Words: Helen McKenzie
Photography: Richard Eaton
The Venice Biennale is the best place to track down the world’s keenest collectors of contemporary art. Fresh from checking out Sarah Lucas at the British pavilion, English collectors Stephanie Simon and Andrew Hale talk about their shared love for art, the friendships they have forged and the effect art has on their personal creativity.
Jewellery designer Simon says with a touch of pride: “Sarah’s work is amazing! It is also very personal in a way, because we have transcended the artist/collector relationship. She is now a friend and we can see where she draws her references from; it is very emotional, seeing the transition of her work, the evolution and how her works have come to be massive cultural pieces on this grand scale, it is really exciting.”
Hale, songwriter and keyboard musician for band Sade, met Simon when he had a small gallery in London. But he has no plans to go back to the gallerist life in the future: “I much prefer to be on the other side of it,” he says. “When I was a gallerist, I was quite young and naïve and idealistic.” With a smile he adds that he is happy to “leave it to the professionals”.
Hale and Simon’s 20-year-old collection is global and includes work by top artists from the United States, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom, including Sarah Lucas, Angus Fairhurst, Matthew Barney, Jonathan Horowitz, Chris Offili, Juergen Tell- er, Matthias Weischer, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gabriel Kuri, Don Brown, Simon Periton and David Korty, to name a few. Hale says access to international art has dramatically increased over the past two decades. “It was interesting when Frieze first started in London, only 15 years or so ago, we were talking to the directors and it was amazing how few collectors there were at the time; we just assumed that there were others like us, but in fact England was quite parochial until relatively recently. The art market generally has become huge, with the rise of the art fair and the opportunity you’ve got to see international artists who were hardly known or recognised outside their reach.” Do they always agree on works to purchase and are they equally engaged in collecting? Simon laughingly claims she is not quite as avid as Hale, who she says must attend every art fair. Not being on the same page at the same time has resulted in some misgivings and a new policy for the pair. They missed a John Currin painting, which Simon says, “I grew to regret. After that moment we decided that there was no way in hell that if the other person feels that they really love the work and can see the value – not monetary – then we say to the other person, ‘just buy it,’ because no one wants to be responsible for the other saying, ‘I told you we should have gotten that.’ Now we buy jointly as well as independently.”
Connection with the art world is also inspirational for their personal creative endeavours. Simon comments: “Being around art lends itself to ideas and concepts, it helped me evolve as a jeweller, how I look at materials.” Her latest addition to her jewellery range is a marble cuff, incised with gold or precious stones. Hale’s friendships with artists allowed him to produce a film called Descricted, which explores artists’ responses to pornography.
Soon he will start work on a new Sade album. Looking around at the other Venice Biennale pavilions still to explore, he says: “Art inspires you to go back and do the creative work that you do. Artists make you look at the world in a different way. It is true for any writer, musician, jeweller, architect – that is why we are all here.”
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 73, JUL – SEP 2015.