Art Collectors

What I Buy and Why: Miami’s Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs on Their Artist-Featured Dinner Parties and Their Wall of Dog Paintings


Art is at the heart of the relationship for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. The couple got married 15 years ago on their shared birthday, March 13, and celebrate their anniversary each year by buying a new work for their collection.

There is also their business, Thomas Fuchs Creative, which works with skilled artisans to help bring their high-end handmade design objects to a broader audience. Fuchs, a graduate of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in Washington, D.C., is the creative director, and Mahtani, the former global brand director of Rémy Martin, is the director of public relations.

But where their passion for art really shines is during Miami Art Week, when they host their annual Tavolo Dinner Series, inviting a local artist they love to completely make over their apartment to create an immersive art installation.

Mahtani had experience hosting events with artists at Rémy Martin—albeit with the power of a major company behind him—and started the series as a way of connecting to the local art scene after the couple moved to Miami five years ago.

Capucine Safir, for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs Creative's Tavolo Art Dinner Series. Photo by Nestor Sandoval.

Capucine Safir, for Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs Creative’s Tavolo Art Dinner Series. Photo by Nestor Sandoval.

Past artists have included Tom Criswell, Tony Vazquez-Figueroa, and Aidan Marak. For a dinner with Frida Baranek, who had recently done a photography project on a zero-gravity flight, Mahtani even created a fanciful tablescape with melamine plates floating atop waves of industrial chicken wire.

We spoke to Mahtani about what attracts them to a work of art, and how they live with each work in their collection.

Tony Vazquez, <em> Black Mirror V</em> in the bedroom of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Josue Acosta.

Tony Vazquez, Black Mirror V, in the bedroom of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Josue Acosta.

What was your first purchase?

Our first joint purchase was made in Paris fifteen years ago. We were in a taxi speeding to the airport when we were stuck in traffic and looked to our right and saw a HUGE cow staring at us from a gallery window. We stopped the taxi immediately and rushed into the gallery and bought the cow by the artist Wang Zhiwu!!! I felt like we literally were in a scene out of a movie. We both got to the airplane gate and we could not believe what we had just done.

What was your most recent purchase?

In 2020, for our birthdays, we purchased a collage of a robot entitled Madness Will Out by Addie Herder. We were in lockdown and Thomas was surfing the web and fell in love with her collage. Flash forward to 2023, and the artist is having a solo show at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Art Museum in Miami. Thomas sits on the board of the museum, and she will be the featured artist for our Tavolo Dinner Series in December.

Addie Herder, <em>Madness Will Out</em>. Photo by Mateo Serna Zapata.

Addie Herder, Madness Will Out. Photo by Mateo Serna Zapata.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

More Lalanne. We are huge fans of the couple François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne and own a piece gifted to me by my parents. On a trip to France, my mother was so taken by the birds that my father bought her one. That bird ended up being a Lalanne sculpture, which has now taken flight and landed ever so gently up on a perch in our bar area.

Black Mirror V by Tony Vazquez-Figueroa sits above our bed, however the one I pine after is his large canvas works. They are a play on the petrol from Venezuela that is in abundance, but ironically the locals can’t benefit from their own country’s rich resources.

Bernard Buffet, <em>Bugs</em>, in the dining room of Thomas Fuchs and Michou Mahtani. Photo by Josue Acosta.

Bernard Buffet, Bugs, in the dining room of Thomas Fuchs and Michou Mahtani. Photo by Josue Acosta.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

Bernard Buffet. Both Thomas and I are huge fans of Buffet, who we discovered on one of our many sojourns to Paris. He had a rich personal history having been the ex-boyfriend of both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. We recognized the allure both designers saw in a young Bernard Buffet—apart from his matinee idol features. We acquired the piece we have from his “Bug” series at a gallery in Paris which now frames our dining room. Thomas was even inspired by the piece to create our bug table linen collection.

But for us, it’s more the journey to discovery and how we acquire the piece that holds the value for us. We have a wall of dog paintings that range from exquisite valuable pieces to flea market finds that continually bring a smile to our face every time we walk by them.

Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs's "Dog Wall." Photo by Carlos Urdantea.

Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs’s dog wall. Photo by Carlos Urdantea.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

We absolutely love living in Miami. With Art Basel Miami we are surrounded by local and international art and artists, but the truth is we acquire most of our artwork when we travel. In all the countries we travel to for manufacturing our collections—India, Italy, Egypt, France—our passion for discovery and finding new artists, new galleries, and new ideas is what feeds our souls. More times than not, it ends up in us bringing home a piece of art.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No. All our artwork, whether sculpture or painting, is so highly personal to us. The art is not just an investment, but also an emotional transaction. Everything we’ve bought has meaning for Thomas and I both, so we’ve yet to regret or resell anything we have purchased.

A work by an unknown Brazilian artist in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

A work by an unknown Brazilian artist in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

Our living room is a mix. There’s a sculpture from artist Sharon Berebichez, a set of floral paintings by our friend and renowned teacher and artist Mary Beth Mckenzie, and the large-scale showstopper of a piece was gifted to Thomas over twenty years ago. We only know it was done by a Brazilian artist. Surrounded by windows, the reflection of light at different times of day illuminates the depth and dimension of the painting. It’s a fan favorite of all our guests.

A Mary Beth McKenzie painting in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

A Mary Beth McKenzie painting in the living room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs. Photo by Michael Stavaridis.

What about in your bathroom?

We have a modern photograph by the photographer Mary Beth Koeth of the legendary WNBA player and Olympian, Lisa Leslie. This photograph was initially for an ESPN “Legends of Basketball” exhibition, and they wanted a yellow background to make it bright. Mary Beth gifted this to us a few years ago and we love it in the bathroom hanging next to our collection of Rosenthal plates by Danish artist Bjørn Wiinblad.

Mary Beth Koeth, <em>Lisa Leslie</em>. Collection of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

Mary Beth Koeth, Lisa Leslie. Collection of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

Where do I start? A huge 180-pound life-size Han Dynasty ceramic dog sits on a pedestal in our dining room overlooking our table. While on a manufacturing trip in Hong Kong, Thomas toured the infamous Hollywood Road antique neighborhood, and came across this dog that he fell in love with. Being dog lovers, we resonate with any artwork featuring dogs. After our wall of dog portraits, this was a natural progression for us to acquire the dog sculpture. It’s impractical because of its size and weight—it’s almost like having a Great Dane living in our dining room!

A Han Dynasty dog sculpture in the dining room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

A Han Dynasty dog sculpture in the dining room of Michou Mahtani and Thomas Fuchs.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Katherine Bernhardt. I am such a big fan of her style. I remember seeing a huge Pink Panther I liked for under $10,000 a few years ago, now her work sells for upwards of $150,000. My love for the Pink Panther can be traced back to my childhood. My mother actually painted my bathroom grey and pink and made a Pink Panther-themed bathroom. So naturally, I live in daily regret for not buying it when we had the chance.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Would we really steal? If no one was looking…maybe! First on the list would be a piece by Morris Louis, inventor of the Color Field movement. We love Morris Louis’s work because it is classic but yet so modern. What could look to the naked eye as simple has a depth and a current that moves one’s soul. Is that too deep and poetic?

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What I Buy and Why: Artist Julian Opie on How Collecting Inspires His Own Practice and the Teensy Carl Andre Work He’s Afraid of Misplacing


Collecting objects and artworks has been a habit of artists throughout history, from Henri Matisse, who drew inspiration from his collection of decorative arts from Africa, to Andy Warhol’s dedicated patronage of young artists. British artist Julian Opie is no exception.

Opie’s art practice plays with ways of seeing by challenging our perception of the everyday, and he has built his own visual language that is informed at once by the vocabulary of classic portraiture and Japanese woodblock prints, Egyptian hieroglpyhs, as well as ordinary public signage. As such, the artist has throughout his career assembled a wide private collection of work that spans Roman sculpture to classical 17th-century portraits to work from contemporary artist peers.

A selection of works from Opie’s private collection will be shown alongside his work at a forthcoming exhibition at Newlands House Gallery in Petworth from November 6. We caught up with the artist about his collecting inspirations, how he badly covets a Monet, and the teeny Carl Andre sculpture that is constantly disappearing.

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), No. 14. Koshigawa in Musashi Province (Musashi Koshigaya zai). From the series Fuji sanjurokkei (Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji). (1858). Collection of Julian Opie.

