Travel, for some people, is purely about pleasure. But for others, whether when experiencing it for themselves or selling experiences to others, it is an eat-sleep-and-breathe profession, even an obsession. Our favorite travel tastemakers fit the bill for the latter—these individuals aren’t just tapped into the pulse of hot destinations and hotels; they also get bragging rights when it comes to their art collections, which tend to reflect their nomadic and cosmopolitan lifestyles.
The Tastemaker: Nicola Butler, London
Owner of NoteWorthy, a luxury travel company offering insider experiences in Europe.
The Art: Butler only began collecting art around seven years ago, but she has already amassed a significant number works by British, Irish and French artists, all of whom hail from destinations she specializes in at NoteWorthy. “My art reflects my love for the countries I sell to clients,” she says. Her pieces are on display at her at home in Surrey, which dates back to 1867, and include a mix of street art, paintings and posters.
Standout works include a cartoon by Carl Giles of a Guinness ad, a stamp of Queen Elizabeth that Butler bought online for less than fifteen dollars and had blown up into a poster and a Mickey Mouse cartoon with a bubble background, by the English street artist Jimmy C, that hangs in her bathroom. But Butler’s favorite is likely Weapon of Voice by the famed British graffiti artist Bambi; it depicts a female graffiti artist and twenty-two red stars, each with the name of a woman who has used her voice to make society a better place, such as Jane Goodall, Rosa Parks and teenage Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
The Tastemaker: Geoffrey Weill, New York City
Founder of an eponymous luxury travel public relations firm whose clients include The Adlon in Berlin, Ashford Castle in Ireland, Baur au Lac in Zurich and The Hassler in Rome.
The Art: Weill’s art collection is singularly focused on vintage travel posters from 1920 to 1960. “Anything later isn’t as meaningful because the posters are mostly photographs which, for me, really ruins the romance of the graphics from earlier posters,” he says. Weill’s affinity for illustrations of travel goes back to his childhood in London, when he would read the ads in the National Geographic magazines his aunt sent him from America. “I fell in love with the way graphics could be used to place rose-colored glasses over the grimy, blitz-torn London I knew, transforming it into a city that was romantic, grand and welcoming,” he says.
Weill didn’t start collecting until he came to the US in 1973, and has since acquired a trove of more than 100 posters, mostly from eBay but by hitting galleries too. His latest purchase is a 1935 blue Air France print, and another of his most impactful is a piece from the same year—this one by Franz Krausz, a German Jew who fled the Nazis, and splashed with the logo “Visit Palestine.” “When the Palestine National Authority was formed in the 1990s, the Jewish Agency adopted this as their poster,” Weill explains. “Decades later, it was still so relevant.”
The Tastemaker: Marie Chawke, County Clare, Ireland
Director of Business Development at Dromoland Castle, an upscale 16th century castle resort in County Clare.
The Art: In a nod to her heritage, Chawke’s artworks are mostly by Irish artists and are colorful pieces that make her happy. “My art is all uplifting, at least to me,” she says. Take the work, The Field Inspectors, by realist painter Mark O’Neill, for example, which depicts three children hanging over a fence to gaze at a field. “Both my husband and I grew up in rural Ireland, and it reminds me of our childhoods in the countryside,” says Chawke.
Then there are several paintings by Roisin O’Farrell, a well-respected artist known for using textured oils. One is of four pairs of boots at the entryway of a home—an image that also takes Chawke back her upbringing. And while all of her art is personal in some way or another, she says that her most poignant work is by Robert Devereux, of her dog Louie, who passed away in 2015. “Robert and I went to college together, and I actually commissioned him for the painting,” she says. “It’s a beautiful portrayal of someone we loved so much.”
The Tastemaker: Kellee Edwards, Los Angeles
Adventure travel journalist and host of Travel + Leisure’s new podcast Let’s Go Together, and Travel Channel’s series Mysterious Islands.
The Art: Edward’s art comes straight from her frequent jaunts all over the globe. “I am on the road internationally three or four times a month and buy pieces from the countries I visit,” she says. “Nothing is expensive, and I don’t bother to bargain even if it’s the norm where I am because I think it’s important to respect an artist’s work.” Her collection includes paintings, sculptures, masks and wood carvings. There’s a carved wooden leaf she picked up in the Amazon, for example, a mask from Accra, Ghana, a painting from Labadie, Haiti and a carved panel from Sulawesi, an island in Indonesia, that she bought from a Torajan home (Torajans are indigenous to the island). Then there’s her most beloved piece—a painting of her eyes—that she had commissioned in Phuket, Thailand. “The detail in it is so stunning, and it’s so personal,” says Edwards. “I teared up when I saw it.”
The Tastemaker: John Cox, Nassau, Bahamas
Creative arts director for the Baha Mar resort, which has the largest collection of Bahamian art in the world, spanning close to 10,000 works.
The Art: Cox, an artist himself who specializes in abstract paintings, has been growing his collection since he was a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Other students and I would trade our art,” he says. “Post-graduation, when I still didn’t have any money, I continued trading but mostly with artists from the Bahamas.” Today, Cox owns more than 200 works, almost all of which are paintings and drawings by artists from his native Bahamas. He appreciates works with soulfulness and color but says that their conceptual message is important too. There’s a bounty of art in the Bahamas that meet these criteria, he says, so it’s a natural fit for him to support artists from the islands. His lineup includes paintings by Kendal Hanna, an internationally renowned abstract expressionist; Heino Schmid, who works in a variety of mediums from painting to film; and Natascha Vazquez Van Den Berg, an abstract artist who is also the programming manager for the gallery and art center at Baha Mar.