The New York Times
The Broken Saucers in Alan Faena’s House Are Purely Aesthetic
This real-estate developer has a definite personal color scheme, but his eye for art isn’t limited to a particular medium or motif.
By Shivani Vora
May 30, 2019
Dressed head to toe in cream — his wardrobe of choice — the Argentine hotelier and developer Alan Faena, 55, matched the all-cream décor in his West Side apartment overlooking the Hudson. In contrast, much of his art brims with color that pops against the chic, crisp aesthetic.
For Mr. Faena, sharing art has long been a professional mission: In 2011, he converted a former grain factory in his hometown Buenos Aires into the Faena Art Center, a space with rotating exhibitions by contemporary artists, and in 2015, he opened Faena District, a Miami Beach neighborhood that includes Faena Forum, a cultural center.
Mr. Faena is equally passionate about acquiring art for himself.
“I love being surrounded by art, and I have to love the art I’m surrounded by,” he said.
His collection, spread across his four homes — the others are in Miami Beach, Buenos Aires and José Ignacio, Uruguay, — comprises works by contemporary artists from all over the world. Although Mr. Faena confesses to having a soft corner for Argentine artists, he likes to mix it up, with pieces ranging from Graciela Hasper’s bright geometrics to two works by Julian Schnabel, whom he calls a friend.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Do you have a theme when you’re buying art?
Not really. Art is like music for me. I listen to classical, hip-hop, ’70s. I like everything from the Beatles to the Rolling Stones. My art tastes are just as varied. I collect what I like, although I lean mostly toward contemporary art.
You own pieces by artists who have shown work at Faena Art Center or Faena Forum. What’s one example here?
Pablo Siquier, who is one of the most important contemporary artists from Argentina. I have known him for years, and I bought the Art Deco-style piece by him in 2005 at a gallery in Buenos Aires. More than five years later, I commissioned him to create two public murals outside the Faena Art Center. His work there transformed the neighborhood and made me even more committed to exhibiting art that is free and open to the public.
This work that I own is a geometric piece from his explorations of deco design. If you look at it from a distance, it’s very three-dimensional and not as simple as it first seems.
Tell me about this portrait of you made of broken saucers.
It’s by Julian Schnabel. We were talking about doing a project together, and then he asked if he could do my portrait. I was honored — I have never sat for a portrait and didn’t know what to expect. I spent a few hours in his studio, and it was a beautiful experience to stand for him as he painted. He finished almost all of it while I was there, and it was an amazing insight into his process. I love all the colors he used.
Why is most of the art here in your office?
The focus of the main living room is the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the water and the mirrors that reflect it. I don’t want anything to distract from those views. The art fits better in the small room where I do my work.
There is one work of art in the living room. What’s the story behind it?
It’s a map of Japan’s west coast streaked with red paint, and it’s also from Julian. It was hanging on his bedroom wall, and I saw it when I went to have my portrait done. I’ve always been fascinated by maps and often collect them in my travels. I asked him if I could have it, and he took it off the wall and gave it to me.
Your bedroom, too, has a single work, an oversize gold tiger.
It’s the only artwork in this apartment that’s not contemporary and the only one in my entire collection from Japan. It’s a six-panel screen by Goseki Mio from the first half of the 20th century. Everything about it appeals to me, from the colors to the eyes of the tiger that say “be aware.” I found it in an antique store in the city, Naga Antiques, that specializes in Japanese art and design objects. I was on the hunt for a piece from Japan. I have enjoyed visiting the country and wanted to acquire a work from there.