What was your first purchase?

Not really sure. I think it was a Japanese Ukiyo-I print by Kunisada (not my favourite). With Ukiyo-I prints you can buy some of the greatest art works ever made for not so much money. The artists of this period did make unique paintings but their greatest works are arguably the large run woodblock prints. Condition and fading vary greatly but you can buy a Hiroshige or an Utamaro for modest sums.

What was your most recent acquisition?

Honestly? Today I asked to buy a piece of ambient music by a young musician. I often use music in my installations and have bought or swapped these with various musicians. The last object I bought was earlier this week, a 19th-century wooden ancestor figure post from the island of Timor. Over the last year I have been collecting a lot of things from Indonesia from Sulawesi and Borneo and now Timor.

How does your own practice as an artist inform your collecting?

In two ways. I get guidance and inspiration from what other artists have made and also what I am currently interested in making leads me to find ways to understand and enjoy other artist’s work.

Joshua Reynolds, <i>Wilson Gale Braddyll</i> (1788). Oil on panel. Collection of Julian Opie.

Joshua Reynolds, Wilson Gale Braddyll (1788). Oil on panel. Collection of Julian Opie.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

I don’t have a plan. It depends on what I come across. There are gaps that I’d love to fill. I’d like to buy the third great triptych of Hiroshige and also to own another and less damaged Fayum portrait from Roman period Egypt. These are painted in coloured wax and have survived well giving a clear and realistic snapshot of the people of the ancient world.

Which work do you most cherish?

Although I continue to enjoy and learn from the things I have bought, on a daily basis, for me collecting art is a way of engaging in the world rather than an amassing of treasures to cherish.

How do you acquire art most frequently?

From galleries. I always try to buy from good trusted galleries. They know their area and one can build up a good relationship, learn a lot and find great works.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

When I start buying in a new area I can get a bit carried away and buy things that in retrospect weren’t perhaps necessary. I did sell a few of these recently which felt good.

Patang Statue, Dayak tribe Borneo. 19th C. Collection of Julian Opie

Patang Statue, Dayak tribe Borneo. 19th C. Collection of Julian Opie.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

Sofa: Roy Lichtenstein large interior print. Bathrooms are not great places to hang most art due to humidity. At the studio lavatory I rotate Hiroshige landscape prints.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

Who thinks up these questions? I own a tiny magnetic Carl Andre sculpture that family members keep rearranging and is constantly in danger of being lost.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

One of Alex Katz’s small paintings. There were a set of these in the next door booth at an art fair many years ago and I didn’t have the courage.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Stealing is disrespectful. If it were a gift… A Monet of the Houses of Parliament on the Thames.

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Chinese Collector Yan Du on Her Mission to Support the Greater Asian Art Ecosystem, and the Young Artists She’s Watching Now


“Art has always been part of my life and my memory,” says Yan Du, a collector based between Hong Kong and London.

Born in Beijing, Yan studied traditional Chinese painting as a child, but it was upon moving to London for her education that she says she truly fell in love with art. “When I saw works that I liked, I instantly felt this urge to live with them,” she said. “Therefore, collecting art became a natural next step.”

In the early years of her collection, Yan focused on women artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Yayoi Kusama. But a decade later she noticed a gap in the wider world’s understanding of Asian art, which she increasingly felt had to be bridged. In 2019,  she founded Asymmetry Art Foundation, a non-profit devoted to cultivating a broader understanding of and curatorial focus on contemporary art emerging in Asia through academic scholarships and curatorial fellowships. 

We spoke with Yan about the artists she’s watching now, and why supporting arts from Asia means cultivating curators and critics, too. 

Let’s start at the beginning. What was the first work you acquired?

It was a painting by Raoul de Keyser, which I bought when I was visiting New York about 10 years ago. A friend took me around to some galleries and I bought the work immediately after seeing it. It was my first significant purchase from a gallery so it has a special place in my heart.

Sydney Shen, Thirst is the Mother of Corvid Ingenuity (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Vacancy, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

Sydney Shen, Thirst is the Mother of Corvid Ingenuity (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Vacancy, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

On the other end, what’s the most recent work you’ve acquired?

