Art Collector Questionnaire

Collector Antonio Valverde’s First Purchase Was a Drawing by Larry Bell. Years Later, He Got to Have Dinner With the Artist

Antonio Valverde in his New York home with (Left) Brice Guilbert, Fournez, 2022 and (Right) Hugo McCloud, Untitled, 2014. All images courtesy of Valverde.

Brooklyn-based collector Antonio Valverde came to collecting the way many an individual before him has: by admiring the growing assortment of works owned by a friend and resolving to begin his own endeavor. What started with a ‘90s drawing by Los Angeles artist Larry Bell has ballooned over the years into a collection of Light and Space works, paintings by Arthur Monroe, and sculptures by Kennedy Yanko.

As his journey into the art world has progressed, Valverde has also taken up posts as the co-chair of the newly established National Council at Buffalo AKG Art Museum and as a member of the Denman Waldo Ross Society at MFA Boston. He is also a founding member of the Greater New Yorkers Council at MoMA PS1. Here, he shares how his initial interest in the arts quickly turned into an obsession.

What do you think makes the New York art scene distinct? 

Accessibility and the quality of the art. I’m able to see a major museum show and discover an exciting emerging artist in the same afternoon. The industry infrastructure here is also unique. You’re dealing with collectors, gallerists, curators, advisors, etc. at the top of their game.

Where does the story of your personal collection begin? 

A close friend of mine has a serious collection, and I always admired the art he was acquiring. He introduced me to his advisor in New York, and she formalized my approach to collecting contemporary art.

Larry Bell, MVD 178, 1990.

How do you feel you are able to make an impact through your involvement with the Buffalo AKG Art Museum, MoMA PS1, and MFA Boston? 

Outside of financial support and donating artwork, I think I have been able to make an impact by being an ambassador of these institutions, particularly with my role as co-chair of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s National Council. I feel I am a humble extension of an exceptional team that has created a world class art destination in western New York. It is in league with the Fondation Beyeler and Louisiana [Museum of Modern Art]. If you haven't already visited the newly expanded AKG campus, it’s a must-see destination. Tell ‘em Antonio sent you, ha!

What is the first piece you ever bought? 

A mirage vapor drawing from 1990 by Larry Bell. I had to make payments on it at the time. Even after all these years, it’s still one of my favorite pieces in my collection. Recently, I had a chance to meet Larry and have dinner with him, followed by a midnight drop-in tour of his Venice studio. I enjoy meeting artists at all stages of their career. However, it’s particularly meaningful to meet artists that are represented in my collection, who have been creating for decades.

Which work or works provokes the most conversation from visitors? 

I get a lot of questions about the Larry Bell vapor drawing work because it changes with light and has a complicated process that involves a large machine capable of vaporizing metal. I would say curators tend to hang back at my Hugo McCloud stamp painting and Kennedy Yanko skin painting. They are both strong and sophisticated works where metal also happens to be integral to the artist’s process. Collectors are most drawn to my Tony DeLap painting from 1987. It is energizing and calming at the same time. I think that’s partly why I sleep under it.

Left to right: Alteronce Gumby, Blue Moon, 2021; Tony DeLap, Zargia, 1987.

Which artist are you currently most excited about and why? 

Right now I’m looking at Hap Tivey and the late artist Arthur Monroe, who both started making work in the 1960s. Tivey is part of the Light and Space movement; he collaborated with [James] Turrell and recently joined LACMA’s collection. Monroe blended East and West coast schools of Abstract Expressionism to develop a raw and original visual language. He is having a museum retrospective next year [at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art], and I’m honored to be loaning one of the works in my collection to it.

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

A Lenz Geerk painting from 2022. I was very fortunate to acquire the work, and thank you Roberts Projects for entrusting me with this exceptional painting.

Kennedy Yanko, Jewel, 2020.

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

An Ernie Barnes work from 2003 that I tried to buy in September 2021. I confirmed an hour too late. It feels like I missed a tackle or dropped an interception.

What factors do you consider when expanding your collection? 

Always quality of the work first, how it curatorially works with the existing collection second. I also factor in, to some degree, how an artwork works or doesn’t work with the aesthetics of my home. I am attracted to artwork I find beautiful and want to live with; it’s as simple and elusive as that.

Want to read more from collectors around the world? Read Oleg Guerrand-Hermés's six-step process for discovering new artists, David Cancel's strategy for helping Puerto Rican artists find their way into museums, or how Erin Leider-Pariser discovered collecting while working at Beth Rudin DeWoody's personal trainer.