What I Buy and Why: Actress and Model Nichole Galicia on the Stroke of Luck That Got Her Hooked on Collecting Art—as a Teenager

The actress and model shares how she first caught the collecting bug, and what's got her attention now.

Nichole Galicia with work by Equipo Crónica.
Nichole Galicia with a work by Equipo Crónica. Photo: Ryan West.

The Panama-born, New York-raised art collector and philanthropist Nichole Galicia got her start as a runway model in Europe and later took up acting, appearing in such films as Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and Django Unchained. She has been an avid art lover for even longer, stockpiling Goya magnets as an adolescent and then going on to collect serious art as an adult.

We spoke to Galicia about the painting she covets most, her growing interest in supporting emerging Black artists, and the work that got away.

 

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

I still own the first pieces of art I ever purchased. I was in junior high school and I emptied my pockets of all the euros I had. I purchased a Velazquez, two Goyas, and a Tintoretto. I was eight euros short and my bestie Kent Alessandro made me a very generous loan as I could not leave one work behind. They were refrigerator magnets from the Prado Museum store.

What was your most recent purchase?

I bought back an Equipo Crónica work that I sold five years ago.

Alma Thomas working in her studio, ca. 1968 / Ida Jervis, photographer. Alma Thomas papers, circa 1894-2001. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Alma Thomas working in her studio, ca. 1968 / Ida Jervis, photographer. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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

This year I want to buy works by Kerry James Marshall, Alma Thomas, and Leonardo Drew. I would also love to support young Black artists at the cusp of launching their careers coming out of brilliant artist programs like those at the Studio Museum of Harlem, Hunter College, Yale University, and Pratt. Black artists are finally getting the respect they deserve by collectors and museums alike.

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

I’m sure you mean price, but the most valuable work I own was given to me as a birthday gift by Kent. It came with the grandest story of how he originally purchased it for David Rockefeller during his days organizing the Spanish art collection at Chase, then it was sold to this artist, then that collector, and finally he saw it again for sale at an auction. On his way to deliver it to me he forgot it in the trunk of a taxi. He rang my doorbell, handed me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, and then a look of horror came across his face. We spent four hours on my birthday frantically tracking down the painting. Miraculously, he got it back and when he presented it to me he said, “This was difficult to get. It will bring you joy for years and it is priceless. Just like you.”

Where do you buy art most frequently?

I usually shop for my art at Kent’s house. What I can’t claim as a permanent loan from his collection I get from other private collectors and auctions.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No, never.

Manolo Valdés, Matisse como Pretexto (2018). Courtesy of the artist and Opera Gallery.

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

In my bathroom I have photographs, posters from museum exhibitions, along with art from my Orchids (the girls I mentor through the Orchid Foundation). Above my sofa is a Manolo Valdés, a few Equipo Crónicas, and a Julian Opie.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

I don’t really own any impractical art. Well, maybe I do. I have some massive pieces that I don’t have space to display so they are leaning against walls, and a breathtaking sculpture that artist Xavier Mascaro gifted to the Orchid Foundation to raise college scholarship funds that I must sell. Until then it is suspended in air in my apartment.

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

There was a David Shrobe in my fundraiser for the Orchid Foundation that I let slip through my fingers. I still dream about it.

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

Las Meninas from the Prado. Diego Velazquez is my favorite painter.

How has luck influenced your career as a collector?

I met art historian Kent Alessandro many moons ago. Together we have great art energy. He’s my lucky charm. Everything we buy we discuss first. We are the perfect blend of impulsive, I-must-have-it-now and the weight of history.


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