The Family Business: Illustrious Art-World Fathers and Sons on How Art Has Transformed Their Relationships
Larry and Adam Fields, Marc and Arne Glimcher, and Anton and Evgeny Svyatsky discuss how they engage with art as a family.
Sometimes, art runs in the family, and throughout history, there have been lots of examples. Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a famed artist; so was his son (the Younger, of course); then there’s Renaissance master Hans Holbein and his dad, an accomplished Gothic painter.
There are lots of latter-day examples as well, and to celebrate Father’s Day, artnet News is running a two-part series of interviews with famous father-and-son duos in the art industry. We wanted to know: what do fathers and sons learn from one another? How do they spend their time? And when it comes to ways of looking at art, how far does the apple fall from the tree?
For the second part of this series (don’t miss the first part!), we spoke with Chicago collector and MCA Chicago museum trustee Larry Fields and his son, Adam, the founder of Arta Shipping; dealers Marc and Arne Glimcher of New York’s Pace Gallery; and artist Evgeny Svyatsky, of the artist and his son, Anton, of the artist collective AES+F. (Oh, and don’t miss our Mother’s Day edition!)
Adam and Larry Fields
How does art figure into your relationship?
Adam Fields: From my standpoint, art plays an important role in that my dad introduced me to it, and helped me discover the shipping logistics problem, which led to me starting my business, Arta Shipping. As collectors solely of contemporary art, we’re also always discussing artists’ works, trends, art in relation to current and historical events, and art world news. I kind of view myself as having one foot in, and one out, of the art industry. I’m more of a technology and business-minded art enthusiast who wants to help give people access to art. My dad of course played a key part in the development of that passion.
Larry Fields: Besides conversations about shipping and collecting art, we discuss recent developments on the art scene, artists to keep an eye on, and we travel together to different art-related events, including Art Basel this month.
Are there any fundamentally different ways you look at art?
Adam: My dad gave me a foundation and the confidence to engage with art. That was a great starting point for me, but of course, there are differences between us and how we interact with and collect art. If you are a very experienced collector, like both of my parents are, you have existing relationships, artists, and dialogues that you’re trying to follow up with and build upon. For me, as a newer collector with fewer resources and less space to store things, I’m really focused on younger artists who are more accessible from a price standpoint.
There have been some artists who we looked at early on together, who I sort of put on my dad’s radar—Tony Lewis, for example, who’s a great Chicago artist. There are others who haven’t really worked out for him. One of them, very early on, was Tauba Auerbach, back when she was showing with Jack Hanley in San Francisco. Newer examples are people like Michael Williams and Raphaela Simon. Not that these are artists that my parents don’t like, but, you know, you can only buy so much and you have other things that you’re looking at, so it’s tough to say yes to everything, especially when the artists are less established.
I also ask a lot of questions—probably more than my dad does. I’m always kind of gathering information over time as I discover artists. Everyone always says, “buy what you love,” but if you love a lot of what you see, it’s tough. You can’t get everything. You have to figure out what piques your interest beyond just what you think you love.
Larry: To that point, Adam has a fresher eye for emerging artists and art movements. It seems I look at artists who are more mid-career, and I enjoy observing what they’re turning their attention to. A lot of them are Chicago-based artists, I would say; people like Nick Cave, Theaster Gates, and Rashid Johnson, who moved to New York a little while ago. Christopher Wool is someone who we see enough, along with a few others who I have friendships with. When you collect, real estate becomes a real issue in terms of where to put everything, so I typically look at works that are more vetted by curators and people who are putting on gallery and museum shows, whether it’s retrospectives or mid-career shows.
What art activities do you enjoy doing together?
Adam: You know, at Art Basel, for example, my dad’ll probably be at the center of it all, talking to the Zwirners and the Gladstones, while I’ll be in the emerging section talking to some of those gallerists, because I’ve really seen them grow in their careers. But, on the other hand, it’s still fun to bring our two worlds together at galleries and museums. We like to think of ourselves as Renaissance men. We have a broad array of interests and tastes in culture. We’re Cubs fans. You know, there was one year that the Cubs were in the World Series and there was an MCA Chicago gala that same night and people were trying to get out of it. The Cubs weirdly sort of factor into the art stuff: if they’re in the World Series in October, my dad, as a rule, instructs my mom that we can’t go to any art events around that time.
Larry: That’s true. We travel and visit art museums, galleries, and artists’ studios together. We like checking out wonderful restaurants while we do those things. Eating together is always high up on our both of our to-do lists. We just went to Virgil Abloh’s show together. I’m a trustee for the MCA Chicago, where the show is being held. Just walking and sharing ideas is always great, because you never know what you’re going to see, really. It’s always cool to be able to share your reactions with your son and get his impressions, too.
