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October 31, 2023

The Wonderful World of Art Patron and Collector Pamela Hornik

Article by newcube

5 min. read

Collector and art patron Pamela Hornik with San Francisco's Institute Of Contemporary Art's Executive Director Ali Gass

The art world feels somewhat small, and when we see a collector who is truly passionate, dedicated and generous, we recognize them. It wouldn’t take long for anyone in conversation with Pamela Hornik to feel that she is a truly passionate collector who truly cares about artists and who truly wishes to support those making it work in the art world. After a virtual meet and greet with Pamela, our founders Bibi and Claire spent some IRL time with her in London, during the busy Frieze week. We didn’t make it to tea time – Pamela doesn’t drink tea – but we had a sunny morning coffee meetup during which we chatted about art, dogs and the state of the (art) world. It was a fun and inspiring meet up, at a time where the world seems to be going mad!

Pamela, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to enter the art world?

My art journey started when my fourth of four kids finally headed off to elementary school. I had been a stay at home mom before that, but I was ready for something to engage my mind outside of the home. This led me to start volunteering at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center. I would spend a day or two a week volunteering at the Cantor. My husband David, my kids, and I had always spent a lot of our time in museums, but the Cantor gave me the opportunity to really fall in love with art. As I spent more time there, I also began spending more time at museums and galleries and meeting artists at open studios. I couldn’t get enough art. And that remains the case to this day.

What made you want to start collecting and what was the first artwork you acquired?

My husband David and I just sort of fell into it. We loved art and spent a huge amount of time looking at it. One day it struck us that you could actually buy it and put it on your own walls. The idea of surrounding ourselves with art seemed exciting and inevitable. The more art we put on our walls, the more our empty walls felt … well, empty. The first art that my husband and I bought together was the work of a fantastic Stanford professor named Kevin Bean. My kids took lessons at a wonderful space called the Community School of Music and Art where they would have periodic art shows. They showed Kevin Bean’s work and my husband and I simply fell in love with it. We ended up buying a couple of artworks in that show and we’ve never looked back since.

What was the last artwork you acquired and what would your dream acquisition be?

Like all dreams, it varies by the night. There are so many amazing artists whose work I would love to add to our collection. My husband and I were just discussing the Chinese artist Chen Fei at Perrotin, whose work we saw several years ago, but we were unable to acquire then. We continue to think about how fantastic that work is. We have a similar reaction every time we see a work by Oscar Yi Hou. Or Salman Toor. Or Sasha Gordon. And I will always wish I had more paintings by Chantal Joffe, who I got to finally meet this summer in Venice, but I forgot to even take a selfie with her!

And then, one of our last acquisitions was a work by Chase Hall, with a whale in it. I would have preferred a dog, obviously.

Pamela Hornik, her dogs and her portrait by Amir H. Fallah
Pamela Hornik with artworks by Aubrey Levinthal and Timothy Lai
Pamela Hornik, with her dogs at the Some Dogs exhibition, at Four One Nine, San Francisco
Pamela Hornik, her dogs and her portrait by Amir H. Fallah
Pamela Hornik with artworks by Aubrey Levinthal and Timothy Lai

Is there a specific focus that leads to your selection of artists and artworks in your collection?

No. And yes. But mostly no.

My husband and I acquire work that inspires us. We fall in love with work and think how amazing it would be to live with it… And if we can afford it… And if the gallery will sell it to us… Then we happily buy the work and marvel at it. We tend to acquire contemporary figurative art that reflects the wonderful, diverse world in which we live. As a result, we have artworks by and of an incredibly diverse group of people. We tend to be a little impetuous about how we collect. We see a work. We look at each other and say “wow.” And then we buy it. We are driven by emotion and joy really. We love work that makes us feel something. And we really love work that makes us feel joy above all.

Ok, now to the yes part. A part of our collection does have a focus. I am perhaps even more obsessed with my dogs than I am with my art! And when dogs and art come together, I definitely feel joy. As a result, I have many paintings that include dogs in it. I don’t have a lot of works that only depict dogs. Some. But not a lot. But, I do have many artworks of people with dogs. And it makes me so happy! A selection of that crazy dog art will be in a show at the Green Family Foundation in Dallas in February 2024. It should be such a fun show.

How do you find and research the artists that you add to your collection?

Because I am obsessed with art and artists, I spend all day, every day looking at art. Some days it is in art museums. Other days it is in galleries. But every day it is on Instagram. I have built an incredible community of artists, gallerists, curators, and collectors on Instagram. I guess to see what they are creating, what they are showing, what they are curating, and what they are collecting. I look at a crazy amount of art every day. And it honestly never gets boring.

