The Artsy Collectors 2022

The Artsy Collectors 2022
Illustrations by Rebecca Clarke for Artsy.

Over 2.4 million people from more than 190 countries have become Artsy users to discover art and build their art collections. This inaugural edition of The Artsy Collectors feature is focused on 17 of those collectors, who represent the broad spectrum of influential and inspiring art lovers and patrons who use Artsy.

The featured individuals here range from visionary writers, artists, and music producers to distinguished entrepreneurs and devoted arts patrons. Though their stories, tastes, and entryways into collecting vary widely, they share in common the impulse to live a life surrounded by art.

Below, we offer a glimpse into their collecting habits, including the artists they admire now and the motivations that drive them to keep buying art.

Jesse Williams

Location: Los Angeles and New York
Profession: Director, actor, entrepreneur
Started collecting: 2008

What is the main focus of your collection?

The main focus of my collection is supporting and celebrating incredible creative expression from Black artists—primarily emerging artists throughout the Diaspora. There is a bit of a spiritual calling involved: I listen to the draw of work that moves me.

What drives you to collect?

I love to share space with artistic expression—it stimulates my own, and it’s nutrition for my children, as it was for me growing up. I sit with the work much like I sit with people: We explore, we challenge, and we relax together. Art calms and/or stimulates creative energy. And we are, as African people, a collective body—all impacted on this journey together. It sounds a little saccharine, but it’s specific and real: I enjoy collaboration. I like being amongst my people and I like my home to be a safe, creative, and full space.

A little support can go a long way in an artist’s life—in anyone’s life. We all can relate to developing a craft, taking risks, being vulnerable. And I take great pleasure in helping and supporting creative Black folks putting their neck out there and trying and celebrating the attempts. That’s what I’m here for—developing connections with people who are committed to themselves in such a way that you can watch them and their work grow and evolve.

We are a community: the artist, the patron, the collector, we’re peers—and not just in name. Most of the folks that I’ve collected, I know; we see each other, we kick it, we talk, we text, we laugh, we challenge, and we learn from each other. We discuss things into the early morning hours. We travel together. These are people that are part of my life’s blood and family.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I acquired a couple paintings from Conrad Egyir, who is a young painter, originally from Ghana, with real flashes of brilliance. I did a talk with him for UTA Artist Space, where he just had a solo show. He’s incredibly bright—I mean his energy; he’s intelligent, of course, but I mean he’s literally bright light. His work has so much room for expansion and narrowing, which many can’t say.

I also acquired a work from one of my favorite photo conceptual artists, who’s as much a sculptor as anything else: Todd Gray. I have several works from him, and always find myself drawn to the discourse he creates with the materials and content he chooses: a welcome confrontation. Todd is an excellent example of someone living beyond labels and expanding his arena beyond photography—letting your other ideas in and carving the paths our expressions require.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Lorna Simpson and Jennifer Packer. Jennifer Packer is incredible, and I might say, almost elusive. The work is mesmerizing and mysterious, yet unfailingly vivid. And I never see anything that I don’t feel—that doesn’t put me somewhere. And she doesn’t overproduce. There’s certainly scarcity in terms of volume, but I mean there’s brevity within the work; no stroke wasted, no self-indulgence, all detail. Lorna is a master; one of your favorite artists’ favorite artist. A chromatherapy of sorts. I respect her and she shifts the room. The collection will applaud and scoot the hell over on her arrival.

Debbie Millman and Roxane Gay

Location: Los Angeles and New York
Profession: Roxane Gay: Writer, editor, professor
Started collecting: R.G.: 2019

What is the main focus of your collection?

R.G.: My primary collecting focus is Black art and art by women, queer artists, and artists of color more broadly. But I have other pieces in my collection. If I love something, I love it and am happy to include it in my collection.

What drives you to collect?

R.G.: I’m not sure what drives me to collect. I love art and being able to surround myself with art in my home. I began collecting because my wife, Debbie Millman, has been an avid art collector for nearly 30 years. Before meeting her, I assumed art collecting was well beyond my means. She showed me that there are all kinds of entry points into buying art and when I saw the amazing work contemporary artists are making, I simply wanted to see and learn more.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

R.G.: I’ve gotten some amazing pieces via Artsy. I got a pair of Lorraine O’Grady pieces (Cutting Out CONYT 10, 1977/2017) via Goodman Gallery on Artsy. I also got this amazing piece called School Bois by Wells Chandler from a gallery in the U.K. via Artsy.