Sydney Shen’s Thirst is the Mother of Corvid Ingenuity (2020), which is both an installation and a sculpture. Its visual impact is very strong. It is composed of a black patent leather BDSM high-heeled shoe and other ready-made objects, such as buckets and ribbons. The work is a response to the story of Aesop’s fable “The Crow and the Pitcher,” in which a thirsty crow tries to drink water from a narrow pitcher and can’t reach it. Then the crow fills the pitcher with stones and it reaches its beak—it’s a story familiar to me from childhood. When I discovered that the boot in Shen’s work was filled with stones, each carrying the names of the different mountains on Mars, I became even more curious about the artist’s thinking. Humankind’s desire for knowledge and the unknown is like the crow trying to fill up the pitcher to reach the water—it is driven by instinct and fearlessness. In some way, it is also similar to the desire to be close to reality and truth through the process of collecting.

You spent a decade building a personal collection before founding the Asymmetry Art Foundation. What experiences led you to the decision to create it and why did you feel such an organization was necessary. 

Through my engagement with the contemporary art world, I formed friendships with artists, and through their practices, I became aware of the importance of other practitioners whose contributions to a thriving art ecosystem are equally important: curators, writers, critics, and scholars. Foundations tend to support artists and I noticed a gap in the support of these practitioners that do vital work: creating dialogue, sharing knowledge, and introducing artists to their audiences. This is how the idea of a network of curators and the Asymmetry Art Foundation was born. 

Sydney Shen, Thirst is the Mother of Corvid Ingenuity (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Vacancy, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

Sydney Shen, Thirst is the Mother of Corvid Ingenuity (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Vacancy, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

What role are you hoping to fill in the Chinese and global art community? What role does your own collection have in this?

My collection brings together global contemporary art and Asian contemporary art. After a number of years collecting art, I decided to establish Asymmetry, and through both the collection and foundation I have deepened my relationship with many academic institutions and museums. I have a strong sense of social responsibility for the art world and society in general that my role as a patron and philanthropist allows me to fulfill. 

Collecting artworks can appear like photographic snapshots of a certain moment in time. However, creating opportunities for the continuous promotion of knowledge is an ongoing endeavor. Through the foundation’s support, we can cultivate young curators, criticism, and scholars, and indirectly through them, support exhibitions. This contributes to the wider art ecosystem. I have always believed that giving is gaining; contributing to society has changed my values and changed my life. 

What do you think is most exciting about the current Chinese art world right now? What do you see as its future? 

The pandemic has not yet ended and the art world in China is as cautious as in any other part of the world. Yet during this trying time, art institutions seem to be recovering at a rapid pace that I am so impressed by. 

In recent years, Chinese contemporary art has developed very quickly. On an institutional level, exhibition quality is improving substantially each year compared to the last. On a creative level, artist practices are increasingly more powerful and speaking in a more global language, however, they still require more international attention and need platforms to present their work. 

That’s why, in the post-pandemic world, Asymmetry Art Foundation will have a program that invites international curators and museum directors to visit important art cities in China. Through the work of the foundation, we want to convey the voices of the Chinese contemporary art world and strive to promote cultural exchanges through academic activities across the different contexts of East and West. We hope to guide Western art professionals and audiences into a better understanding of the whole picture of Chinese contemporary art through our activities, as there is still a long way to go.

What are some of the initiatives Asymmetry Art Foundation has underway?
Our first curatorial writing fellow, Hang Li, a curator based between Beijing and London, has started her placement at Chisenhale Gallery. She is currently working on a practice-led project that considers online community structures between artists, curators, and institutions at the intersection of technology and concepts of care and solidarity

In the autumn, we are looking forward to welcoming our curatorial fellow, Weitian Liu, to Whitechapel Gallery in partnership with Delfina Foundation (where they will be a resident), and inducting our first scholarship holder into the PhD program at Goldsmiths, University of London. Weitian Liu is interested in researching the notions of the civic and the civil within the institutional structures of organizations in the U.K., China, and Southeast Asia. 

Guan Xiao, Lulu Bird Walked Out Of Delicatessen Bumped Into A Swarm Of Buzzing (2020) Courtesy of the artist and Antenna Space, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

Guan Xiao, Lulu Bird Walked Out Of Delicatessen Bumped Into A Swarm Of Buzzing (2020) Courtesy of the artist and Antenna Space, Shanghai. Yan Du Collection.

