What I Buy and Why: Art Advisor Liza Shapiro on the Lorna Simpson Work She Dreams About, and Why She Won’t Hang Art in the Bathroom

We caught up with the art collector and CURA art co-founder at her home in Los Angeles.

Liza Shapiro at home. Cassandra C. Jones, Fern (2021) (left) and Norman Stevens, Kensington Gardens (1978) (right). Photo by Brett William Childs.
Liza Shapiro at home. Cassandra C. Jones, Fern (2021) (left) and Norman Stevens, Kensington Gardens (1978) (right). Photo by Brett William Childs.

What kind of work does an art advisor buy? Regardless of the motivations driving some of her clients, for CURA Art co-founder Liza Shapiro, buying art is not about investment, but about collecting works she loves.

The Los Angeles-based advisor has built a collection tailored to her personal tastes rather than household names, and it includes work by lesser-known artists such as David Settino Scott, Cassandra C. Jones, and Sara Sackner. With a background in art conservation, Shapiro specializes in preservation and collections management—which is why she won’t hang art in the bathroom, and cringes at the wear-and-tear that results from using her collection of mid-century furniture.

We caught up with Shapiro about her introduction to collecting, the artists she wishes she’d bought when she had the chance, and the Lorna Simpson work that has infiltrated her dreams.

David Settino Scott, Small Snail, 1993. Photo by Brett William Childs.

David Settino Scott, Small Snail (1993). Photo by Brett William Childs.

What was your first purchase?

This wasn’t necessarily my first purchase, but the first work I acquired when I was very young was the gift of a round painting of a small snail by artist David Settino Scott. It is one of my favorite pieces and has moved to many homes with me.

What was your most recent purchase?

Fern (2021) by Cassandra C. Jones. Cassandra is a friend and incredible artist who lives in Ojai, California, the town where I grew up. She uses digital photography to create collage works that spin narratives and present a prismatic reflection of our contemporary lifestyles.

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

This is difficult as there are so many wonderful artists that I admire. I have been spending a lot of time with Hormazd Narielwalla’s artwork, The Beloved (2021), in the show we curated at Porch Gallery in Ojai, entitled “It’s My House!” I have developed a relationship with the artist over the last few years, while getting to know more about his intricate practice and story.

Woodstock tickets, courtesy of Liza Shapiro.

Woodstock tickets, courtesy of Liza Shapiro.

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

I don’t focus on monetary value since I purchase or obtain an artwork because I love something. One of the most unique pieces I have acquired, with an incredible legacy, is a set of original Woodstock tickets that were given to me by one of the directors of the festival. In 1969, there were such a limited number of physical tickets released and it’s extraordinary they were kept in excellent condition as paper is so fragile.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

I find it incredibly fulfilling to build relationships with artists and have insight into their changing ideas and practice through studio visits and purchasing works directly from them. However, I think a varied approach is also key, and relying on the expertise of advisors and gallerists is an integral part of the collecting process; their broad-reaching knowledge has introduced me to some wonderful artists.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

No!

Jules Engel, Untitled (1974). Photo by Brett William Childs.

Jules Engel, Untitled (1974). Photo by Brett William Childs.

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

Near my sofa is a lithograph by Jules Engel that I acquired from Nancy Escher, founder of Escher Associates, the appraisal firm with which I work. I don’t have any fine art in the bathroom since it’s not the ideal environment for display due to fluctuating humidity and temperature—it’s a topic that we often discuss with collectors we work with at CURA Art.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

My collection of mid-century furniture. While it’s there to be used in my daily life, I sometimes struggle with the thought of accidentally damaging something.

Liza’s dog Ollie with artwork by Sara Sackner above fireplace. Photo by Brett William Childs.

Liza’s dog Ollie with artwork by Sara Sackner above fireplace. Photo by Brett William Childs.

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

I loved the February James show at Wilding Cran gallery last year. I wish I had bought the watercolor and ink on paper Got it Together (2021). I still think about that work and fabulous show! I also recently visited Tahnee Lonsdale’s studio and wish I had snapped up one of her large whimsical paintings. I have really enjoyed seeing the evolution in her work over the last few years.

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

I would take a large work from the recent Lorna Simpson show “Everrrything” at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, specifically Reoccurring (2021). I still dream about that show and went to see it multiple times. It is the most incredible feeling; when a work of art impacts you deeply and you can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s My House!” is on view at Porch Gallery in Ojai, California, through March 14.


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