In the Homes of the World’s Top Gallerists, Art Enlivens Every Corner

'For Art’s Sake: Inside the Homes of Art Dealers,' a new book by Tiqui Atencio-Demirdjian, offers a glimpse into the living rooms of David Zwirner, Jeffrey Deitch and others.

© Fondation Giacometti, Paris/Succession Giacometti, Paris, 2020; © Christodoulos Panayiotou; © ADAGP Bertrand Lavier; © Petrit Halilaj; © ADAGP François Morellet. Courtesy studio Morellet. All Mennour images: Courtesy of the artists and Kamel Mennour, Paris/London All images in this story: © Jean-François Jaussaud, For Art’s Sake: Inside the Homes of Art Dealers, Rizzoli New York, 2020

For Art’s Sake: Inside the Homes of Art Dealers—a new book out from Rizzoli by the Venezuelan-born art collector Tiqui Atencio-Demirdjian—is, despite its artistic pedigree, all about interiors. Over nearly 400 pages, Atencio Demirdjian and photographer Jean-François Jaussaud visit the inner sanctums of the world’s top gallerists, from David Zwirner’s Manhattan townhouse to Axel Vervoordt’s 12th-century moated castle, set on 62 acres outside of Antwerp. But there’s a tension running throughout in regard to what exactly defines an interior, and how much things like architecture, layout, and furniture even matter when the preening star of the home is a culturally vital, multimillion-dollar art collection.

Kamel Mennour: Claude Lévêque’s plastic horse in neon, Mon petit chéri.

© ADAGP Claude Lévêque

Some dealers, like Jeffrey Deitch, seem keenly aware that the tenets of collecting might apply to contemporary furniture as well, and that art and objects can work in concert to create a total artistic vision (in Deitch’s case, a Spanish revival fun house in Los Angeles, replete with corncob stools and a toucan-shaped Gaetano Pesce sofa). But for many of the book’s subjects, it’s Berlin gallerist Max Hetzler’s words that ring most true: “How we live is all about art, art, art. Of course, we want to have nice furniture, but it has to disappear in a way. No colors. Nothing flashy. We’re not at all into very contemporary designs because they are too present. We think it is much more interesting to admire paintings than chairs, however desirable they might be.”

Thaddaeus Ropac: Alex Katz’s January 4 fills most of the wall in a dining area.

© 2020 Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Thaddaeus Ropac: Erwin Wurm’s Big Suit greets visitors outside the house, with Tony Cragg’s stainless-steel sculpture Divide on the balcony behind.

© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Bildrecht, Vienna; © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn; glass figure: © Anselm Kiefer

Thaddaeus Ropac: Anselm Kiefer’s plaster-and-glass figure Paleder.

Paleder, 2006: © Anselm Kiefer

Thaddaeus Ropac: Alex Katz’s enamel-and-steel sculpture Chance.

Chance, 2016: © 2020 Alex Katz/licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

For readers, For Art’s Sake offers an opportunity to admire both, as well as an invitation into 24 homes, most of which have never been seen before by the public. (Or, in the case of some particularly private dealers, spaces that haven’t been seen even by friends or colleagues, choosing as some collectors do to entertain guests in a nearby gallery or second residence.) The book travels far and wide, from São Paulo to the Scottish Highlands, and the level of access is a testament to Atencio Demirdjian’s personal connections. Her father gifted her a Bernard Buffet painting of lilies upon her wedding at age 17, kicking off a decades-long collecting habit, and after years as chair of the Latin American Acquisition Committee at the Tate and chair of the Guggenheim’s International Director’s Council, “I’m a permanent fixture,” she says.

Shaun Caley Regen: Catherine Opie’s portrait Lawrence (Black Shirt) and Matthew Barney’s Cremaster 4: The Loughton Candidate, in the hallway.

© Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles; © Matthew Barney. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Shaun Caley Regen: A view of the living area and out into the garden; above the door is Lawrence Weiner’s text piece Far More of One Thing Than Another.

© Glenn Ligon. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles; © 2020 the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Shaun Caley Regen: The four-legged stool is a hand-carved Senufo tabouret from Africa. A focal point of the living area is the set of three canvases in oil and acrylic by Glenn Ligon, which hang above the built-in sofa and cabinet, from left: No Room (Gold), Therapy #1, and Silver in Show Business #2; an Isamu Noguchi glass coffee table and “LCW” chair by Charles and Ray Eames.

