What I Buy and Why: Croatian Collector Neda Young Supports Women Artists and Buys Artworks in the Back Rooms of Galleries
Her first purchase was a Joan Snyder painting, which still hangs above her sofa.
Almost exactly 50 years ago, while still a teenager, Neda Young left Croatia for the United States. She quickly found success in business (marketing), started several companies, and raised three children—who’ve given the proud matriarch eight grandchildren.
Through it all, Young has not lost sight of her native Croatia. When it was engulfed in conflict during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, Young established relief efforts for Croatians in need. She also donated funds to help ensure children’s hospitals were sufficiently stocked, and she personally provided for the restoration of historical monuments like Trogir Cathedral, St. Duje Church, and the ancient Roman site of Diocletian’s Palace.
Then, a funny thing happened. As her children went off to college, Young herself decided to go back to school in art history. “[It] sparked my love of art collecting,” she told Artnet News. She focuses on women artists, starting with her first purchase, a canvas by the American painter Joan Snyder. Nowadays her collection includes Agnes Martin, Cecily Brown, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Shirin Neshat, Barbara Kruger, Kara Walker, Elizabeth Peyton, Tracey Emin, and Ghada Amer.
Currently, Young is on the advisory board, acquisitions committee, or international council of several museums, ranging from MoMA in New York to institutions in Paris, Los Angeles, and of course Croatia. She often loans out her pieces, most recently lending works to Southampton Arts Center for “Change Agents: Women Collectors Shaping the Art World,” an exhibition of 60 works by 59 artists from the collection of 14 women (on view through September 30). The aim of the show is to give voice to the pioneering women shaping the discourse around contemporary art.
We caught up with Neda Young—who splits her time between Croatia and Sag Harbor in the Hamptons—on what goes into her collection.
What was your first purchase?
My first purchase was an abstract painting by Joan Snyder titled Then and Now (1974). I acquired it fairly soon after she painted it, so in the early 1970s.
What was your most recent purchase?
My most recent purchases are by Pacita Abad, a Filipino artist; work by Maysha Mohamedi, an artist based in California; and February James’s work.
Tell us about a favorite work in your collection.
I have often said my art is like my children; so it is impossible to pick a favorite one. Every piece is meaningful because it brings back memories of that point in time in my life. I purchase art impulsively and the memory always sticks with me.
Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?
I do not keep a running list of artists to acquire, since I tend to purchase based on impulse and emotion. In my fifty years of collecting, I have never come into a gallery or fair with a set purchase in mind. Many of my artist friends do not even believe I am a collector!
What is the most valuable work of art that you own?
I detest mentioning art and monetary value together. My collection means so much more to me than its monetary value.
Where do you buy art most frequently?
I find myself buying art in the back rooms of galleries before exhibitions open. Usually I spend time with the works and create an emotional connection.
Is there a work you regret purchasing?
There is absolutely not a work of art I regret purchasing.
What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?
My very first purchase, the above-mentioned Joan Snyder painting, still hangs above the sofa in my office, and Francesco Clemente watercolors in one of my bathrooms. They work well there somehow!
What is the most impractical work of art you own?
My most impractical purchase was a necklace sculpture of a woman’s breasts made out of glass by Jean-Michel Othoniel. I loved it, but it was incredibly heavy and very difficult to hang in my home!
What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?
I do not feel like I have missed out on any purchases.
If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?
I love this question and have thought about it for a long time. You know what comes to mind? Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893). There is something about that painting that I could just look at all day. We all scream! It is so universal. It’s not just something visual with that painting, it’s something more than that. I remember raising my children and sometimes just feeling like I needed to scream. We all feel that way sometimes!
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