November 17, 2022
Young Collectors Spotlight: Alex Abedine
Article by newcube
6 min. read
With the rise of a new generation of art collectors around the world and equally the rise of social media, our team at newcube has met inspiring and passionate patrons of the art, some of whom have yet to reach their thirties. Each with their own unique stories and itineraries in the art world, young collectors like Alex Abedine have built close relationships with leading galleries and promising emerging artists.
We met with Alex Abedine and chatted about his love for contemporary, and ultra contemporary, art.
Alex, it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you and learn more about your contemporary art collection and your true passion for collecting. Can you tell us in a few words about yourself and your unique itinerary in the art world?
Thanks, newcube! I’m Alex. I’m from New York. My parents emigrated from Iran to Queens in 1984. I now live in Tribeca in Manhattan and I’m a lawyer for a tech startup.
I first got into art when I started my career at a law firm. My work environment felt a little dull, it was lacking stimulating and inspiring encounters as well as creativity. To fill this void, I started visiting art galleries to challenge myself aesthetically and to meet people in the art world. Little did I know that it would in fact change my life. Art is the most impactful thing we do as humans. And it will remain long after we’re gone. I’m glad I get to play a small and humble part in that story.
When you made your first steps in this exciting art world, what was the first artwork you ever purchased?
The actual first work I purchased was a diptych of prints by James Rosenquist. They were really funky. The first unique work I ever bought was a large canvas by Jessica Westhafer, who’s recently had a solo show at Vito Schnabel gallery in the city.
How do you discover new artists and decide on whom you wish to acquire?
Over the years, I have built close relationships with a great number of galleries and I keep a close eye on their program and their artists. I also often exchange with fellow collectors. We share thoughts and insights on artists we have on our radar, discovering different perspectives is fun. On several occasions, I have reached out directly to artists, and had the opportunity to do studio visits with them. I love getting to know the artists personally, I’ve built meaningful relationships and from there, if it feels right, I just go for it.
As a young collector, you are naturally quite active on social media. What is the relationship between social media and your passion for collecting?
Instagram has undeniably been a great tool to get acquainted with an artist’s work. It helps me discover new artists and galleries I haven’t worked with yet. Instagram is also valuable as it offers a public platform where I share works that I love. It’s a conversation opener and if an artist or a gallery gets a little extra attention because of it, I’d be grateful.
As collectors, we all have a responsibility towards the artists we support and acquire. How do you manage these relationships, with both artists and their galleries?
The key for me is to be genuine, nice, and patient.
First, being genuinely enthusiastic goes a long way. I dive deep into a gallery’s program whenever I can. It helps build trust and strengthens relationships. If and when I acquire a work, I consider myself an ambassador to the artist and/or the gallery. It’s frustrating when I see a coveted work at auction just a year or two after it was completed.
Next, I know it’s cliché, but it’s important to me: being nice. I treat everyone as an equal and when I can, I build new friendships. The art world is a microcosm, the least we can do is to be nice to each other. The more pleasant you are to work with, the better your reputation. Honestly, this applies to all aspects of my life, not just collecting.
And finally, patience. Waitlists are a reality. It’s nothing personal. Galleries have competing priorities and I respect that. I’ve waited a long time for works and I have probably been annoyingly persistent (I could go on and on about the saga of acquiring a work by Robert Zehnder). But great things come to those who wait.
Which artists are in your collection? And who are the artists you have on the radar?
Oh man, quite a few now. In no particular order: Joanna Woś, Eliot Greenwald, Cristina BanBan, Cristina de Miguel, Nicasio Fernandez, Ryan Schneider, Joel Mesler, Alina Perez, Bony Ramirez, Joshua Petker, Héloïse Chassepot, Erica Mao, Robert Pokorny, Linus Borgo, Elana Bowsher, Wendell Gladstone, Farley Aguilar, Zoe Blue M, Anne Buckwalter, Alannah Farrell, Caleb Hahne, Kate Pincus-Whitney, James Ulmer, Nat Meade, Kevin Cobb, Anja Salonen, Robert Zehnder, Nihura Montiel, HyeGyeong Choi, Mie Olise Kjærgaard, Luján Pérez, Su Su, Erik Frydenborg, Josiah Ellner, Elmer Guevara, Carroll Dunham, Hank Ehrenfried, Jessica Westhafer, Karyn Lyons, Kelly Lynn Jones, Amir Fallah, Marcel Alcala, Nick Hoover, Mia Middleton, Grace Carney, Robert Russell, Spencer Sweeney, Judy Bowman, Jonathan Wateridge, Mickey Lee, Kyle Orlando, Angela Lane, Kieran Kinsella, Suzanne Sullivan, and Emma Steinkraus.
