NEW YORK—“There is hardly anything rarer than a good painter,” Los Angeles art collector and media entrepreneur Dean Valentine told ARTnewsletter. He was referring to Adrian Ghenie, a 32-year-old Romanian-born painter. Valentine recently added another work by the artist to his collection. “He’s a fantastic painter,” Valentine said, noting that he owns several other Ghenie paintings he acquired after first seeing the artist’s work in 2006. His most recent acquisition is Berlin Zoo, the subject matter of which is “based around an incident that happened when the Allies bombed Berlin and animals in the zoo were all set free,” he said. Valentine bought the work from the Kontainer Gallery, Los Angeles, for a price he described as “more than $50,000 and less than $100,000.”
Valentine also recently acquired a triptych by Kaari Upson, 37, a Los Angeles and New York artist whose work was shown in the Hammer Museum’s Hammer Projects gallery in 2007, and who currently has a solo show at Maccarone gallery, New York, through Dec. 19. Valentine purchased the work for about $20,000 after viewing it in a group show at Overduin & Kite, Los Angeles, last month.
“I thought her work really stood out,” he said. “All her work is based on this one narrative of a guy who lived next door to her parents whose house burned down.” The artist incorporates some of the man’s personal documents and assorted objects that she found in the remains of the house into videos, paintings and drawings in which she reimagines the neighbor’s life in relationship to hers, says Valentine. The triptych he purchased from Overduin & Kite is a “smoke painting,” a large oil on panel that the artist marked with candle smoke.
Valentine began collecting in 1994, during an extended visit to New York while his father was ill. “After a few weeks, when I ran out of things to do,” he told ARTnewsletter, “I wandered into a gallery in SoHo,” where he saw the work of Russian painter Yuri Kuper. The painting, for which he paid $6,000, “spoke to me,” he said. It is still in his collection, which he estimates now holds about 600 pieces.
Valentine said he donates on average about 15 to 25 works a year to institutions, including a group of 53 contemporary sculptures by 29 Los Angeles artists that he and his wife Amy Adelson gave to the Hammer beginning in 2007. The collection, which includes works by Liz Craft, Sam Durant, Katie Grinnan and Jonathan Pylypchuk, was the subject of a recent show, “Second Nature: The Valentine-Adelson Collection at the Hammer,” which closed on Oct. 4. Valentine has also donated works to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Collectors have “an obligation to donate and give back” by sharing work with public institutions, he said.
Valentine told ARTnewsletter he does not buy at auction, but a John Currin painting he sold at Sotheby’s last November was one of the few works to elicit competitive bidding amid the market’s steep correction last fall. The Old Master–style painting Nice ’n Easy, 1999, which depicts two nude women touching each other, was guaranteed with a record-breaking $3.5million/4.5million estimate. At least three bidders vied for the painting before it sold to a telephone buyer for $5.5million (ANL, 11/25/08).