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Interior Designer Max Nobel Has a Showstopper in His Art Collection (and It’s a Robot)

KAWS, Accomplice. All images courtesy of Max Nobel.

It’s a question that has plagued art fanatics through the ages: do you design your home around the artwork, or buy pieces that slot into your space? Nobel LA founder Max Nobel has struck upon a philosophy that lands somewhere in between, blending the best impulses of architecture, interior design, and art collection to build spaces both functional and arresting.

“Mixing architecture, design, and art is the most interesting thing for me in what I do,” says the Los Angeles-based designer. “Right now, we got to the point where we work with a lot of clients with art collections … It's just beautiful because you can see the space and the mood of the whole room that was created by that art piece. You just need to build around it.”

Artwork in case: Hajime Sorayama, Sexy Robot.

His own home is littered with acquisitions and commissions by the likes of Harland Miller, KAWS, and Hajime Sorayama. It’s a collection he puts in the league of New York and Japanese tastes, rather than his local LA scene. As Nobel does for his studio’s clients, his works are embedded into enclaves, bookshelves, and more that highlight their attributes without disrupting the flow of the living area.

In one room, a towering KAWS sculpture rises in the midst of a spiraling staircase. The artist, from whom Nobel has an impressive trove of works, kicked off the designer’s collection 10 years ago. Nobel’s interest in street art inevitably led him in the direction of the Pop artist, whose work has a long, intermingled history with street culture. “I always dreamed about bigger sculptures, bigger art pieces by him,” says Nobel.

He had been chasing the Accomplice work from auction to auction since 2011, finally acquiring the work a couple years back. “In art, it's a lot about timing—if you're in a rush or you're ready to wait for the piece that you really want,” he advises. “Some pieces sit in a private collection for 40, 50 years. In the art world, I think that it's very important that you don't rush to buy today. You just need to wait for the pieces that you really like and really enjoy.”

The other jewel in Nobel’s collection is a life-sixed android encased in glass, given the place of honor in his living room. Hajime Sorayama’s Sexy Robot is one of only two sold, the hardest work to acquire thus far for the collector. “He's not about business. He's just an artist that's not selling everything. It's really hard to find,” laments the designer. “When I first got notice from Hong Kong Phillips that Sorayama’s Sexy Robot is going on the auction, I understood it was my only chance to get it. It's just an amazing, beautiful piece that makes the whole room. This is the showstopper for sure.”

Artwork by Shawn Huckins.

Since picking these pieces up, Nobel’s attention has largely turned toward commissions, with custom works by Shawn Huckins and Matt Gondek lining his walls. At the end of a hallway, a traditional portrait of Russia’s Tzar Nicholas II is layered with Apple’s trademark low battery symbol, prompting the user to plug the painting in for an additional charge. The humorous work points to a collector interested in art’s historical canon, but firmly rooted in the latest innovations.

First on Nobel’s wishlist is a piece by abstract painter Devon DeJardin. The other artist he has is eyes on is hyperrealist Cj Hendry, commenting, “You don't even understand how it's possible.”