I had seen a different piece by Chandler while Debbie and I were walking on a street in Paris. We stopped at the gallery and admired the piece and kept talking about it, but we didn’t take down the name of the gallery. Months later, I wanted to get the piece for her as a gift, so I tried to figure out the name of the gallery by looking on the websites of every gallery we walked by that one afternoon. Eventually, I found the piece which, of course, had sold, but then found more of their work, and now School Bois is pretty much the first thing you see when you come into our home in Los Angeles.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

R.G.: Right now, I am coveting pieces by Kareem-Anthony Ferreira, Genevieve Gaignard, and Genesis Tramaine. But really, interesting work is always catching my eye. I am very omnivorous as an art lover.

Beth Rudin DeWoody

Location: Los Angeles; New York; and West Palm Beach, Florida
Profession: Chairman of the Rudin Family Foundations; Executive Vice President of Rudin Management Company
Started collecting: 1969, with a drawing by Benny Andrews

What is the main focus of your collection?

Contemporary art, furniture, rare books, and curiosities.

What drives you to collect?

Passion and the ability to support artists, especially at the beginning of their careers.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I frequently acquire from galleries or charity auctions featured on Artsy and have discovered a lot of artists there. One of my favorite Artsy acquisitions was my second Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Richard. I bought this work in 2014 from a Whitney auction. I had actually asked Quinn to donate. Since this was much earlier in his career, the art world was not yet aware of his incredible talent. So I lucked out and won the work!

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Too many to count! Recent acquisitions include works by Kennedy Yanko, Danielle Mckinney, Jérôme Lagarrigue, Bev Grant, and Kim Dacres.

Kasseem Dean and Alicia Dean, The Dean Collection

Location: Worldwide
Profession: All things art and creative
Started collecting: 2001

What is the main focus of your collection?

Our main focus is to collect from the heart, but also have a detailed eye. We also collect to support living artists and spread the word with our audience.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you’ve recently acquired?

The latest work in the collection is by a Saudi artist named Ahmed Mater—he’s fantastic. We also recently added an amazing artist named Qualeasha Wood to the collection; her work is very special and unique. One more amazing artist, also Saudi, is Rashed Al Shashai; what he does is just pure magic.

Michel Cohen, Collection Montparnasse

Location: Montreal
Profession: Real estate development, investments
Started collecting: 2005

What is the main focus of your collection?

I would say that there is no specific focus on artists or mediums other than finding art that speaks to me, that gives me a mental and sometimes physical reaction. I try to keep a balance of established artists vs. emerging artists, which can prove to be difficult considering the amount of incredible talent emerging throughout the world. At an early age, I developed a strong attraction to sculptures, which represents an essential part of my collection.

What drives you to collect?

My drive to collect started at an early age. My grandparents who lived in Paris brought my family to the Louvre when I was 12 (I still have the picture of my grandfather, my father, and myself in front of the Louvre). I was mesmerized by the giant sculptures and grandiose canvases. I was completely smitten. When we finished our tour, leaving the Louvre, I remember vividly holding my grandmother’s hand, looking up at her, and telling her emphatically that one day I would live in a museum! After having a good chuckle, she looked down at me, and as all loving, nurturing grandmothers do, she caressed my head and said, “Of course you will.” Little did she know….

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

On my journey to collect, I have had the pleasure to add significant pieces to the collection through the Artsy platform. A couple of outstanding works that are probably amongst my favorites include an incredible Dana Schutz gouache entitled Victor (2019), which depicts one of Dana’s classic grotesque figures set adrift, in vivid fields of colors, evoking a sense of inner turmoil and external chaos.

One of my most cherished paintings is a stunningly powerful little painting by Delphine Desane, and it is entitled Can you see us now? (2020). This painting depicts a graceful Black woman exuding feminine power and confidence with a stare that goes right through you, set against a red background; a simple but very powerful portrait. The work is so powerful that Vogue magazine apparently discovered her images on Instagram and loved it so much, they asked her to produce a cover for their magazine.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Laure Mary-Couégnias, Ákos Ezer, Trude Viken, and Eddie Martinez.

