Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner

How New York collectors rework their homes

Artists, architects and clients all collaborate to produce homes that work for their residents and their collections

There's an interesting cover story in the July edition of Art + Auction (reproduced in full on the publication's sister site, describing how New York collectors have reconfigured their homes to suit their art collections.

Among the featured interviewees are the redoubtable Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich Wagner, authors of our new book, Collecting Art for Love, Money and More. In the article, the couple explain how they reworked their SoHo loft in collaboration with local architect James Harb, to better suit their collection.

"There are any number of museums in which the architectural signature overwhelms the art," cautions Wagner, adding, "If it happens in museums, it can certainly happen in a home."

Yet the couple were delighted by Harb's addition to their home, which included a lowering of the ceiling to spirit away light fittings and air ducts, to leave an unbroken space. "Since he made that change, both your eye and mind go to the art uninterrupted," Wagner tells the magazine.


Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich's SoHo Loft
Ethan Wagner and Thea Westreich's SoHo Loft

Some aspects of modern living aren't best suited to contemporary art, though. For example, the open-plan Perry Street Towers apartments, designed by Richard Meier, are beautifully unadorned, yet they lack the kind of partition walls good for hanging a picture on. Ali Tayar of Parallel Design helped his collector client rework the space to suit his collection by, among other things, introducing moving panels which both divide up the space, and display the resident's Damien Hirst and Richard Prince works. It's a simple solution, which suited both the apartment and the art.

Finally, if the work doesn't fit the space, you can always commission a piece to suit the setting. Martin Finio, of Christoff & Finio Architecture, describes how an unnamed collector commissioned a Jenny Holzer piece to adorn the mechanical room (or utility room), which sits inside the house's glass-walled entry hall. Holzer obliged, producing a work that consisted of "600 10-foot-tall, 11/2-inch-deep fins, fitted with vertical sets of LEDs, which were locked together in a toothlike configuration and fastened to the walls with cleatlike devices, making them appear to float off the surface."

"We all wanted the piece to be as seamless a part of the architecture when the lights were off as when they were on, so we agreed to give the fins a metallic powder-coat finish that would catch the natural light when off," says Finio.

Read the full article here. For more on the rarified world of the art collector, please take a look at Thea and Ethan's book Collecting Art for Love Money and More. If you like the sound of Perry Street Towers, please consider our Richard Meier book, and finally, if the commissioned artwork appeals to you, learn more about Jenny Holzer from our monograph.