What’s On Your Walls: Social Media Guru Susi Kenna on Discovering Artists on Instagram and How She Knows When to Buy

We spoke to Kenna about her favorite pieces, the work she'd steal if she could, and more.

Susi Kenna at home. Courtesy of Susi Kenna. Photo: Max Burkhalter.

Art collector and social media pro Susi Kenna has been involved in the art world in multiple capacities for the last 10 years.

While Kenna is now director of social media for David Zwirner gallery after a longtime stint as Art Basel’s global social media manager, she has also garnered a steady following of her own. On her personal Instagram, she documents her colorful adventures while touring exhibitions the world over—and occasionally, her personal collection, which includes hand-picked works by Barbara Kruger, Tammi Campbell, Trudy Benson, Alex Gardner, and Jenny Holzer, all of which are artfully displayed around her New York City apartment. 

We recently spoke to Kenna to discuss her favorite pieces, how she likes to display them, and how she views art’s relationship to style. Read on for our interview below.

Image courtesy Susi Kenna. Photo by Max Burkhalter.

Courtesy of Susi Kenna. Photo: Max Burkhalter.

What was your most recent purchase?

Tammi Campbell’s Homage to the Square with Bubble Wrap and Packing Tape #11 (2021), which I purchased on Platform, the new site that David Zwirner founded earlier this year. What I love most about this work—besides the cheeky nod to the great Josef Albers—is that while it appears to be covered in regular old bubble wrap, it is actually encased in a trompe l’oeil acrylic paint skin that looks identical to the real deal, even at close range.

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

Nic Rad’s Self Portrait If You Can Believe It (2016). This painting, which I first encountered at Victori+Mo, now Dinner Gallery, was included in Rad’s 2016 exhibition “Perennial Millennial.” I was never able to get it out of my head, and following my wedding this summer, my husband and I decided it needed to be the first work we collected together. There is something very unique about this piece, but I’d rather wait to reveal what that is once it’s installed later this year.

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

Stay and Go, a 2007 diptych by Barbara Kruger, which I purchased 14 years ago at Frieze London. It is my pride and joy, and I could not love living with it more. 

Image courtesy Susi Kenna. Photo by Max Burkhalter.

Courtesy of Susi Kenna. Photo: Max Burkhalter.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

The usual suspects, although I can’t say that I buy from one source more than another. More often than not I discover an artist on Instagram, and then either go see their work at a gallery or museum, explore it further if I come across it at an art fair, or make time to do a studio visit whenever possible, before I make any commitments. 

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No—well, almost, but I dodged that bullet. As I got closer to finalizing the purchase, I saw a side of the artist that made me see the piece in an entirely new light. From that point on I knew the work was something that I could not live with in good conscience.

How do you like to display your artwork?

As a New York apartment dweller, I of course have to consider the size of the work and the wall space I have. But maybe more important than logistics is what each piece brings to the room. For example, in my bedroom, I keep it pretty minimal, and choose works that are both calming and curious—pieces that set me at ease, but also keep me guessing because of their depth, complexity, and composition. Whereas in the living spaces I curate the works in zones that feel cohesive yet give each piece the space it requires to be individually appreciated.

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

The couch hang includes a photograph by Julio Cesar Gonzales, works on paper by Carlos Charlie Perez, a small painting by G.T. Pellizzi, two large paintings by Daniel Lergon, a work on paper by Ryan Brown, a photograph by Andres Serrano, and a set of prints by Jenny Holzer. In the bathrooms, there are photographs by Sophia Wallace and Fred W. McDarrah, and a giant mirror drawing that was done in red lipstick by Carlos Charlie Perez. 

Image courtesy Susi Kenna. Photo by Max Burkhalter.

Courtesy of Susi Kenna. Photo: Max Burkhalter.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

Kasper Sonne’s The List (2006–2010). When I acquired this video work back in 2010, it was formatted on DVD. I’ve yet to convert it into a format that allows me to display it nowadays. 

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

Avery Singer. Oh, do I LOVE her work! I constantly wish I could go back in time to right before she had her first museum show, at the Stedelijk Museum in 2016. 

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

Ruth Asawa’s Untitled (S.237, Hanging Six-Lobed, Interlocking Continuous Form) (ca. 1958). It’s on view now at David Zwirner 20th Street in “All Is Possible,” organized by Helen Molesworth, and it is absolutely breathtaking and mesmerizing. 

What does art mean to you?

Simply put, it’s my whole world.  

Image courtesy Susi Kenna. Photo by Max Burkhalter.

Courtesy of Susi Kenna. Photo: Max Burkhalter.

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

Ultimately, because one’s style is something that changes and evolves over time, it’s important that you start by being open to loving the art that moves you—but it’s equally important to not let it define you. Instead, allow your taste and style to grow with every new experience, encounter, and opportunity to absorb new information.

For me personally, I started buying art when I was 18 and I took my time, which makes everything in my collection very personal and linked to a significant period in my life over the past 19 years. One thing that has remained constant, though, whether it’s art or fashion or design: if I cannot stop thinking about it, that is my sign to invest in it, as I’m not one to flip or sell works in my collection. 

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