Anuj and Kinjil Mathur

Location: New York
Profession: Anuj: Finance professional in hedge fund industry; Kinjil: Marketer in technology industry
Started collecting: 2013

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

We both believe that the full lifecycle of living with art is an elevating experience—from the thrill of finding an artist we both love, to learning the story they are looking to tell, to transforming a room in our home that invites natural dialogue when you share art with others; that brings lasting joy. We most often collect figurative works from emerging female artists who have taken unique approaches to the way they represent figures, and that approach to representation is woven into the story they’re telling or social commentary they’re conveying. But we will certainly veer off this path when we find something we love.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

When you see a figure painted by Monica Kim Garza, you unmistakably know it’s her work. With Artsy, we were able add her work to our collection from her first solo show in New York.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

An artist who we were fortunate to catch early, and who continues to push her craft to the next level with each body of work, is Chicago-based Celeste Rapone. We are on the prowl for another work.

Jury Kawamura

Location: Tokyo
Profession: Artist
Started collecting: 2012

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

I just collect beautiful works that I want to live with. But of course, I also have many works in storage, so I always think about making new space for my art. Beautiful works give me a lot of inspiration and enrichment.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I bought early works by Daniel Arsham and Hajime Sorayama. I love to collect my favorite artists’ early works.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

I will add a Roby Dwi Antono painting from his first solo show at Nanzuka in Tokyo. And maybe, I’ll add another Daniel Arsham painting for my work space soon.

Jahleel Weaver

Location: New York
Profession: Creative director and stylist
Started collecting: 2017

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

My collection is centered around the Black experience, portrayed solely through the lens of Black artists. In each piece I collect, I search for art that relates and speaks to my individual experience as a Black man in this world.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I most recently discovered Robert Pruitt’s work through Artsy, which led me to acquire a piece from his show “To Control the Universe.” A few other favorites I’ve learned of through Artsy are Wardell Milan and Stacey Gillian Abe.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

I’ve been wanting to acquire a tapestry by Diedrick Brackens for a few years now. I’m captivated by the storytelling of his pieces through his use of weaving, color, and figures. I would also love pieces by Tschabalala Self and Jerrell Gibbs.

V. Joy Simmons, MD

Location: Los Angeles
Profession: Physician
Started collecting: I started collecting art posters in 1971. I purchased my first lithograph in 1974: Elizabeth Catlett’s Which Way (1973).

What is the main focus of your collection?

My collecting focus is on African American artists and artists of the African Diaspora.

What drives you to collect?

I am excited about the different conversations younger artists are having with respect to identity, sexuality, and power. Even early in my collecting, I tended to collect young artists and artists who are not well known. If you spot talent, either in style and/or ideas, supporting artists while they are young and figuring it out can really help them feel validated and confident to continue to explore and hone their craft.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I have submitted several bids via the Artsy auctions but always seem to get outbid! Your collector base is “on it”! I was able to acquire Lava Thomas’s Change is Gonna Come (2020) via an Artsy auction. And several of the other recent artists I have collected have been shown on Artsy.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

I have my eye on paintings by Amani Lewis, Patrick Alston, and Tariku Shiferaw. But if I won the lottery, I would purchase a larger home for my art and would love to add a Ja’Tovia Gary, a new large-scale Lorna Simpson, Chakia Booker, and an El Anatsui wall piece! And so many more! A girl can dream, can’t she?!

Jen Rubio

Location: Aspen, Colorado
Profession: Co-founder and CEO, Away; Trustee, Whitney Museum of American Art
Started collecting: 2014

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

I collect to learn. Before I add anything to the collection, I delve into the world of that artist or a particular series. The more I learn, the more my eye changes, and vice versa.
There are times when my focus may be on a certain blue-chip acquisition, and other times when I spend a lot of time in studio visits with emerging artists. I love having a collection with layers that reflect what excites me, what I’m learning, and what else is going on in my life.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

Early in our relationship, my husband noticed that Ed Ruscha’s Jet Baby was my iPhone wallpaper for some time, and he set Artsy notifications to find out, and then bid, when a print came up for auction. While my collection has grown since then, this remains one of my most sentimental pieces.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

I love the subtlety and depth of Mary Corse’s “White Light” paintings. I’m so moved by the works of Jennifer Packer and Kandis Williams. I also have my eye on Sanford Biggers’s sculptures and Issy Wood’s oil-on-velvet paintings.

