Young Collectors 2023 Art

After Running Out of Wall Space, This New York Couple Got Creative With Collecting

Portrait of Deidrea Miller and Jens Schott Knudsen, with left to right: Samantha French, Emerge; clear waters, 2012; Edward Small, Untitled, 1932; Marley Trigg Stewart, Untitled (Brothers), 2021; and Yagazie Emezi, When did a piece fall off, 2016.

This profile is part of CULTURED’s 2023 Young Collectors list.

Deidrea Miller, the head of communications for Christie’s Americas, and her partner, Jens Schott Knudsen, began cultivating their love of art long before they met, encouraged by their respective mothers. For Schott Knudsen, a photographer and lawyer who grew up in Denmark, that meant watching his parents bring home treasures from local charity auctions. Miller, for her part, honed her eye on the antique fair circuit, combing through the manifold offerings with her mother in search of vintage posters.

Today, the walls of the couple’s New York home are filled with the fruits of their early labor. With little room left, they focus their efforts on filling the gaps of their apartment walls with small, poignant punches; photographs and drawings often lend themselves to the cause. The micro-dose methodology works well for Miller, who is a self-professed impulse shopper. “I have to buy small works now because I don’t have the wall space,” she laughs. “I’m not ready to give up my posters.” When Miller finds something she absolutely must have and it does not fit in her space—as was the case with a Nikita Gale print from the artist’s 52 Walker show—her all too receptive parents are called in as temporary custodians. (Recently, Miller has come to suspect that they may never relinquish the Gale in question.)

Deidrea Miller with Adrián Villar Rojas's The Most Beautiful of All Mothers, 2015.

As art world professionals, the couple’s collection reflects the tight group of artist friends they have made over decades. Last year, they bought two smaller works from the cinematically proportioned sculptor Adrián Villar Rojas. Since then, the artist and his family have become friends. Though they know it is not possible in every circumstance, Miller and Schott Knudsen encourage new collectors to cultivate similarly genuine relationships with artists—talk with them about their work and ask them for advice on purchases from their corpus. The moral of the story for these two lifelong devotees is that collecting is, at its best, a reflection of the buyer and their values. “It is a very personal activity for us,” says Schott Knudsen. “Every work we own has a story attached to it.” agrees Miller, adding, “Early in my collecting journey, it was very important for me to have artists who represent Black beauty in my home, and to share them with my daughter.” She tells the story of haggling for an Edward Small painting with her mother’s help, and of a more recent acquisition, an almost-abstract composition of braids by Akilah Watts that she purchased from ArtLeadHer. “When I saw the work, it put such a smile on my face. It reminded me of being a little kid, and how rare it was to see that kind of representation in a piece of art,” says Miller. “That night, I took it home with me because I thought, this is something that belongs in my home. Now it’s something that we enjoy looking at every day as a family.”

Want to meet more young collectors? Read our profiles of Reilly Opelka, Hannah Bronfman, and Seth Stolbun.