Gallerist Christina Di Donna Treasures Her Lalanne Sculptures, Dreams of Slow Sundays, and Is Still Searching for a Cindy Sherman ‘Film Still’
We asked the co-founder of Southampton's Sélavy art and design salon about the things she values most—in art and in life.
So much of the art world orbits around questions of value, not only in terms of appraisals and price tags, but also: What is worthy of your time in These Times, as well as your energy, your attention, and yes, your hard-earned cash?
What is the math that you do to determine something’s meaning and worth? What moves you? What enriches your life? In this new series, we’re asking individuals from the art world and beyond about the valuations that they make at a personal level.
Gallerist and collector Christina Di Donna wants to celebrate art in everyday life.
Di Donna is the co-founder of Di Donna Galleries, a Madison Avenue gallery known for its high-caliber showcases of Surrealist and Modern work. She also heads up Sélavy by Di Donna, a uniquely shoppable art and design salon in Southampton that she began with her husband Emmanuel in 2020. At Sélavy, Di Donna takes an inspired approach, filling the living room-like display space with a unique and unexpected mingling of styles across time periods that plays with and demystifies the ways collectors can live with art. Sélavy takes its name from Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Dadaist alter ego Rrose Sélavy, a phonetic play on the French words éros, c’est la vie.
With Di Donna Galleries, meanwhile, she takes a keen interest in the lives of historical artists and communities that fostered their creative experimentation. Currently on view at the gallery is “Man Ray’s Paris Portraits 1921–1939” (through June 3), an exhibition put together in collaboration with private dealer and Man Ray expert Timothy Baum. The richly illustrative selection of portraits presents the Surrealist photographer’s inner circle. “Man Ray’s portraits always capture something personal about the sitter and this pantheon of personalities, poets, artists, intellectuals, and socialites mixed together perfectly capture the spirit of that time,” she said. Her favorite photographs in the exhibition are of Alice Rahon, an under-recognized Surrealist painter who was active in Mexico alongside Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, and Leonora Carrington. “His portraits manage to capture both her beauty and her creative spirit,” she explained.
At home in the Hamptons, Di Donna covets the rare occasion for a slow Sunday morning, reading a paper with coffee in bed. The couple’s home is replete with beloved artworks, too, including her treasured Lalanne sculptures acquired decades ago, as well as a new purchase—three outdoor sculptures by Alicja Kwade. Recently we chatted with Di Donna about what she values in art and life—and why.
What is the last thing that you splurged on?
We recently splurged on a set of three outdoor sculptures for our home by the artist Alicja Kwade. I love her work!
What is something that you’re saving up for?
Most of my savings go right back into my art collection, but I have always dreamed of owning a Cindy Sherman Film Still. She is one of my favorite artists and I think the film stills are just magic. It’s definitely a missing piece of our collection.
What would you buy if you found $100?
I would probably buy lunch for someone else, someone who needed it more than me.
What makes you feel like a million bucks?
Sleeping in late on a Sunday! Having my coffee in bed while I read the news. Nowadays that feels like a total luxury!
What do you think is your greatest asset?
The ability to change my mind. I have grown less stubborn as I have aged, and my mind is more open to other perspectives.
What do you most value in a work of art?
How it makes me feel when I stand in front of it. If it does not turn me on somehow, then it really doesn’t have any value for me personally.
Who is an artist worthy of everyone’s attention?
I’m a big supporter of female artists, and that’s the focus of my collection. There are a lot of women right now that I am looking at, whom I think everyone should be looking at as well: Hayal Pozanti, Tara Donovan, Alicja Kwade, Eileen Quinlan, and Loie Hollowell.
Who is an overlooked artist who hasn’t yet gotten their due?
Probably Dorothea Tanning—an amazing female Surrealist who was just as original as her male peers.
What, in your estimation, is the most overrated thing in the art world?
Popularity and recognizability.
What is your most treasured possession?
My marriage—I know it’s a privilege to have a loving marriage that works. It’s definitely something I want to take care of and protect. I would not be the person I am without my husband Emmanuel. We grow together, we raise our children together, we create together. It’s an amazing partnership.
What’s been your best investment?
Some Lalanne sculptures that we acquired 15 or 20 years ago. I love living with them.
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