Art Collector Questionnaire

Jewelry Designer Nina Runsdorf Buys What She Loves

Portrait of Nina Runsdorf. Painting: Beth Campbell, My Potential Future Based on Changing Circumstances, 2008. Bolotas armchair by Fernando and Humberto Campana. Credenza by Herbert Fuchs. All photography by Sean Davidson. Images courtesy of Runsdorf. Makeup by Andrew Colvin-Medina. Hair by Hannan Siddique.

CULTURED: Where does the story of your personal collection begin?

Nina Runsdorf: I grew up with parents that fully embraced art and architecture and were understanding of all different types of talents, beliefs, and cultures. My mother’s best friends were a potter and this Italian sculptor, so there were always people around our home who were willing to share their craft with us. I would say the piece that truly started my personal collection was a bronze by Robert Kipniss, an old family friend. I always saw his pieces that my parents had, and I adored them—the bronze was always my favorite. On my 21st birthday, my parents gave me one of his sculptures they had in our home, and that, I would say, is the piece that started it all. It sits in my dining room to this day.

CULTURED: How has your collection evolved over time?

Runsdorf: My collection is super contemporary, and though it really started with paintings, it evolved into furniture, lighting, more lifestyle pieces. Sometimes, a part of my collection is a large sculpture or light fixture; sometimes it’s a candlestick. I have definitely learned to lean more into the pieces that can exist within my space rather than fill an entire room.

CULTURED: What was the first piece you ever bought?

Runsdorf: A Richard Prince “Joke Painting.” He has been a friend of my parents since my childhood. He and his wife have since stayed a part of my family’s lives. It’s really special to have a piece from a dear family friend in my collection.

CULTURED: Which work provokes the most conversation from visitors?

Runsdorf: I have a Georges Jouve standing ashtray from 1964 sitting in my living room, which I think is the first piece people comment on when they come to my home. Something about it feels playful and inviting while still being a piece that enhances the rest of the space. I really love that ashtray.

CULTURED: Which artist are you currently most excited about and why?

Runsdorf: I just acquired a John Chamberlain wall sculpture that I am obsessed with. His work is so beautiful and timeless. He is having a huge retrospective and I can’t wait to see how people respond to it and if they love his pieces as much as I do. I can’t imagine anyone not being drawn to it!

CULTURED: What was the most challenging piece in your personal collection to acquire?

Runsdorf: This is a tough one to pinpoint—but I’d say the Felix Agostini Rifle, a beautiful vintage bronze floor lamp from the late ‘50s. When I was a teenager, I saw the lamp in the home of one of my parents’ dear friends, and it stuck with me. I’ve wanted one since. When I was decorating my home, I knew I wanted to incorporate that lamp, and it took years to find. I was finally able to locate one to buy in 2004, and it’s been a cherished part of my collection since. I love Agostini’s work; it’s sculptural yet functional. I ended up buying sconces of his as well.

CULTURED: Is there one piece that got away, or that you still think about?

Runsdorf: There are many—Jeff Koons, Roni Horn, Elizabeth Peyton, Mark Rothko—these are all artists that I adore and will always want a piece from. Of all the artists who have gotten away, I would say the ultimate is Claude Lalanne, especially the rhino bar. I think that is the most incredible piece.

CULTURED:  Do you think working as a designer gives you a different perspective on collecting?

Runsdorf: I buy what I love. If you love the work, and you believe in the work, that’s what matters. I buy to live with it, and if they have a career, great. But I don’t buy art to sell. I also really value knowing the artists that I own pieces from, and that’s what I always think about in creating my own work. I really want people to see me in the work and feel connected to its creation and where it was made.