring her own bijoux, by Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari, and Suzanne Belperron.
“I look for pieces that are exceptional in their uniqueness,” says Druckenmiller, who cites a coral, onyx, and diamond Art Deco Cartier ring once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post as a particular treasure. “It is a perfectly preserved example of the unparalleled work the house was doing at that time,” she says. “I also feel a certain kinship with its original owner, as two women who really enjoy jewelry.” — J.S.
6. Norman and Irma Braman, Philanthropists
“It’s a pure love of art—that’s what guided our collection from the very beginning,” says Norman Braman, who, along with his wife, Irma, has amassed one of the deepest and richest collections of 20th- and 21st-century art in the world. Says Irma, “Curators will marvel at the way Norman shows the work in a different light.” Built over four decades, the Bramans’ collection spans Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat—there’s even an entire room filled with Alexander Calders. The philanthropic couple, who recently funded a new permanent home for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, first fell for Calder in the late 1970s.
“We like to collect in depth,” Norman says. “And it was a time when Calder’s prices hadn’t spiraled to the degree they have now.” These days, the caliber of works the Bramans are interested in buying is increasingly tied up in museums, private collections, or foundations, but they still have some lucky encounters, such as acquiring Picasso’s The Lovers (1923) practically straight o the wall of a Guggenheim exhibition. As for what’s on their wish list, “we are not looking for names to fill in the gaps. But I have always wanted a Pollock,” Irma says. “He was the one who got away.” — L.R.
7. Carla Sozzani, Fashion Entrepreneur
It was the late Parisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa who alerted Carla Sozzani to the fact that her 1,000-plus pieces of 20th- and 21st-century photography could be called a collection. “I bought my first pictures in 1968 but didn’t realize I was ‘collecting,’” says Sozzani, the founder of luxury concept store 10 Corso Como. “I just bought things because I liked them.”
Sozzani’s collection includes images by the legendary photographers she collaborated with during her years as a fashion editor for Italian Vogue and Italian Elle, from Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon to Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, and Richard Avedon. Some of her favorite pieces include an Irving Penn warrior photograph and a Man Ray self-portrait, but it’s the work of Francesca Woodman that has the deepest resonance. “All of her pictures are about the discovery of herself as a woman,” says Sozzani. “They are very touching.”
Last year, some 200 of Sozzani’s most iconic images were displayed in the exhibit “Between Art & Fashion.” These days, however, she is less occupied with adding to her cache. “When I see something I like, I have much less compulsion to buy it than I used to,” she says. “My collection was born spontaneously from the heart, and it will continue that way.” — Shellie Karabel
8. Robert Couturier, Interior Designer
With his timeless style, it comes as no surprise that interior designer Robert Couturier gravitates toward Old Masters. While a sale at Christie’s last spring featured some 100 of his belongings, Couturier hung on to his treasured collection of portraits. Arranged salon-style throughout his country estate in Kent, Connecticut, the paintings represent a whole cast of characters, from the pregnant Marchioness of Worcester, who died in childbirth, depicted by English court painter Gilbert Jackson to lords and ladies by Rhode Island portraitist Gilbert Stuart.
There’s even a pair of paintings of a husband and wife by Ammi Phillips from 1820 that Couturier reunited after finding them at separate auction houses. “I don’t care very much about who made the particular painting,” says Couturier. “I’m attracted to the person and the idea of him or her.” — J.T.
9. Ralph Pucci, Design Dealer
“I’ve always found that jazz, especially from the 1950s and ’60s, is consistent with the approach we have to furniture,” says Ralph Pucci, the esteemed New York design dealer. “It’s all about elegance, sophistication, and exploration. I’ve amassed around 700 jazz recordings from that time frame and sometimes find that the cover art is just as inspiring as the music.
I have a Chet Baker album with a John Altoon–designed cover that resembles the new David Storey mural outside our Los Angeles showroom, and so many ones by Andy Warhol. I’m always picking up more at the phenomenal Academy Records, which is conveniently just a few doors away from my showroom in New York.” — J.T
10. Max Hollein, Museum Director
“Every collector is in love with—and extremely knowledgeable about—the objects they own,” says Max Hollein, the newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “As the director, you’re the custodian. Collectors have a more personal and intimate relationship with the objects and can even teach museums how to look at them in different ways. They also care about creating the perfect environment—surrounding each piece with the right works, so there’s a complete narrative. The great collector and philanthropist Leonard Lauder’s incredible gift of Cubist works is a testament to that, with the most recent addition of Juan Gris’s work The Musician’s Table from 1914. This extraordinary masterpiece exemplifies Cubism at its best. He wanted to have that shared.” — J.T.
11. David Gill, Design Gallerist
Cookie jars may seem like a kitschy object of a bygone time, but Andy Warhol was obsessed with them. So too is David Gill, the über-stylish London gallerist who proudly displays his collection in the 16th-century Maltese palace he shares with his husband, the interior designer Francis Sultana.
“I went to the Andy Warhol sale at Sotheby’s in 1987, and there were such amazing things—works by Yves Klein, Cy Twombly, and so on. But what struck me most was his curious collection of cookie jars. There were clowns and animals and Disney characters. I found it so humorous. I probably have around 100 now and source them from all over the world.” — L.R.
12. Peter Pennoyer, Architect
Celebrated classical architect Peter Pennoyer, who counts art-world megastar Jeff Koons among his clients, began amassing his rare architecture books and periodicals during his teens growing up in New York. “When I graduated from high school, I found a 1684 book filled with these incredible plates published by the architect who designed the wing of the Louvre,” recalls Pennoyer, whose library has grown to include a 1582 second-edition of Vitruvius’s architectural bible, De Architectura, a pop-up book revealing original plans for the Brighton Pavilion, and a 17th-century carpenter’s guide made of goatskin parchment. To understand modernism, he keeps a first edition of Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture on hand. You won’t find his fragile historical treasures hidden away though. “I don’t approve of people who get really fussy about collections,” he explains. “They should be shared.” — J.T.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2018 Winter Issue under the headline The Collectors. Subscribe to the magazine.