© 2020 the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Lawrence Weiner. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Some of the more memorable images in the book include an iron wardrobe by Arte Povera artist Jannis Kounellis, juxtaposed with the intentionally exposed brick of Gavin Brown’s Harlem townhouse; a trio of enamel-and-steel bathers by Alex Katz emerging from the pool at Thaddaeus Ropac’s 17th-century Austrian schloss; a Jeff Koons Gazing Ball sculpture at the base of Almine Rech’s Art Deco staircase in a Brussels villa; and a disconcertingly humanlike Duane Hanson sculpture, dressed for custodial service, in the library of Christophe Van de Weghe’s Upper East Side home.

Sean Kelly, the British, New York–based gallerist, explains how he purchased, with his wife, Mary, a plot sited on a rocky hilltop in the Hudson Valley back in 2007. The couple hired the Japanese architect Toshiko Mori to build their 6,500-square-foot home, which Mori turned into something of a work of art itself. Outside, the structure is clad in aluminum panels made from recycled cans that take on the color of the sky, making it almost disappear against the horizon. The inside is just as considered, featuring a layout that constantly chases the light and a brutal, windowless entrance hall that offers a kind of delayed gratification when one finally enters the living area. “There’s a concrete wall in front of you when you arrive, and then you go into this entry sequence but still can’t see the view,” Kelly says. “The funny thing is that it contains works by Joseph Beuys, Juan Muñoz, Jannis Kounellis, and Ian Hamilton Finlay, all of whom are now dead. Mary says it’s like entering a mortuary.” Touches of humor abound: a Joseph Beuys suit hung outside the laundry room, a pair of amethyst Marina Abramovié shoes positioned as if they might walk through the sliding glass doors at any moment. The house feels like a response to the art on view, and in return, the works are recontextualized by the domestic space they inhabit.

Max Hetzler & Samia Saouma: In the living room, a Jean Royère console and a tree painting on aluminum by Albert Oehlen; a bronze plate by Darren Almond above the door; and a painting by Günther Förg.

Max Hetzler and Samia Saouma’s living space: © 2020 Estate of Jean Royère/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York /ADAGP, Paris; © Albert Oehlen; © Darren Almond © Estate Günther Förg, Suisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2020; © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Max Hetzler & Samia Saouma: A vast Albert Oehlen canvas beside a table surrounded by chairs by Franz West and Mathis Esterhazy.

Albert Oehlen painting © Albert Oehlen

The book also adds depth and dimension to the dealers, who sometimes can be perceived as cardboard figures wheeling and dealing with the superrich in the stark, all-white environments of galleries or fairs. Atencio Demirdjian begins each chapter with a thumbnail sketch of each gallerist’s biography, and the details are humanizing. Barbara Gladstone began her formal art career at the age of 40 as a twice-divorced mother of three; Kamel Mennour had a job selling art prints at the mall; Dominique Lévy wanted so badly to work in the circus that she trained as a clown.

Sean Kelly: Monster Reborn, a double self-portrait by Douglas Gordon, and a neon work by Peter Liversidge in the guest room.

Monster Reborn, 1966: © Studio lost but found/Douglas Gordon/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2020

Sean Kelly: Antony Gormley’s cast-iron You stands guard outside the aluminum-clad house.

© Antony Gormley. Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York

Sean Kelly: One of Joseph Beuys’s felt suits and three other works, including his nicht von Joyce (Not by Joyce), hang in an upstairs corridor.

© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Sean Kelly: A suspended sofa by Poul Kjærholm and a wall light by Serge Mouille; at the far end of the sofa is a Penguin Donkey bookshelf by Ernest Race. The sculptural piece on the floor is one of Marina Abramović’s amethyst Shoes for Departure.

© Marina Abramović. Courtesy the Marina Abramović Archives and Sean Kelly, New York; © Antony Gormley. Courtesy Sean Kelly, New York; © Hiroshi Sugimoto

At one point, Atencio Demirdjian asks Salon 94 owner Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn if there is a downside to living with so much art. “How can there be?” she replies. “With each of these works, there is some kind of dialogue going on, whether it’s about protest, beauty, or craft. Especially in this political climate, it’s important to have art around us.” In other words, art ought to act either as a provocation or as a balm—or, in the case of these art-world insiders, as both at once.

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