What I Buy and Why: Dominique Mielle on Why She Loves Tiny European Auction Houses, and the Sculpture She Installed by Crane

Top collectors share their strategies (and obsessions).

Dominique Mielle.
Dominique Mielle.

A version of this article first appeared in the fall 2020 Artnet Intelligence Report, which you can download for free here

Dominique Mielle, a former partner at Canyon Capital, is a dynamic collector of Old Masters and a member of the Museum Painting Council at the Getty Museum. She spoke to Artnet News from her home in Los Angeles.

What was your first purchase?

A 19th-century Japanese woodblock print by Kunisada, for a few hundred dollars. I bought art with my first paycheck.

What was your most recent purchase?

An oil painting by Neapolitan Baroque master Massimo Stanzione, The Penitent Magdalene.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

With regard to the Baroque, we would love to find a [Jusepe de] Ribera. I am also developing an interest in early 19th-century French: Daumier and Corot. I believe these painters are an essential link between Old Masters and the beginning of what we think of as modern art. They give critical clues into the future of painting.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s <i>Nana</i> installed outside Mielle’s home. Courtesy of Dominique Mielle.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Nana installed outside Mielle’s home. Courtesy of Dominique Mielle.

What is the most expensive work of art that you own?

I’d rather mention the work that I cherish the most: a painting by Valentin de Boulogne, thought to be a self-portrait—tenebrous and handsome.

Where do you and your husband buy art most frequently?

We have acquired from major auction houses and, in recent years, have begun participating in smaller auctions in Europe, where great things can be found. As we began to focus on Old Masters, we developed relationships with specialized galleries, and we try not to miss the annual TEFAF fair in Maastricht.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

We live in a modern house with many glass walls—there is no wall above our sofa! There are no rules. A German Renaissance panel is flanked by Baroque paintings in the living room. We hung Nabis paintings in the dining room and family room, and they cohabit with Asian art and modern design.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

A rather voluminous Nana by Niki de Saint Phalle. We did not reflect on the installation challenges it posed. Using two cranes (and destroying our front yard in the process), we were able to lift her above the roof into her current outdoor location. She is now towering over the house. We couldn’t be happier to have her—and she will not be going anywhere.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, <i>A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion</i> (ca. 1526). Courtesy of the Getty Museum.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, A Faun and His Family with a Slain Lion (ca. 1526). Courtesy of the Getty Museum.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Two Artemisia Gentileschis that we underbid at auction.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

I’ve been thinking about stealing Lucas Cranach the Elder’s A Faun and His Family With a Slain Lion from the Getty. It’s not too large and would fit under a wide coat or in a large shopping bag. Easy-peasy.

Delve into the incredible story behind the rise of artist Amoako Boafo, learn about how auction houses are being transformed by the lockdown era, and see our first-ever Innovators list in the fall 2020 Intelligence Report, which you can download for free here.


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