My radar/wishlist always includes too many artists! Jo Messer, Greg Ito, Alteronce Gumby, Ivy Haldeman, Daniel Gibson, and Pauline Shaw are the first ones to come to mind. But this “list” changes regularly. I’m lucky to have acquired many of the artists I had coveted over the years.
Do you have a specific curatorial approach to your collection?
While I don’t have a specific curatorial approach when acquiring new works, I’ve been skewing figurative for a while, but I am leaning towards abstraction lately. The Lucy Bull show at David Kordansky almost made me cry. And I have definitely cried in front of other (abstract) works, I am thinking of Untitled XIX by Willem de Kooning at the MoMA.
Every artist I acquire is at a different stage in their relatively short careers, but they’re definitely “emerging” when I jump in. That’s probably the only real common thread with the fact that I have to love what I’m acquiring.
Do you work with an art advisor?
Everything has been entirely on my own until quite recently. I trust my judgement. Maria Vogel from Rococo Art Advisory though has been a great friend and now helps with artists that may be tough to get access to.
Do you live with all the works you have acquired?
Yes, I live with all of them, and I often rehang the works. Art should go everywhere, including bathrooms! I treat my home as an exhibition space. But I have to admit, it’s now getting a little crowded. I have a Carroll Dunham under the bed!
Have you ever bought works from the secondary market or at auction?
I have only bought two works at auction: a Spencer Sweeney self portrait that I just lent to the Brant Foundation’s retrospective, and a 100in long work by Farley Aguilar. The Aguilar didn’t fit in my building. They had to disassemble it on the street and reassemble it on my dining room floor. Fun times!
What would your advice be to a young collector who wishes to buy their first ever unique artwork?
Only buy what you like. Buy from a platform, gallery, or artist you’d like to support and work with again. And stick to the primary market to avoid secondary market markups if you can.
On the note of platforms, global digitalisation has changed the way people discover and buy art. At newcube, we are a curated marketplace focusing on unique artworks by artists on the rise. How do you feel about the rise of online platforms like ours?
The pandemic obviously catalyzed buying art online. Most of the artworks I’ve recently acquired were bought off a PDF, which can at times lead to disappointment when you end up seeing the work in person. But you can’t be everywhere at once and technology has made art more accessible. It has also infused more transparency, which in turn has democratized a historically opaque and exclusive experience. On balance, I think it’s a positive development for everyone. Collectors have more access, and galleries and artists sell more art.
At newcube, I’ve recently discovered Reihaneh Hosseini who is one of my favorites. Her drawings in particular are really strong. As an Iranian myself, I am really proud and happy to see Iranian artists getting more recognition. The recent events have also certainly made me want to look at art by contemporary Iranian artists more closely. I am proud to collect artists like Amir H. Fallah as well.
You’ve recently joined the YCC at the Guggenheim, congratulations. Tell us a little more about that.
I recently joined the YCC (Young Collectors Council) as a way to impact the cultural discourse in the institution and my hometown, New York. The Guggenheim is serious about spotlighting emerging artists and the YCC plays a crucial role in determining artists who will be considered for inclusion in its permanent collection. It is important for me to be a part of this process, and I get to play a small role in promoting artists I’m passionate about. I hope to get more involved with the YCC as I grow as a collector.
I’m also a benefactor of the Fountainhead Residency in Miami. Supporting residencies is another way to advance the careers of young artists and that’s tremendously important and valuable to me.
I lend works to museums and institutions whenever I’m asked. The most recent loans were to the Brant Foundation and the Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art.
Thank you for your time and most importantly, for everything you do for young artists and young platforms like newcube! And of course, thank you for sharing more of your passion and invaluable experience with us.