Matteo Novarese

Location: Bologna, Italy
Profession: Entrepreneur
Started collecting: 2011

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

My main focus is now contemporary and ultra-contemporary art. I’m so passionate about paintings, a brushstroke is a brushstroke. What’s incredible is that each artist whose work I own in my collection uses brushes in a different way. I always had a great eye for artists using this medium.

What drives you to collect?

I want to build a collection that can express all facets of myself: Through art, I tell people who I am. I’m now running a space where I show my collection to the public. I love to be in touch with people who love art. I love to curate shows based on links between works from the collection. This makes me feel so good! I don’t hide that I would love to establish a foundation one day in my hometown, to bring to light ultra-contemporary art.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

Thanks to Artsy, I’ve had the pleasure of including some great pieces of art in my collection: I think about Small Mountain by Ugo Rondinone, and more recently during the first COVID-19 lockdown, I bought a nice canvas by Marcellina Akpojotor. But Artsy is not only useful for this: I’ve gotten in touch with lot of galleries for the first time through Artsy; it’s an amazing tool for making that first approach. Thanks to this, I’ve gone on to establish solid relationships with these galleries.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Vivian Greven, Danielle Mckinney, Genesis Tramaine, Lauren Quin, Elizabeth Glaessner, Ariana Papademetropoulos, and Sun Woo. All women!

Estrellita B. Brodsky

Location: New York
Profession: Curator, philanthropist, collector
Started collecting: 1982

What is the main focus of your collection?

Modern and contemporary artists from Latin America and its diaspora.

What drives you to collect?

Interest in the sociocultural history of the area because of my personal heritage.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

I acquired two works at benefit auctions: One by Martine Gutierrez, the other by Genieve Figgis.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Marisol, Sophie Rivera, and Jorge Eielson.

Vaughn Spann

Location: New Jersey
Profession: Contemporary artist
Started collecting: 2016

What is the main focus of your collection?

My main focus is contemporary art; both abstraction and figuration with an emphasis on painting.

What drives you to collect?

My drive to collect came from acutely seeing how exclusionary the art world can be for Black collectors. It’s imbalanced and often more difficult for us to gain access to great works even when acquiring work from artists of color.…My goal has been to champion others to recognize the role of acquisition in protecting creative culture.

Can you tell us about a work or two that you acquired via Artsy?

All of the Stanley Whitney works I’ve acquired have been through Artsy inquiries. Sometimes, the work inquired about wasn’t available, but the gallery would have something even better to share.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

I just added a fantastic Andrea Marie Breiling painting to my collection from her show with Almine Rech in London. Beyond that, my dream painting is an 8-inch Warhol flowers on canvas, which I’ll search for at auction in the upcoming seasons.

Nish de Gruiter

Location: Amsterdam and San Francisco
Profession: Chief curator, RH Atelier
Started collecting: 2012

What is the main focus of your collection? What drives you to collect?

My drive to collect is really a way to expand my visual thinking. Lots of inspiration in my work comes from art and the use of color and composition. My main focus is art where the primary medium is not paint on canvas, but rather unique materials from where the artist is based.

For example, Elias Sime works with reclaimed computer wires and motherboards that he finds at the open air market in Ethiopia. Hugo McCloud, who’s based in Tulum, Mexico, uses reclaimed plastic bags and layers them into beautiful, striking moments. Derek Fordjour layers paper, cardboard, and newspapers to create beautiful, in-depth, colorful moments. Other examples include Do Ho Suh, Tau Lewis, Kathleen Ryan, Matthew Day Jackson, Rebecca Manson, and Josh Sperling.

Can you tell us about how you’ve collected via Artsy?

If I find something that’s striking, I use the platform to research and it really gives me a 360-view on the artist’s practice. Through Artsy, I can connect to all the galleries all over the world.

Who are some artists whose work you admire and would like to add to your collection?

Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Alex Gibson, and María Berrío.