CULTURE: Pop's Artists

"Art and music used to be oil and water. Now it's like a great dry martini"

"When Paul Anka used to buy Warhols in the 1970s, no one took note. Art collecting was akin to intellectual recreation," says Adam Sheffer, partner at New York's Cheim & Read gallery, where Bono and Elton John are clients. "Now it's considered asset management." But to music's newest collectors, art is more than an investment. Kanye West rhymes about it. Jay Z and Lady Gaga stage elaborate art/music productions. Not surprisingly, pop stars now boast some of the best art portfolios and fuel the increasingly glitzy art fair market, which begins March 4 in New York with the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) opening gala and runs through March 9 with more parties and events (including Blood Orange and Jamie XX at the Museum of Modern Art Armory Party on March 5) this side of the Grammys. "Art and music used to be oil and water," says Sheffer. "Now it's like a great dry martini." Where in this mix are you likely to find music's biggest art players? Their collections just may yield some clues.

 

Kanye West

One moment he's debuting a performance piece with Vanessa Beecroft at Art Basel Miami, the next he's commissioning George Condo to paint nudes on a Birkin bag as a Christmas present for Kim Kardashian. Clearly, West doesn't just amass the goods. He's an active participant, whether featuring Condo's work on the cover of his 2010 album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," or enlisting Beecroft as creative director of his Yeezus Tour. He also collects New York painter Mickalene Thomas, who turns up in Jay Z's video for "Picasso Baby."

See It: Thomas paintings from her "Hair Portrait" series are at the Lehmann Maupin booth at the Armory Fair (March 6-9). New Condo works on paper are on view at New York's Skarstedt gallery through March 22.

 

Elton John

A longtime collector of Louise Bourgeois sculptures and photographs by Adam Fuss, he's also bought edgy work by Dinos and Jake Chapman and the very Phillip Taafe painting that once hung in Gianni Versace's New York townhouse. "He's very active," says Sheffer. "He gets our catalogs and either he or his adviser [Atlanta's Jane Jackson] walk in, very clear about what he wants."

See It: Taafe's work will be at Luhring Augustine's booth and Bourgeois' at Cheim & Read's, both at ADAA (March 5-9).

 

Patrick Carney

Who knew a serious eye for contemporary art lurked behind those Ray-Ban frames? Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney is drawn to the moody lace paintings of Texan Mark Flood and Jeff Elrod's blurry abstractions, both of which defy digital precision much in the way The Black Keys' murky garage rock does. The Akron, Ohio-born Carney doesn't shy away from seeking out art when he travels. He's a client of Javier Peres, the former Los Angeles gallerist who's now based in Berlin and who also represents Leo Gabin, another Carney favorite.

See It: Gabin's work is at the Peres Projects booth at the Independent fair (March 5-9). Flood's ­paintings are on view at Elizabeth Dee in Chelsea. Elrod is showing at Luhring Augustine's booth at ADAA.


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