How has the past year affected your mission?
Our foundation is based in London but, personally, I’ve been stuck in Hong Kong for a long time now. With our initiatives still very much in their infancy, we were catapulted into a void of uncertainty, and we quickly had to adapt our mission to the new normal. Thankfully, the need for opportunities for young curators and writers extends beyond any crisis and we could continue most of our programs. 

Due to heavy travel restrictions, we decided to open up our requirements to target greater Chinese practitioners based anywhere in the world, in some cases, and in others focus on local practitioners. Remaining flexible and agile has really benefited our growth and taught us to stay open-minded.   

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Can't Help Myself (2016). Collection of Yan Du Collection.

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Can’t Help Myself (2016). Collection of Yan Du Collection.

Who are some of the artists you are collecting now, or you think we should know?
I would really like to introduce a few Chinese artists: the artist-duo Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, and the artist Guan Xiao. When I first saw Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s installation Can’t Help MyselfI was shocked, frightened, and excited at the same time. It really caught my attention in a way that was unforgettable, so I decided to acquire the work. The installation combines political metaphors, humanitarian and social issues while carrying a profound meaning of zen. 

The beast-like monster brought forth by artificial intelligence presents itself to the viewer as a nervous visual pleasure. Can’t Help Myself is, to me, one of the rare great works of this century. I haven’t been this excited about collecting a work for a long time. Of course, the great feedback this work had at the Venice Biennale is also a reason to be proud. 

Another artist I think people should know is Guan Xiao. She belongs to the younger generation of sculptors in China. Her work is outstanding and is representative of a female artist of the new generation. I’ve been following her work for some time, seeing how it develops. She has participated in many international biennials and institutional shows, and her works have a creative language that is very much in sync with what is happening around the world. Her pieces are three-dimensional collages of the post-image age, and they also contain anthropomorphic symbolism borrowing from the beginning of modernism; the works are sculptures and combine ready-made elements. Her works also carry a very contemporary feature, namely, anonymity—one of the global features of the digital age.

What are your goals and hopes for the future?
As someone who cares deeply about generations to come, I hope for world peace, the well-being of humankind, and the recovery of laughter, positive energy, happiness, and health.

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What I Buy and Why: Real Estate Developer Bob Rennie on Collecting Performance and Installing Extremely Clever Bathroom Art


Vancouver-based art collector and real estate mogul Bob Rennie, who showcases his extensive contemporary art collection at the eponymous Rennie Museum, has a collection most art lovers would kill for (okay, maybe not kill, but… maim?).

Rennie, whose real-estate business earned him the nickname “Condo king,” serves on the boards of the Tate Americas Foundation and the Art Institute of Chicago. Below, he dishes on his most prized possessions, what it was like to negotiate with artist Charline von Heyl, and the most impractical works in his collection.

 

What was your first acquisition (and how much did you pay for it)? 

A Norman Rockwell limited edition print, On Top of the World (1972), for $375 in 1974. I was 18 years old.

Nina Chanel Abney, <i>Being Mixie with my Fixie</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

Nina Chanel Abney, Being Mixie with my Fixie (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

What was your most recent acquisition? 

Nina Chanel Abney’s Being Mixie With my Fixie.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year? 

I’d like to continue our journey with Dawoud Bey’s trilogy by adding “Louisiana,” [a series of] 24 large-format photographs. We are proud to have in the collection the 16 diptychs and video of Dawoud’s “Birmingham” [series] and the 25 photos of “Night Coming Tenderly, Black.” I would also like to add a set of 14 heads by Thomas J. Price.

Kerry James Marshall, <i> Garden Party</i> (2003). © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Kerry James Marshall, Garden Party (2003). © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own? 

That is a tough question. I would narrow it down to two masterpieces: Kerry James Marshall’s Garden Party (2003) and his trio Untitled (2011–12), in which the colors red, black, and green echo the Afro-American flag. We stacked the three Untitled canvases vertically [to evoke] a portrait of Kerry, but they are not typically displayed in this format. You miss the rich details in these subtly complex canvases when they’re upwards of 26 feet high on the wall!

Where do you buy art most frequently? 

Through trusted relationships with art dealers who are aware of the diversity, inclusion, and social injustice threads that weave the fabric of the collection together.

