Philanthropist Emilie Pastor talks about art collecting not as a hobby or an investment, but as a legacy. Her father, the late Michel Pastor, was a prominent collector whose holdings ranged from Nicolas Poussin to Fernand Léger to Andy Warhol. The younger Pastor came to understand her father through the artworks he selected with great consideration, many of which were kept on display in her childhood home. “My father had a very personal collection that was a true reflection of his life and personality,” Pastor said.
Today, each piece she acquires for her significant cache of contemporary art is chosen with a thought to her own sons, whose daily lives are brightened by the paintings, sculptures, and photographs that enliven the walls of the family’s serene Monaco home. “I hope that the art I leave to my sons will allow them to experience more of the world and understand the times they’re growing up in,” she said.
Pastor’s collection features some of the most influential artists of the past century, from Josef Albers to Barbara Kruger to Danh Vo. She also has significant interest in artists working with time-based media and digital technologies, like Jeff Elrod, Olafur Eliasson, and Christian Marclay. Her collection now numbers some 300 pieces, the result of about a decade of collecting—a remarkable feat, given that Pastor is only in her 30s. “I had a limited budget and focused on young artists,” she said of when she first started buying. “Art became a way for me to understand the world and escape from the social constraints I was living in.”
Her first serious acquisition was a cast bronze cow skull by Pictures Generation artist Sherrie Levine. The natural world is the common thread in her collection, but Pastor prefers artists who approach it with subtlety, teasing out its complexities and vulnerabilities, where the connection can be “through metaphor, the material of a piece, or the practice of the artist.” Other recent acquisitions in this vein include a sculpture by Vo created on his sustainable farm in Germany, a bouquet by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and a delicate papier-mâché sculpture of an apple core by Claes Oldenburg.
Apart from her collecting, she supports artists in her work as vice president of the Committee for Contemporary Creation at Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, which commissioned 10 emerging artists to produce a short video for the museum as a way to aid artists during the pandemic.
In 2015 Pastor and her art adviser, Sibylle Rochat, launched Concrete Projects, an initiative that offers financial support to help artists and institutions stage projects; among them are Hannah Black’s 2019 solo exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery in London and Neïl Beloufa’s immersive installation at Palais de Tokyo that same year. “For me,” Pastor said, “Concrete Projects is a way to create an equilibrium—I get so much from the art world, and I want to give something back.”