The Best Gifts Art-World Insiders Have Ever Received, From a Mapplethorpe Photo to Dinner Plates by Laboratorio Paravicini

On the seventh day of Artmas, we hear from artists, dealers, and curators about the gifts they've been honored to receive.

Happy holidays! (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Welcome to The 12 Days of Artmas, our new, non-denominational holiday extravaganza—an advent calendar with gift ideas and stories for art lovers of all stripes, dropping daily through December 24.


Earlier this weekend, we put together a round-up of the best presents art-world insiders have ever given.

Today, we turn the tables and ask them about the best gifts they’ve ever received.


Bernard Lumpkin, collector

Visitors to “Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” which accompanied the publication of a catalogue. Courtesy of Bernard Lumpkin.

The best gift I’ve received is seeing “Young, Gifted, and Black: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” (which inspired the book) hit the road again after a pandemic hiatus. The exhibition was most recently on view at Gallery 400 on the campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago, where students, faculty, and artists from the community were able to experience the show in person.

When I traveled to Chicago myself, and observed visitors at the show, I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand how art literally makes us stop and think about ourselves, others, and the world around us. The next stop on the tour is Lehigh University Art Gallery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, opening February 1, followed by the Manetti Shrem Museum at the University of California, Davis next summer. So this nationwide traveling exhibition is definitely a gift which will keep on giving!


Neil Hamamoto, artist


The Miyabi Birchwood SG2 6 Piece Magnetic Easel Knife Set given to Neil Hamamoto.

My grandfather gifted me his old set of Japanese chef knives a few years back, and I don’t think any gift will ever top it. It’s a highly personal gift with tons of real-world utility, so it’s the sort of gift that continues to bring me joy and reminds me of my fondest memories with my grandfather every time I cook.


Alia Al-Senussi, collector

Robert Mapplethorpe’s photo of Lisa Lyon. Courtesy of Alia Al-Senussi.

I was given an incredible photograph of Lisa Lyon taken by Robert Mapplethorpe. How could that not be the best gift ever? This came at a time when I was deeply upset by the 2016 election and all that I saw happening in America, and [the attack on a] world that I thought we were moving towards, a more open, progressive, cosmopolitan humanity. Every day when I look at the magnificent Lisa Lyon it makes me stronger too.


Claire Sherman, artist

Claire Sherman table

Claire Sherman’s palette table. Courtesy of Claire Sherman.

My husband, Jonathon Cancro, is a wonderful artist who works with video in his own practice. He’s also a great problem solver and fabricator. He made this palette table for me 10 years ago when we moved to New York, and it is perfect. There is a place for everything.


Nazy Nazhand, art consultant

Nabil Nahas, Untitled (2013). Photo courtesy of Nazy Nazhand.

Nabil Nahas, Untitled (2013). Courtesy of Nazy Nazhand.

The best gift I have ever received is a stunning fractal painting by my dear friend and an artist I greatly admire, Nabil Nahas. The painting is a beautiful part of my collection, which consists of many artists I have had the privilege to work with throughout the years.


Mira Schor, artist

The best gift Mira Schor has ever received. Photo courtesy of Mira Schor.

The best gift Mira Schor has ever received. Courtesy of Mira Schor.

Thinking about the best gift I ever received makes me realize how lucky I have been in the many beautiful and thoughtful gifts I have received over the years. One friend has a particular talent for thoughtfully chosen, beautiful and useful gifts, a scarf in a color I love, a bag that everyone comments on… but the one gift that springs to mind is the most modest and inscrutable, a small ceramic thing, not a plate but not quite a bowl. I love ceramic objects but wasn’t sure what I would do with it. In fact, I use it every day, for small bits of my breakfast or desert, and I always reflect on how this small undefined object has become so much part of my daily life. Thanks Nancy B.!


Natacha Polaert, gallerist

Claude Rutault’s définition/méthode : peinture-suicide n°.

The best gift I ever received was from Claude Rutault, one of the most important French artists of his generation and a pioneer of Conceptualism. He presented it to me at Café de Flore in Paris, circa 2017. The gift was an artwork titled définition/méthode : peinture-suicide n°. It’s a very special and intimate work in the artist’s oeuvre. It came in a form of a handwritten text, what Rutault calls a “protocol.”

peinture-suicide n° is intended to live very near to the collector, known as the “charge-taker,” throughout his or her life. In my case, it is in my bedroom. According to its specifications, it is to follow me to my successive places of residence, even temporary homes during summer vacation. It changes colors as many times as the wall is repainted. Claude refers to it as a “peinture d’accompagnement, intime”—an intimate painting that accompanies.

Remarkably, it includes no provision for bequeathal after my death and no possibility of changing hands through sale. In other words, this is a work that will accompany me to the afterlife. It is a very beautiful and profound gift—unsettling, sure, but incredibly powerful because it carries all from within.


Marcello Kwan, auctioneer

Marcello Kwan’s son with the cutout. Courtesy of Marcello Kwan.

This is the best gift I have ever received. It is a life-size image board of my first son, Jace, when he celebrated his first birthday. My ex-colleagues worked with the designer who made our auction catalogue. They all signed the back with very sweet messages. I still keep it and Jace is now 8.


Vicky Chen, gallerist

Tony Oursler draw a New Year spring couplets.

Tony Oursler’s drawing. Courtesy of Vicky Chen.

Tony Oursler drew Chinese New Year spring couplets and gifted them to me when he visited Taipei earlier this year. I framed them so I’ll always remember the good times we had together writing the couplets together.


Lawrence Van Hagen, advisor

lawrence van hagan emin

Tracey Emin’s note for Lawrence Van Hagen. Courtesy of Lawrence Van Hagen.

I recently received a gift that I really appreciated: a Tracey Emin signed note that my partner got me. A couple of months ago, Tracey had a small exhibition with my friends Laura de Gunzburg and Gabriel Chipperfield at Shreeji Newsagent. Tracey designed some postcards for Shreeji to complement her show. My partner went to grab a coffee in the morning and Tracey was there and he got her to write a note for me and sign one of the postcards. It was a very spontaneous idea he had right on the spot and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I luckily have a beautiful work by Tracey Emin already, but this one is way more special, as the text she wrote was directed towards us.


Dan Palmer, curator

The Instant Pot sent to Dan Palmer by N. Dash.

I’ve been so grateful to all of the artists who have given me artworks and other generous presents over the years, but I think the most unique and thoughtful gift I’ve ever received was an Instant Pot from my friend, brilliant artist, and healthy human N. Dash. It just showed up one day out of the blue and now I use it all the time. It has pretty much revolutionized my life. Plus, the company is also based out of Ottawa. Who knew!


Alia Williams, dealer

Laboratorio Paravicini Zodiac dinner plates.

Recently, as a wedding gift, we received these wonderful Laboratorio Paravicini Zodiac dinner plates that I can’t get enough of.


Previous stories in this series:

The Best Gifts Art-World Insiders Have Ever Given, From an Old Master Painting to a Zanzibarian Key

Who Couldn’t Use Gift Guidance From the Cosmos? We’ve Consulted 5 Experts in Art and Astrology

If You’re Looking for a Fragrance to Give, We’d Suggest a Bottle of Chanel No. 5—an Icon and Artists’ Muse Celebrating its 100th Anniversary

Still Shopping for the Art and Fashion Lovers in Your Life? Check Out This Chic Museum Merch (Think The Met x Brother Vellies)

For Travelers, Consider Virgil Abloh-Designed Luggage That Reimagines Louis Vuitton’s Legacy

On the First Day of Artmas, My True Love Gave to Me… a Step-by-Step Guide for Gifting an NFT

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