London collector Valeria Napoleone explains why she exclusively acquires works by women artists

The home of Italian-born collector Valeria Napoleone in West London is filled with works of art, including impressive pieces by Nicole Eisenman, Shirin Neshat, Ghada Amer and Lisa Yuskavage. She describes her very personal and exuberant collection as “a choir of female voices”.

Napoleone’s mission is to collect the work of emerging and mid-career women artists, and their support often goes beyond mere purchasing power. In recent years in particular, the spirited and elegant collector has collaborated with institutions such as the Contemporary Art Society in the United Kingdom. and SculptureCenter in New York to increase the presence of women artists in their collections and programming, respectively.

We caught up with the enthusiastic and contagious collector about everything from the first piece she’s ever bought to the most impractical piece of art in her collection (hint: these are water reservoirs! ).

Courtesy of Valeria Napoleone.

What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?
The first artwork I purchased was from an artist-run space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I bought a black and white photograph of artist Carol Shaford for $ 500.

What was your most recent purchase?
I recently purchased a work by American artist Katherine Bradford. She’s 80, I think. I bought the work from Kauffman Repetto in Milan where she has just opened a solo exhibition.

Valeria Napoleone at her home in London.

Valeria Napoleone at her home in London.

What works or artists do you hope to add to your collection this year?

Right now I’m really focusing on mid-career artists, those who have been working for 20 or 30 years. I will always add younger artists, but I see so many established artists that are a bit overlooked. I keep my wishlist on my phone, actually, so I’m just going to read it to you: First off, I’d like to add a few more works by Mr.argherita Manzelli, who is one of the artists that I have in my collection since the beginning. I think she is one of the great artists of this generation. I am also looking forward to adding more works by Amelie von Wulffen, Amalia Pica and Monika Baer to my collection.

What is the most expensive piece of art you own?
It’s either a painting by Lisa Yuskavage, real blonde, which I bought early, or Brooklyn Kindergarten by Nicole Eisenman.

Where do you buy art most often?
Art galleries – over 20 years of collecting, there are people I trust. But I am adventurous and I also listen to artists and curators. I have a network around me but I make every purchase myself. The journey of discovery of artists is one that I cherish. I also buy from non-profit arts organizations.

Courtesy of Valeria Napoleone.

Courtesy of Valeria Napoleone.

Is there a work that you regret purchasing?
Not really! People ask me “What are your mistakes? Well, I don’t think those are mistakes. I consider my collection as the constitution of a choir of female voices. I am quite focused on each work I buy and each one is very important to the collection. Every job should be my first choice. Looking back, my only disappointment is with artists who have stopped working or gone in a direction that I cannot share. But every work in this collection is a work that I really love.

What work have you hung over your sofa?
On my sofa in my London apartment, I have Judith Bernstein’s The birth of the universe. Next to it is Nicole Eisenman’s Saggy tits. Then, in front of this, is real blonde. It is a very specific and powerful piece.

What’s the least practical piece of art you own?
Oh, the most difficult work to care for and maintain is a work by German artist Mariele Neudecker titled Much was decided before you were born– it is a water reservoir with solutions and chemicals. Inside the tank is a tree, upside down. The chemicals react with the water to create a kind of fog. With water, avoid the accumulation of moss and algae. I like to deal with artwork, but this one is a challenge.

Courtesy of Valeria Napoleone.

Courtesy of Valeria Napoleone.

What work would you have liked to buy when you had the chance?
Not bad! But there was a dog sculpture by Cosima von Bonin that she had shown at Documenta and I didn’t buy it in time. It was truly amazing.

If you could steal a work of art without getting caught, what would it be?
Either a sculpture by Eva Hesse or a work by Cady Noland, a big installation if I don’t want to get caught!

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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