What I Buy and Why: Art Dealer Bella Haykoff on the Miró Hanging Over Her Sofa and Missing Out on the Chance to Buy an Affordable Rembrandt

We caught up with Haykoff at her home in L.A.

Bella Haykoff.

What art would you try to sell Paris Hilton?

Dealer Bella Haykoff knew exactly whose work to put in front of the socialite star: Armenian artist Martiros Manoukian, a painter of colorful female portraits. Works by the artist now hang in the Hilton family estate and even made an appearance in some of Paris’s wedding photos.

Haykoff is an entrepreneur, art dealer, and collector who owns the Los Angeles-based Haykoff Gallery, a boutique, appointment-only fine arts gallery in Beverly Hills, which deals mostly in modern paintings by international artists.

We caught up with the dealer about her very first acquisition, the Joan Miró hanging above her sofa, and that time she turned down the chance to own a Rembrandt sketch…

Paris Hilton in front of work by Martiros Manoukian.

Paris Hilton in front of work by Martiros Manoukian.

What was your first purchase (and how much did you pay for it)?

The first piece of artwork I (serendipitously) purchased was by an artist in Havana many years ago. I fell in love with the work, which was a girl’s silhouette painted on canvas using asphalt. I didn’t think twice, and I paid 1,000 CUC (equivalent to $1,000) for it, which was and still is a high-ticket item in Cuba. 

As far as my first significant art purchase, it was a mesmerizing woman’s mixed-media portrait by Martiros Manoukian many years before we started working together. This unique original artwork was valued at $150,000.

What was your most recent purchase?

My most recent purchase was an oil on canvas by Wilfredo Lam, Evening Shawl (circa 1938), from a gallery in Palm Desert, California. It is an awesome abstract of geometric shapes that create organic forms. I actually bought it today.

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

Willem de Kooning, especially one particular work I fell in love with, Portrait of Elaine, painted in the 1940s.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

I buy art mostly from private collectors around the world that I personally know or am introduced to, and I always visit galleries when I travel. I haven’t purchased anything from a traditional auction house yet. But that’s on the list next. 

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

I don’t regret any of the works I have purchased, I only regret the purchases that I have not made or have missed.

Joan Miró above Bella Haykoff's sofa.

Joan Miró above Bella Haykoff’s sofa.

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

I don’t have any artwork in my bathroom, but I have seen bathrooms with many great pieces of artwork and quite frankly I question if it really belongs there. Every artwork needs to find its prime space within a structure anywhere in your home, commercial building or even a simple restaurant, but hopefully not in the bathroom. 

Currently above my sofa I have a Joan Miró painting. I acquired this painting fairly recently. I put it above my sofa (which is always a prime location for an artwork at home) because I have been wanting to own a Miró work for a long time but for some reason something would always get in the way or go wrong. Finally, I got a painting I love… Anything hung above my sofa means I’m constantly looking at it and enjoying it. My guests almost always notice the painting above the sofa first even if it’s just a simple print, so to have a Miró now means everyone shares part of my joy. 

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

I own a Norman Rockwell self-portrait drawing… it’s a bit different and out of the realm of my art collection. 

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

An original Rembrandt sketch from a private collector who was willing to sell it to me for a very reasonable price. By the time I decided I wanted to purchase it, it was already committed to someone else. 

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

Mona Lisa! Even though there are many private art collectors out there including myself who have the art to ourselves in our homes, private spaces, and vaults, I truly believe that art should be available for viewing to all people. Hence, all the existing museums in the world for the people to enjoy, be mesmerized and get the highest form of aesthetic pleasure is best. To steal a work and have it just for yourself is very selfish and you’re truly stealing it from the people. But Mona Lisa, of course!

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