What have you learned from one another? What do you admire most about each other’s engagement with art?
Adam: I admire everything my dad does and has accomplished. Most of what I have learned, be it in art or life, comes from him. His enthusiasm, passion, respect, and zest for art and the art ecosystem have rubbed off on me. His involvement in, and advice for, Arta has also been invaluable. When I was working at Artspace, I kind of realized that logistics and shipping were a big problem, and I started to talk with him about how he dealt with shipping for his own collection.
The funny part is that he initially said it wasn’t that big of a problem until he started recognizing how much time and money you could save when you really dissected all of the costs involved. My dad kind of got the point across to me that when you’re buying from a gallery, dealing with them on shipping is usually not fun, and they don’t often give you multiple bids to be able to reference against the quote of the work, so there’s a lot of opportunity to enhance the user experience for a gallery, and offer what a retail store might offer its customers in terms of shipping options and getting pieces where they need to go. So from a business standpoint, too, his advice has been essential.
Larry: Adam is more open to new art movements and artists that represent new trends in today’s dialogue. Contemporary art, by definition, always means keeping up with today’s evolving environment. Keeping an open mind is certainly a trait I really admire in Adam’s outlook on life, and he’s certainly shown me many emerging artists, who we’ve circled back on. He’s been right on a lot of occasions about them and their work, though of course we can’t buy all of it. I’ve learned a lot from him in that regard.
From one collector to another, I’ve also tried to teach him that there’s a lot of art out there, and you don’t have to be very fast-moving when you buy. You can be selective, and sometimes art gets away, so you can’t always be frustrated by that because you can’t buy everything. But Adam has a great eye for up-and-coming people who are making work that others haven’t thought of yet.
How do you want or expect your engagement with art to grow and evolve over the years?
Adam: Between us, I think it’s turned into a nice yin-and-yang relationship. I try to push him towards newer and younger artists, movements, and genres. He shares insights with me that I wouldn’t have noticed or been privy to myself. If nothing else, outside of art, we’ll always have my dad’s corny puns and dad jokes as the one constant in our relationship!
Larry: Father-and-son interactions are priceless. We have always talked sports, but art creates conversations that not only strengthen family relationships, but also community and global relationships, more broadly, and that’s really special. Art creates these opportunities for interaction and meaningful connection and it’s up to all of us to use it in the right way.
Arne and Marc Glimcher
What role does art play in your relationship today?
Arne Glimcher: Significant.
Marc Glimcher: It is everything. It comprises the majority of things we agree about, and also the majority of things we disagree about.
Do you look at art very differently from one another?
Marc: Don’t make me look too bad…
Arne: Extraordinary circumstances must prevail to foster truly extraordinary art—it’s incredibly rare.
Marc: You always tell me I have too much respect for the creative process. I am more open. I try to be as tough as you, but that’s not possible.
Are there any art-related things you especially enjoy doing together?
Arne: Drawing with Marc and my grandchildren.
Marc: Hmm. Well, we do all art activities together. Now, which ones do we enjoy? Mostly the ones that don’t have parties attached to them!
Arne: Installing exhibitions.
Marc: Yes. He also enjoys re-installing exhibitions that I’ve installed…
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from one another?
Arne: I have learned to be slightly more open.
Marc: I learned everything—from him and from my mother. As a kid, I had to seek out the art that they didn’t like, so I studied 17th-century Dutch and Baroque art.
Arne: I did not go for Baroque…
Marc: I admired how much intense engagement there was with artists, starting from the dinner table, when I was a little kid—when I was dragged to studios, when I was told to sit at the table and say something intelligent when the artists came over. Growing up, I never heard a single business-related conversation with any artist and either one of my parents. I never heard any mention of money, markets, sales—none of that. I learned that the engagement with the art was equivalent to the engagement with the artist. We were extremely engaged with art; we were dragged every weekend to a museum. My brother and I were sold the contents of every museum we visited. There was never a “let’s not go to the art museum” option.
How might your engagement with art evolve over the coming years?
Arne: I expect to continue to grow increasingly open to newer and emerging art movements—Marc has been instrumental to that for me.