Is there a work you regret purchasing? If so, why?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and, in the end, there are no real mistakes. The works that do not fit anymore, those that do not speak to the collection anymore, end up being lessons learned that help us understand better our true goals.

Charles White, O Freedom (1956). Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

In the family room hangs Charles White’s O Freedom (1956) and Adrian Piper’s Race Traitor (2018). A Charline Von Heyl carpet is on the floor, part of an edition of 20 produced by BravinLee. I asked Charline if she would consider leaving the bottom edge unfinished, with spools of thread still attached, and she agreed. Ours is the only one like this. I have young grandkids and a dog, so the bottom edge is usually tucked safely under the sofa. 

Charline Von Heyl, <i>After Zenge (unfinished)</i> (2017-2019). Courtesy of Bob Rennie.

Charline Von Heyl, After Zenge (unfinished) (2017–19). Courtesy of Bob Rennie.

What artwork, if any, do you have in your bathroom?

On the guest bathroom wall are three Robert Mapplethorpe photos from 1984. Jenny Holzer’s Survival Series: What Country Should You Adopt If You Hate Poor People? (1986) is embedded in the floor in a location that encourages contemplation while “seated.” Just outside a bathroom, appropriately, is Andy Warhol’s Oxidation Painting No. 11 (1978).

What is the most impractical work of art you own? What makes it so challenging?

Our (half) joke to dealers is, “If you can’t sell it because it’s too tough, we’re probably interested.” What would you consider impractical? There’s Allora & Calzadilla’s Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy, No. 2, 2008 (a grand piano with a hole cut into it from which a pianist stands playing Ode to Joy backwards over the keyboard while slowly moving the piano around the room); Martin Creed’s Work No. 850 (2008), which involves athletes running at top speed throughout the space at precise intervals; and Gary Hill’s Frustrum (2006), which requires procuring a 425 oz., 24-karat gold bullion bar and enough black oil to fill a 10-inch deep pool.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Kerry James Marshall’s Black Painting (2003–6).

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612–13) from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy.

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Can the Pandemic Home-Improvement Boom Boost the Market? An Auction Veteran’s New Company Targets Interior Designers


Seasoned art collectors talk about “wallpower,” the quality of paintings that do more than just look good, but that impress, tell a story, and get dinner guests gossiping. Still, plenty of people—even people who buy expensive homes and hire professional interior decorators—have never given a thought to the subject.

Enter Liz Beaman Delman. An American art expert who has spent two decades in the auction house world, split between Christie’s and Sotheby’s, Beaman Delman hopes to fill in the gap with her new advisory business, Above the Sofa.

“I had always fantasized about doing something in the interior design world or adjacent,” she explained in a recent interview with Midnight Publishing Group News. “When I started to investigate what transitioning to that different world would be, it just didn’t make sense at that stage in my career to be a design assistant at a big firm. I asked myself how I can combine all of my expertise but still somehow have a hand in this other area that has really fascinated me. That was the genesis of the idea.”

On more than one occasion, Beaman Delman said, she has observed designers who are so focused on the interiors themselves that the art on the walls becomes something of an afterthought.

“You see a lot of certain types of work being used over and over again,” Beaman Delman argues. “But you can spend the same $25,000 or you can even spend $10,000 and find an exciting, emerging artist who may actually be going somewhere. It’s a little bit like venture investing in the sense that you can buy ten emerging artists and there may be only one that takes off—but isn’t that more interesting than buying something that matches the couch and has no resale value?”

Beaman Delman’s mission, she says, is “empowering the designers to guide their clients to collect.” This includes providing all of her own market research, including a database she maintains tracking galleries around the world and the artists they show. “Obviously, I’m applying my own eye and edit on the selection that I’m presenting, but I’m giving them a tool kit to be able to speak to their clients and to get them to think differently about the art acquisition.”

Though she divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, Beaman Delman says she has been increasingly focused on cities such as Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, and Nashville. Scores of people have relocated to these areas amid the pandemic, where there’s not necessarily the most robust gallery infrastructure.

Beaman Delman’s hope with Above the Sofa is to raise the game. “From the moment the final mood board for each room has been selected, I get to work putting together the selection so that the artworks can be installed on the same day as the furniture and really have that ‘Wow!’ moment.”

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