Art Collecting for the Audiophile

For YouTube executive Megan Green, the algorithms that shape her life in the music world have little bearing when it comes to the way she acquires art.

Marquita K. Harris

Photography by Emma Craft

Megan Green in her New York apartment, 2019.

Like so many American teenagers coming of age in the ’90s, Megan Green was an avid collector of cassette tapes. Her beat-up Sony Walkman was an emblem of her youthful, rebellious spirit with groups like Hole, The Smashing Pumpkins, and TLC in steady rotation. The songs she blasted through her foam-capped headphones were the beginning of her love affair with music.

Now in her mid-30s and a business development manager at YouTube, Green has become a serious art collector—though she’s still in touch with her teenage self. Upon entering her sunny Upper West Side digs, sharp-eyed guests will immediately spot a familiar gadget hanging near the television: a Walkman. Specifically, it’s interdisciplinary artist Daniel Arsham’s Steel Eroded Walkman made of volcanic glass.

“It means so much to me because I had a Walkman and tapes. I consider myself a true child of the ’90s,” Green says. “I listened to this thing called The Box,” she reflects, recalling the popular television channel that urged viewers to call a 900 number to request for the video they’d like to see aired next.

As for Green’s relationship with art, you could say it was her destiny. “I was always around art. From the time I was little, my parents took me to museums and galleries. They also took me to New York for auctions, so I thought it was a really natural part of life,” says Green, who grew up between Chicago and Boca Raton, FL.

Green’s parents, Stanley Green and the late Adrienne Green, were both major collectors and it rubbed off on their only child. “My parents said, ‘We’re going to get you something that youwant.’” Green was 15-years-old and selected a Jenny Holzer LED Box. The piece now sits in her living room unassumingly, until it flashes when you walk by it. “It annoys everyone,” she says with a laugh. Miniature steel Kara Walker sculptures sit encased in glass, near the window. Shantell Martin’s inky-black lines snake up a small white bottle nearby. Green’s home is cozy and inviting, with every nook offering a little something—blink and you might miss it.

Though the art world permeated her life from a young age and Green studied art history as a student, when it came to choosing a career, she opted for her other love: music. “Somebody gave me advice when I was deciding what I wanted to do for my career. He said, ‘You should do music as your career because it’s sort of an everyman, democratic medium.’ Art is a little bit more specific in terms of the audience,” Green recalls.

The advice hit and shortly thereafter Green found herself working for Sony Music and then, after Business School, for Songza, the free streaming service that offered listeners curated playlists that aligned with their moods and activities. A novel concept at the time, Songza was purchased by Google Play Music in 2014.

Thanks to the advent of algorithms, streaming services for music, film, and television take the labor out of choice. But, when it comes to collecting art, Green believes there is no code to crack. To be a successful collector, you must do the work. She sees something, she researches it. She hunts, then she gathers. It’s all about the chase. Green is not a love-at-first-sight type of collector.

“What I always tell people about art is you have to love it, but there are no shortcuts to that love. If you don’t want to spend the time researching, it is not going to be part of your life,” she says.

Despite the differences between how we consume art and music, for Green, “It’s all culture at the end of the day.”