What’s On Your Walls: How Curator Roya Sachs Likes to Spark ‘Sudden, Intimate Conversations’ With Her Dining-Room Art

Sachs spoke to Artnet about what she likes to collect, how she displays it, and her take on the relationship between art and style.

Roya Sachs on the opening night of Performa 19 in 2019. Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

Roya Sachs—the New York-based art collector, independent curator, and founder of multisdisciplinary arts group Triadic—has forged a pretty spectacular path in the art world, becoming one of the leading young curators specializing in performance art.

The daughter of Swiss artist Rolf Sachs and granddaughter of collector Gunter Sachs, she has been passionate about art ever since she was a girl, and has parlayed that passion into her adult life through cutting-edge shows that bring together performance, technology, live music, and new media for Google, Spring Place, and the New York City Ballet—in addition to a number of important museums, galleries, and arts organizations like Performa, for which she also serves as a board member.

We recently interviewed Roya about her impressive collection, how she likes to display it (spoiler: with humor!), and how she thinks about art’s relationship to style.

Sachs moderating a panel at Berlin Art Weekend for ​König Galerie. Photo courtesy Roya Sachs.

Sachs moderating a panel at Berlin Art Weekend for ​König Galerie. Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

What was your most recent purchase?

A set of three works by the Moroccan artist Amina Agueznay, from Casablanca’s Loft Art Gallery at 1:54 African Art Fair in London in October. She trained as an architect and then studied jewelry design, and she combines these practices with artisanal weaving techniques. She is now doing stitchwork on canvas—I love her multi-dimensional craft, which is both masterful and sculptural.

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

A sculpture by French artist Théo Mercier.

Photo courtesy Roya Sachs.

Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

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

A small square of excess cloth from Christo & Jeanne Claude’s recent L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped project is currently my most precious possession…to me that’s priceless! 

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Usually at art fairs or through galleries I love. For new emerging talent online, I also look at AucArt, which spotlights recent art-school graduates.

A snapshot of Sach's collection at home. Photo courtesy Roya Sachs.

A snapshot of Sachs’s collection at home. Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

Only ones I regret not purchasing!

How do you like to display your artwork?

I love to mix mediums, ideas, and genres, so most of my art is displayed in salon format. You place a cobalt blue Lisa Brice watercolor above a black-and-white Sanlé Sory photograph from Burkina Faso in the 1970s and find a sudden, intimate conversation between them. Each one tells a different story, time and place. Art is a series of unlikely pairings.

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

A Danny Fox painting sits above my sofa. In my bathroom, I have a self-portrait by Angolan photographer Keyezua, as well as a series of mini prints of breasts and bums!

Keyezua, "Fortia 07" (2017). Image courtesy the artist and Roya Sachs.

Keyezua, Fortia 07 (2017). Courtesy of the artist and Roya Sachs.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

A Barbara Kruger skateboard with the phrase “DON’T BE A JERK” written on it, which was made in collaboration with Performa for their 2017 biennial. A skateboard I’d be a jerk if I rode!

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

A video installation by Iraqi artist Hiwa K. Or any and every video work by American experimental film pioneer Bruce Conner.

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

The set-design storeroom and costume repository of the infamous Ballets Russes, active between 1909 and 1929. They commissioned and collaborated with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Giorgio de Chirico, and Sonia Delaunay. Does this count as a Gesamtkunstwerk?!

Image courtesy Roya Sachs.

Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

What does art mean to you?

Curiosity, history, humor, sadness, honesty, strangeness, performance, invention, reinvention, inspiration, memory. There is a great book by Alain de Botton called Art as Therapy, which explains how art is used as a coping mechanism. It allows us to better understand ourselves, and the world around us.

A suit painted by Reginald Sylvester II. Photo courtesy Roya Sachs.

A suit featuring crayon designs by Reginald Sylvester II. Courtesy of Roya Sachs.

What does style mean to you? How do you define the relationship between art and style?

Style is the best way for those of us that didn’t have the talent to become artists to express ourselves. When I was working at Lever House, I had started asking artists we were commissioning if they would be willing to paint a suit for me to wear for the opening of our show. I own a hot pink tie-dye Katherine Bernhardt suit and a baby-blue crayon suit by Reginald Sylvester II. This fusion is the best way to describe it—art and fashion are two of the same, simply different forms of creative expression!

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