Anita Zabludowicz: “We have helped nurture the artistic ecosystem” | Culture

The collector Anita Zabludowicz in London.David Bebber

Few people in the art world count on the determination of Anita Zabludowicz, an elite collector. Born 61 years ago in Newcastle as Anita Steinman, this British daughter of a wholesaler and art historian has spent time building an enviable career. Recognized as one of the 100 most powerful women in the artistic universe by the Artnet page and worthy of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Zabludowicz has promoted numerous fairs and exhibitions. Together with her husband, Finnish-born English businessman Chaim Sonny Zabludowicz, has undertaken projects such as the creation of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, the donation of funds for the project of the then canceled Guggenheim Museum in Helsinki or the construction of a collection of more than 5,000 works that sign 500 different artists.

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The Zabludowicz Collection in London, which runs the marriage, is a privileged space to get to know the universe – with offices in New York and Sarvisalo, in Finland – that this couple has created, and of which she, who is direct and accessible, talks about with passion. He does so during a talk in which, by videoconference, he narrates the way in which his romance with contemporary art, especially emerging art, was born, in the not so distant 1990s. “I was educated in an artistic and creative environment, because my mother was really passionate about art and she was always in charge of making things interesting for me and stimulating that passion. At one time I thought I would like to paint, but I found it quite boring. The same thing happened to me with the study of Art History. I don’t know why, my daughters love it and know it deeply, but I don’t find it inspiring. I dedicated myself to interior design for 10 years, which I really enjoyed. This is how I met a series of fascinating people who led me through what would definitely be my path: to become an art collector, for which my time at Christie’s, where I studied Modern Art and Auctions, was very exciting, among other things because it allowed me to know deeply the world of contemporary art ”, he says.

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'Scar Cymbals', installation by Donna Huanca exhibited at the Zabludowicz Collection in London in 2015.
‘Scar Cymbals’, installation by Donna Huanca exhibited at the Zabludowicz Collection in London in 2015.

Laughing, he adds: “First I thought we should focus on works by modern British creators, such as Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon or Barbara Hepworth. But my husband quickly derailed me, when he acquired a work of [el artista contemporáneo] Matthew Barney! So we went to photography in the mid-nineties, we did it with great enthusiasm and, apart from that, we met Thomas Dane, then a gallery owner, now a consultant, who has been a fundamental guide to encourage us to collect less than the predictable. In other words, the paradigmatic group of Young British Artists, like Damien Hirst, but photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans ”.

Video art soon captured the attention of this sober and restless woman, who studied Fine Arts at the College of Arts & Technology in Newcastle and who went from fervently accumulating works by Jim Lambie, Gillian Wearing or Thomas Struth, to considering that her collection it was too experimental and that, therefore, “something could be missing”.

“We really liked imaginative, technological, inventive and conceptual artists, but it didn’t seem appropriate to have that kind of work in a warehouse. And we decided to open our own space, for which the expert and humble help of Commissioner Jenni Lomax was key, and in this way we could pour out what we had, and share it with the community and the public from a more institutional than personal place. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t explain it exactly ”. The collector set her headquarters in London, and chose Elizabeth Neilson as director, despite the fact that at that time she was only 26 years old.

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Work by Rachel Maclean in the Zabludowicz Collection, London.
Work by Rachel Maclean in the Zabludowicz Collection, London.David Bebber

“14 years later, I think we have had success, a significant audience and a remarkable influence; we have helped nurture the artistic ecosystem. In short, we have done more good than bad. And above all, I can safely affirm that for us art is not a commodity, a product or an investment, but rather that what interests us is to see the effect it has on society, as well as to observe the way in which each artist advances. in your professional life. All this experience has been a true journey ”, she says proudly.

While referring enthusiastically to her daughter Tiffany, who has left her own mark as a curator at Times Square Space, she recounts some of the educational programs she has run with children and youth. But it also stops at iconic samples, such as the one that Donna Huanca offered in the Zabludowicz Collection in 2016, in the collaboration she has established with top-level universities and in the residences that, from the United States to Finland, have allowed her to establish a dialogue. deep and intimate atmosphere with the artists, in addition to understanding their processes and motivations.

For us, art is not a commodity, a product or an investment, but what interests us is to see the effect it causes on society

With exhibitions at the venues in London, the United States or Finland, he has managed to define an authentically contemporary collection: “My husband and daughter are very involved in the fine arts. But I like the experimental and technological world more, and I also see this task as a way to support creativity beyond borders, since the nature of digital work, for example augmented reality, allows it. Working with these technologies and ideas allows us to understand in a renewed way much of the future, but also of the past ”.

A fan of immersive proposals, Zabludowicz sincerely refers to the nostalgia caused by the artistic ecosystem prior to the covid, where human interaction was more natural. An interviewer herself, before finishing she will refer to the scope of the help that, with her husband as an accomplice, she gives to museums and art foundations around the world, and will conclude: “This paralysis of the most important art fairs in the world it is very sad”.

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