Pamela Hornik at the Some Dogs exhibition, Four One Nine, San Francisco

As you know, at newcube, our mission is to support and champion up and coming artists in a way that allows them to grow while protecting them from the dangers of the art industry. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the “ultra-contemporary” artists and how the market has shaped around them in recent years. How do you feel one can best support up and coming artists?

I love supporting up and coming artists. New artists create such exciting work. And there are always fresh perspectives — there are always amazingly talented new artists appearing on the art scene. I think the best way you can support ultra-contemporary artists is to actually… support them. Buy their work. Share their work. Introduce them to your fanatical art friends. Introduce them to your gallerist friends and your curator friends. And be sure to tell them how much you love their work. Being an artist is so hard! I’m not sure how much one person loving their work will empower them to keep going. But you should know that you are having an impact on someone’s life.

As an art collector who supports emerging and mid-career artists with such generosity and genuine passion, you are also actively engaged in supporting institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Francisco of which you are a founding member. Can you tell us more about your ways of selecting and supporting institutions and perhaps the challenges you may have faced in that process.

I really fell into the Cantor at Stanford. It was my backyard. And that’s how I started to volunteer there as you now know. I have sat at the front desk of the Cantor for fifteen years now. The Cantor is a free museum, so student groups come to the Cantor at all times. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a group of students having their first experience at an art museum and really coming alive. And the Anderson Collection next door is the same. There is this unimaginably beautiful art just sitting there waiting to be seen and all you have to do is to show up and walk in.

I guess I just love free museums. I want people to be able to come in and enjoy art no matter who they are. And I want to support institutions that have art that reflects the lived experiences of whoever comes into the museum. That’s how I got involved with the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Francisco. The founding and executive director, Ali Gass, shared my passion for free museums full of art that connected with the broader community in which they were located. So I sat down with Ali and asked how I could help to get the ICA off the ground. And ever since, it has been so much fun to see San Franciscans of all ages, races, orientations, and identities, come in to see themselves reflected in the incredible art we show on the walls.

newcube works closely with a new generation of collectors looking to support artists as well as institutions. What would your advice be to them as they engage with the art world?

Don’t let the art world intimidate you. It is just art. And art is amazing. Love what you love. Love who you love. And help them create the work that gets you excited. Above all else, spend time with the people and institutions that bring you energy.

Pamela Hornik and daughter Darrow Hornik attend Some Dogs, at Four One Nine, San Francisco, April 2023. Photo credit Jessica Monroy for Drew Altizer Photography.

You mentioned that the exhibition “Some Dogs” will be traveling to the Green Family Foundation in February 2024. We can’t wait to see it. We’d love to hear more about this passion project of yours and any other projects you have going on or perhaps dream projects you’d love to get involved with.

The “Some Dogs” exhibition has certainly been a passion project. It started out as a birthday present to myself — I rented a gallery space in San Francisco, the Four One Nine, and showed 65 works of “dog art.” The Four One Nine is a creative oasis for gathering and creating in the SoMa district. We had nearly a thousand people come see the exhibition and it was so much fun to see the joy on the faces of these art – or dog – lovers of all ages. I could not be more excited to take “Some Dogs” to Dallas. And this show will have several newly added artworks that were not shown in San Francisco, which will be great.

I may or may not be working on a book about artists’ studio dogs. It’s maybe a little early to be talking about that, but I guess I’m excited about projects at the intersection of art and dogs. If we could wrap in my kids, it would be a combination of my three favorite things.

Reflecting back and looking ahead, any thoughts or predictions for the art world in the next 5 years?

I don’t think I’m much of an art prognosticator. I am quite certain that there will be a lot of amazing art created. And there will be a bunch of amazing new artists emerging. And me? I will still be sitting at the front desk of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

Last question for you, from newcube’s artists, who would be your few favorite ones? And are there particular artworks you’d pick for your personal collection?

I’m not one to pick favorites, but I really enjoy Baoying Huang, Reihaneh Hosseini (in particular Three Women) and Katayoun Vaziri’s works (I really liked Tribute to Kiki Smith). If any of your amazing artists create art with dogs, I’ll always be excited to see it!

Thank you so much for your time Pamela, for sharing with us more about your fun and inspiring journey and for allowing us to enter your wonderful world filled with art, dogs and passion! See you in Dallas in February, if not before!

Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe's portrait of Pamela Hornik and her dog Teddy

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