We turned the tables of our Art Collector Conversation series and spoke with our fearless leader, and RedDot founder, Lily Stone, about her own art collection, buying sheep and her years of “not getting it”.
What inspired you to start your art collection and when did you start?
I majored in Art History in college because I loved the first art history class I took (shout out to ARTH-002, The Rise of Modern Digital Media at the University of Pennsylvania!). I never thought in a million years I would be working in the art world, much less collecting art. But I have spent so much time just being around art, and at some point I had to start buying so I could enjoy it in my own home. The first thing I ever bought was a group of three 19th century French hand colored satirical etchings. They made me crack up. I guess at that point I should have realized my collection would always involve humor.
Do/did your parents collect?
Both of my parents appreciated art but I wouldn’t call either “an art collector” (sorry Mom and Dad!). I always loved this iron wall hanging of a Native American silhouette that belonged to my mother and hung in our dining room. When she died and I inherited it, I discovered it was purchased at a museum gift shop of all places! It’s now hanging in my bedroom, as a nostalgic addition to my gallery wall. But I also inherited a piece called “President in the Powder Room” that she bought at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art student show and it’s one of my favorite pieces.
Lily’s gallery wall
Ultimately, what would be your dream with your collection (selling work for profit, donating to museum, buying blockbuster artwork, to name just a few)?
I want my collection to inspire others to start collecting. I am the poster child for someone who “didn’t get it”. Now I get so much pleasure out of looking at art, in galleries, museums, art fairs, and (especially) in my own home! And if I can help anyone else go from wary to confident, then I’m happy—watching my clients get excited about new pieces is so fulfilling.
Many art collectors establish a pattern of buying and selling. Do you intend to follow that path with your art collection?
I never want profitability or investment to influence my collecting strategy. In my opinion, the moment you expect a financial return, the magic is lost. I do think collections evolve, and I know I might run out of wall space, but hopefully I’ll be able to give it away to friends and family.
What do you enjoy most about your art collection?
It so eloquently describes who I am as a person in a way I can’t articulate with words. Without even realizing it, I’ve collected different mediums and styles, but each piece works together as a reflection of my personality and my character.
How about art collecting as a practice?
It’s such a great means of self expression that you get to enjoy every day.
Lily with her most recent acquisition: “Celui qui dits les choses sans rien dire” by Marc Chagall
What is your favorite piece right now?
It’s a tie. I just bought a Chagall lithograph as a birthday gift (to me, from me!) but my longtime love is a piece called “Nantucket Girl”. It’s an antique silk flag that was put in packs of cigarettes by tobacco companies—kind of a like a free gift with purchase! I saw it at an antique show (on Nantucket no less) and my best friend bought it for me as a birthday gift. I mean, it’s an image of a brunette (on Nantucket assumedly) diving into water fully clothed: I have yet to find another piece of art that so perfectly embodies who I am!
Nantucket Girl, Artist Unknown
What has surprised you most about the art world?
How everyone take themselves so seriously. I’ve stifled many a laugh working in this field for so long. Art has become a solemn affair. Everyone needs to relax.
Money is no object: what piece would you go buy tomorrow?
A herd of Lalanne sheep or an Andreas Gursky photograph.
Francois-Xavier Lalanne, Herd of Sheep
Any advice for aspiring art collectors?
START SMALL and HAVE PATIENCE. I liken art collecting to falling in love: it takes time and happens when you’re not looking. Find a modest piece that speaks to you, buy it, and frame it. Soon you’ll realize you want more.
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