The names Dali, Picasso, Rembrandt and Munch would seem more at home in a Parisian museum than in a quiet Caymanian neighbourhood. But for one of the islands’ leading art aficionados, these masters of the brush represent one of his greatest passions – his art collection.
For the past two decades, the private collector has acquired works by both local and international artists from across a range of styles and periods. The result is an extensive, and exclusive, anthology of pieces that reflect not only his love for art, but also his love for collecting.
“I started collecting art about 20 years ago,” says the prominent businessman. “My initial aim was to take samples of a wide variety of styles. I began with woodcuts by [German painter Albrecht] Dürer of the Passion of the Christ, from the 15th Century. They’re still the oldest works I own.”
The collector’s appreciation for art emerged at an early age, and he is entirely self-taught. He did not study art at university, and laughs when asked whether he is himself an artist. However, he owns many books on the subject and visits museums while abroad, including the Salvador Dali museums in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Barcelona, Spain. It is a passion that he appears to have passed on to some of his closest relatives.
A broad based collection
His approach to his collection, and to art as a whole, has always been open-minded. Of the approximately 300 works he owns, the breadth of styles, periods and artists is considerable.
Alongside the Dürer woodcuts are plate etchings from Renoir and Rembrandt, as well as limited edition prints by Francisco Goya, Andy Warhol, Edvard Munch, Peter Max, Itzchak Tarkay, and Pablo Picasso. There is no overarching theme to the collector’s choice of pieces; when it comes to adding to his collection, his only condition, he says, is that he must love the artwork.
“In the early days, I collected because of the names,” he confesses.
“That became expensive, but it was also not pleasing to the eye. Now I make sure I love the piece first.”
The collector buys most of his art from international auction houses; namely Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Both auctioneers refuse to sell prints that have not been authenticated, an in-depth process in which a qualified authority–which can be the artist themselves, a board of designated parties or an art expert–deem the piece to be the genuine work of the artist. The process of authentication varies from artist to artist. Although some works may not be original, an authenticated print with a limited run still holds considerable value, depending on the number of prints created.
“All the works I’ve bought internationally have come with a certificate of authentication. It has all been authenticated,” the Cayman collector says.
A number of the collector’s works have pride of place in his home, however, most of his collection is kept in storage that is humidity and climate controlled preventing mildew and deterioration. The pieces on display are rotated regularly; each work is protected with a plastic UV shield to avoid fading.
Of the many artistic heavyweights that comprise the collection, his favourite, he says, is Salvador Dali, the master of surrealism. One of his most prized pieces is the limited edition Les Caprices De Goya, a series of 80 drawings in which Dali appropriated the plates of Goya’s seminal work Los Caprichos.
There are only 200 copies available, each hand-signed by Dali.
“Dali is my favourite. Some of his work was really way out,” he says.
“I was lucky enough to see an exhibition in London, which showed Goya’s Los Caprichos against Dali’s Les Caprices De Goya, in which he took Goya’s prints and painted them. It was wonderful to see the comparison. I now have the complete set of Dali’s prints; all 80 of them. It’s very special.”
The collector’s favourite piece, however, is not the work of Dali, but of Rubens. The work, titled The Holy Family with Saint Anne, was created in the early 1630s by the Flemish painter and depicts a religious scene. The original is held in the Museo Del Prado in Madrid, but the collector owns an 18th Century oil reproduction of the work.
Part of his love for the piece, he says, lies in its history. “You need light on it to really capture it,” the collector says. “It’s beautiful.
“I’m fascinated with the older works,” he continues, referring to his favourite art periods.
“I have about 14 Warhol’s, but I must admit I find his stuff quite bland. I prefer the work of Peter Max.”
Although he has accumulated works by many international artists, the collector is also an avid supporter of Cayman’s art community. Local art is his first love, he says, and he believes in encouraging both up-and-coming and established artists.
“I’m very strong on local art,” he says. “It represents life in Cayman. Some of it is very historical and traditional, while some of it is very innovative.
“There are some very good local artists. Like Miguel Powery; I have close to 30 pieces of his work.”
Although too diplomatic to name his favourite, the collection represents the spectrum of Cayman’s artistic scene. He owns pieces by Janet Walker, Joanne Sibley, John Broad, Randy Chollette, Debbie van der Bol, John Clark and Guy Harvey.
When in Cayman, he attends as many art shows as his schedule allows.
“Local art is more important to me than the international names,” he says. “Local artists need our support.”
So, with so many works that he now owns, what inspires the businessman to continue collecting art?
He pauses for a moment, before breaking into a smile.
“It’s nice to wake up in the morning and see things you like.”