When we started working together you were interested in art—but hadn’t purchased work. What turned you from an appreciator of art to a collector?
Exposure was the primary catalyst. The more art you see and experience, the more your eye starts to distinguish the type of art you want to live with. Once I found that direction, each piece I purchased became a natural decision. Good advice too. Find someone you trust—both their professional advice and taste. Obviously, you are my go-to.
In addition to art, you’ve also started an impressive collection of monographs. What do you enjoy about collecting books? What is your best find? Who are your favorite book dealers?
I started collecting monographs before fine art. William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco is where the obsession began. Collecting books turned into a pastime, spending countless hours in bookstores sifting through thousands of shelves trying to find the next missing piece to my collection. The process was similar to digging through crates at record stores when I used to collect vinyl. I can’t say that I have a favorite book dealer or book—too many to name. I look up to the collections built by Jonathan Brown (of LEADAPRON).
Your first acquisition was a tint painting by Graham Collins. What drew you to his work? What do you like about living with it?
It’s the piece that anchored the rest of my collection. I like the rough and distressed quality Graham Collins brings to this series. Since my apartment is very modern with clean lines, this serves as a great contrast.
As a real estate developer in SF, do you feel your early interest in art has helped refine the quality of your work? Do you think it distinguishes you from your competition?
I think it has helped make design more intuitive. Art by nature requires an attention to detail that real estate development shares. If a building has a space for art, we choose to install fine art versus most who choose something more decorative.
As someone who buys primary and secondary—do you have a preference?
The opportunity and selection in secondary is far greater and more exciting to me, but the experience of buying something primary allows for more time to think about the investment. Companies like Paddle8 are a breath of fresh air when it comes to the secondary market.
Your most recent acquisition is a Jennie C. Jones cord work. What do you like about her work?
I connected with the piece right away. Aesthetically, I’m drawn to its minimalism. With my background in music production and sound engineering, it was a perfect piece for my collection.
How do you feel about the recent changes in the local art scene in SF? SFMoMA and BAMPFA re- openings, Gagosian moving in, FOG art fair moving from a regional to more blue chip fair, etc.
It’s all a step in the right direction. The Bay Area has historically been overlooked when it comes to blue chip fairs, galleries, and museums. In recent years, I think the intention and effort has been put forth to make SF more of a contender. SFMoMA was designed and presented correctly to the city. This, on its own, brought the right kind of attention and awareness to people locally and across the country who had overlooked SF in the past. Gagosian is a great name brand that acts as a stamp of approval for SF, similar to when Jean- Georges or Alain Ducasse opens a restaurant in your city.
Do you feel there are interesting opportunities for millennials to engage with art in SF? As a member of the Battery, I’m curious what you think of their programming.
Now more than ever—The Battery is a great example of that. I would have never met Dominique Levy if it wasn’t for The Battery-sponsored event at Addison Gallery. Compared to other major cities like NYC and LA we are still far behind, but it’s a good start.
Top three favorite galleries in SF?
I frequent the galleries at 49 Geary and the Minnesota Street Project, but I can’t say that I have any favorites . . . yet.
Who/what is on your current wish list?
I’ve wanted to own a Kasper Sonne piece for quite sometime now, especially his Borderline series. Italian postwar artists are of great interest, such as Agostino Bonalumi . . . Hiroshi Sugimoto, Idris Khan, Urs Fischer, to name a few more.
Where do you see your collection in two years? Art storage account? So I hope . . .
I’m running out of wall space in my apartment, art storage isn’t far off!
Alexander Shalavi is 30 years old and based in San Francisco.