What I’m Buying and Why: Collector Mihail Lari on the Most Impractical Work in His Collection and Why He Regrets Buying a De Kooning

Top collectors share their strategies (and obsessions).

Mihail Lari in Westwood, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Hammer Museum)

A version of this story originally appeared in the fall 2019 Artnet Intelligence Report.

Mihail Lari, the chair of the board of overseers for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, dishes on his edgy bathroom art and his favorite way to buy.

What was the first acquisition you and your husband, Scott Murray, made?

Our first serious acquisition was Byron Kim’s Permanent Painting 7 (2004). We paid $21,700 for it in 2004.

Glenn Ligon, <i>Untitled (America)</i> (2018). Courtesy of Mihail Lari.

Glenn Ligon, Untitled (America) (2018). Courtesy of Mihail Lari.

What was your most recent acquisition?

Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (America) (2018), which is the newest version of his iconic America, in red neon. As the world is changing drastically, and even regressing, we are increasingly drawn to works that are more political.

What are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

Louise Lawler and Pae White, as well as additional works by Analia Saban, Erin Shirreff, Liz Deschenes, and eight more panels for our version of Byron Kim’s Synecdoche (1991).

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

Ligon’s Untitled (America).

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Primarily from LA or New York galleries, typically after seeing a show.

Willem de Kooning, <i>Landing Place</i> (1970-71). Courtesy of Mihail Lari.

Willem de Kooning, Landing Place (1970-71). Courtesy of Mihail Lari.

Is there a work you regret purchasing? If so, why?

Willem de Kooning’s Landing Place (1970–71). It is one of the handful of works we bought because of who it was by rather than because it was great and fit our collection.

What work do you have hanging above your sofa?

Wolfgang Tillmans’s Greifbar 41 (2015), which is a unique, and especially great, large abstract photograph from his “Freischwimmer/ Greifbar” series.

Do you have any artwork in your bathroom?

In one powder room, we have Marilyn Minter’s Trump Plaque (2017), which is a limited-edition commemoration of Donald Trump’s infamous words on Access Hollywood, to raise funds for Downtown for Democracy. In the second powder room, we have EJ Hill and Texas Isaiah’s Victory Laps (Marie Fegan Preschool) (2018), a photograph that was part of EJ Hill’s performance at the Hammer Museum’s biennial “Made in L.A.” in 2017.

What is the most impractical work of art you own? What makes it so challenging?

Lisa Oppenheim’s Smoke (2013), a two-channel installation that was originally shown on two 50-foot-wide screens at MASS MoCA.

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

Larry Bell’s earlier glass cubes.

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

One of Ad Reinhardt’s black, 60-inch-square abstract paintings from the 1960s.


A version of this story originally appeared in the fall 2019 Artnet Intelligence Report. To download the full report, which has juicy details on the most bankable artists, a look at how the art market has changed over the past 30 years, and a deep dive into the shrinking business of auction guarantees, click here.

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