Celebrity Art Collectors: Who is collecting whom?

...and why do I care?

Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka with artist Kehinde WIley. Photo © The Hollywood Reporter.
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka with artist Kehinde WIley. Photo © The Hollywood Reporter.

Original blog source: Artwork Archives

I don’t think it’s a secret, a lot of celebrities collect art. We don’t often hear about that in the popular media. We get even less about what/whom they collect. I get it. Their latest projects, relationships, political musings are far more interesting to the hoi-polloi popular media consumer. Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys are huge collectors. They are also big on promoting the artists they collect and advocating for artists generally. Kudos to them. I wish more celebrities talked publicly about their collections and the artists they like.

It’s not that I’m nosy or star-struck. In fact, I am far less interested in the collectors (Mary-Kate Olsen notwithstanding. Hi Mary-Kate!) than I am in their collections. People seem to care about pop-culture icons; what they like, where they go, which designers they like to wear. Imagine a world where an art gallery opening, auction, or a museum show could do for art and artists what the Met Gala does for fashion designers. When I hear people discussing, with fervent interest, the minutia of Wendy Williams’ love life and hairstyle choices, I have to wonder, “Does Wendy buy art? Wouldn’t we all be as interested or even more so in what she’s bought recently? Who is it by? Who else buys that artist? Which art dealer does she use?” All of that would be at least as interesting as who she had dinner with on her recent trip to Philadelphia. Wouldn’t it? Of course it would!

Most of us can’t afford to buy what Ellen Degeneres is buying, or what the Carters are buying, or what Sean Combs is buying, but we could only benefit from an awareness of the artists and the types and styles of art that attracts them. If it were known that The O liked abstract expressionism (theoretically),there might well be a surge in Google searches for “what is abstract expressionism?” and “who are contemporary abstract expressionist artists?” We know who their interior decorators are because media people ask them and they tell us. Then we buy their books, watch their reality shows and emulate their design styles, to the extent that we can. Why would the same not be true of the artists, galleries, dealers, auction houses for whom our favorite famous people have a fondness?

Sean Combs acquires Kerry James Marshall painting for $21Million
Sean Combs acquires Kerry James Marshall painting for $21Million (photo collage credit: becauseofthemwecan.com)

This matters because the art world has an air of impenetrable exclusivity about it and the denizens thereof seem to like it that way. Rightly so. Art collecting isn’t cheap and it shouldn’t be. Art appreciation is way more accessible though, and if more people were aware and interested in art, it would be great for artists. No one can afford the dress Rihanna wore to the Met Gala. Besides, it’s couture so it doesn’t even exist outside of her closet. That same designer probably has some very lovely things at Macy's and Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s though that are totally get-able and that earn a fine living for the designer and his/her retinue. Tom Ford works way above my pay-grade, but I know who he is and I like his work. I can, and do wear his fragrance and sunglasses. The same could be/should be true for artists – good artists, smart artists, business-savvy artists. I can’t afford an original Kara Walker work either (for the moment), but I know who she is, I love what she does and I can buy her books and maybe a print. It all supports the artist so that she can keep doing her thing.

Artists who make a fine living, and maybe even get famous, don’t have to retreat to cubicles at the phone company. Their careers might even encourage talented young people to pursue careers as artists.More awareness of rich, famous artists would definitely ease the anxieties of the parents of those kids who want to be artists. Heck, we might even see art parents behaving like basketball parents in avid support of their children’s careers. “My kid is the next Kehinde Wiley!” That kid is probably not the next KW just like that other kid is not the next Kobe, regardless of what his mother says. Wouldn’t it be cool though if young artists got that kind of energy, as opposed to, “That’s a hobby, sweetie. You need a job.”

I am not suggesting that Mary-Kate or Pharell owe us or the art world anything, but it would be nice if Ms Keys and Mr “Beats” (sic) weren’t out there all alone trying to make it possible for artists to be as rich as some of their collectors.


If you want to know more about art, artists, art collecting and the financial considerations therein, check out some of the books featured with this blog post.

15 of the most surprising celebrity art collectors in the world

William Skeet Jiggetts

#celebrityart #celebrityartcollections #celebrityartcollectors #artcollections #famousartcollectors

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