Marc: The way our engagement with art grows is that we bring new people with new perspectives into our family. Our Pace family. That is what has always happened. That’s why it is Pace Gallery, not the Arnold Glimcher Gallery. People were always brought in with different perspectives. Every decision, argument, and debate existed because more people with more views were brought in, rather than people who were brought in to just say, “yes, you’re right”—including me. We grow our engagement with the arts as we bring more people together. Our new building is going to be home for that kind of debate and dialogue.
Evgeny and Anton Svyatsky
What role does art play in your relationship?
Anton Svyatsky: I think at this point, it sort of is the relationship. I think it makes sense to make a little bit of an introduction here: I’m the studio director of AES+F—a contemporary collective of four Russian artists, of which my father is one—and I take care of everything that the artists themselves don’t do. I feel like, in a sense, they’re all my parents. I manage their studio and manage their careers, in a way. In terms of actual art, I actually don’t know much about Evgeny’s preference. He usually comes from a place of emotion when he’s regarding art, and it’s sort of intuitive. Sometimes we’ll both agree on a work, but that’s pretty rare, I would say.
Evgeny Svyatsky: I think that’s normal [laughs]. We have different things that we admire, but I think, more generally, we have a lot of common interests. I think besides the fact that we’re father and son, and that we’re close, art provides real ground for our relationship to grow. I’m really happy that Anton got involved in art and became our studio director because we’d look at works together when he was young, from the time he was a baby. So when he graduated from college, he became a really active part of our team and I think me and my colleagues, we all really respect his opinions, his advice, and what he thinks about the practice and the work that we’re doing.
Would you say you look at art similarly?
Anton: I think my dad sort of intuitively bases his opinions on his personal understanding of aesthetics, and his own contexts and so on. When I look at art, of course my own context plays a role, but I always try to find the artistic intention, and I always try to look for formal messaging, or the things that they train you to do, as an art historian. I’m way more critical than my dad is when I’m looking at stuff. It’s actually kind of fun to look at things together. My dad will bring me over to a work and then I just start tearing it to shreds. But sometimes, very rarely I guess, we’re both kind of taken in by a work and we’re sort of speechless before it. One case of this was Paul McCarthy at the Park Avenue Armory; this was some years ago. He had a massive installation there. Do you recall what you liked about it?
Evgeny: I liked the scale, and the way he sort of interacts with his space. I really like the context of his work, overall.
Anton: I think it was the world that he created. Any practice that involves creating a space of total immersion is what gets both of us. We’re suckers for that.
Are there art activities you like to do together?
Anton: I really enjoy just traveling together and going to private collections. But again, as a part of my father’s collective, it’s more enjoyable doing it all together. So it wouldn’t just be the two of us, it would be a whole big group: the artists, myself, and the production director, who is the son of two other members of the collective. I would say a lot of our relationship revolves around their practice, because there’s nothing really outside of an artist’s practice. It becomes their life.
Evgeny: I like going to see art exhibitions, and going to the fairs and festivals, but also things like doing interviews together, or preparing statements and messages for our shows. All parts of our relationship are about art activities, given that we work so closely together.
What can you say you’ve learned from one another?
Anton: I learned everything about art from him. You know, usually when a child is brought into the world, they’re born into their parents’ world and whatever their parents are doing. Some parents have time outside of their work, whereas artists don’t have that. Artists just have art lives. So that was my upbringing.
Evgeny: I’ve learned important things from Anton about the art market and more about the New York scene, since he’s grown up here. He has a lot of connections, and gives us really useful advice for the practice. I think he’s able to speak to a lot that we didn’t get from our art schools in the Soviet Union. I’ve learned a lot from him, absolutely.
How do you expect your perspectives may change as the years unfold?
Anton: I curate shows. I started doing that more as I meet more and more artists. I have a show opening in London on July 10 at Annka Kultys Gallery. I’m going to curate more shows and grow the AES+F practice until I’m tired of it. That’s kind of what I’m expecting to happen. But I think also, to readdress the earlier question, my dad is probably one of the most well-known artists in Russia—and certainly the best in my opinion. So it’s not something that you really think about when you’re a child of one of the artists and a product of their practice, but when you walk into an exhibition of their work and you watch people’s reactions to it, you can’t help but admire what they do. I’ve seen people crying or laughing hysterically or standing there with their mouths agape and not moving for 40 minutes. And that definitely elicits admiration.
Evgeny: In terms of the future and growth, we have a lot of new ideas and projects. Recently we’ve worked with theater and opera companies, and now we’re considering doing a project for a ballet. We’re also looking into new media: we have one recent project with mixed or virtual reality and we’re looking at doing something with AR, too. We just opened new studios in New York and Berlin, so that should definitely help our practice evolve. There’s always new work to be done.
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