Actress Blake Lively may be better known as a style icon than as an art collector, but she has assembled quite an inspiring personal collection. I recently had the privilege of interviewing Lively about her favorite pieces and what drives her passion for art. With a mix of contemporary art, vintage black and white photographs, and even a few prints from Urban Outfitters, her collection shows that art can be accessible at any age or budget.
What was your first piece of art?
My brother Eric thought it was important for me to collect art and have an awareness of it at a young age. He took me to an exhibit by Sage Vaughn at a warehouse in downtown LA and bought me my first piece. It’s a beautiful oil on canvas: one of Sage’s signature birds sits on a barbed wire fence in front of a building in Harlem while a lion peeps through the window. That experience ignited a hunger to see more art and collect it however I could.
Do you think someone’s art collection relates back to their life?
I think that’s the beautiful thing about collecting, especially from a young age, because as your life grows and expands so does your art. Just because you can’t afford an expensive piece doesn’t mean you shouldn’t collect.
When I first moved to New York City, I never would have been able to afford a piece by Sage on my own, but I would walk around the streets and buy pieces from local artists. As I became more successful and able to afford pieces that were more expensive, I began to purchase from local galleries and talk to friends who are art curators. I now own so many pieces that I’m proud of, many are by Sage and other established artists, but still, many new ones are by young, aspiring artists.
What type of art are you most drawn to?
I’ve found that I’m often drawn to pieces that portray a childish imagination with a malevolent undertone, like the moment on the boat in Willy Wonka when all the fantasy turns on itself into the unexpected. In every piece I own there is a sense of celebration, whether in image, context, or color.
A few of my favorite pieces exemplifying this are my Hansel & Gretel by Jeni Yang, my Misfit Toy Liar by John Whipple, A Memorable Lesson in the Permanence of Asphyxia by Candice Tripp, and last, the multilayered painted glass Turtle House by Ben Strawn.
What are some other favorite pieces in your collection?
Future Holding by Toronto-based artist Tessar Lo
A Question Of Time by Lora Zombie
Two untitled sketches by Mark Ryden
An untitled sketch by Olivia Mae Pendergast
Mother and Child print by Elliott Erwitt
You display your art in such a unique way. How do you decide where to put everything?
There are many different ways you can collect and display art. I normally start with one piece in a room and build a theme or story around it. I have an entire room that’s butterfly inspired. I applied 3D butterfly cutouts to my wall as a continuation of one of the Sage paintings.
Within my collection, I’ll do my own version of the art; the way you design the assortment of pieces on the wall in itself builds art. One wall will have a bunch of smaller pieces from young artists and Urban Outfitters, and across the room from it, a large piece by Sage. I feel like it’s a curiosity test and certain walls are a discovery.
Aside from New York and Los Angeles, where else do you like to buy art?
I always try to buy things when I travel as a reminder of the trip and time spent in a city. When I was working in New Orleans for four months, I bought a chair and a painting of Audrey Hepburn by local artist Sarah Ashley Longshore. When traveling through Savannah, I came across an amazing store that reminded me of Anthropologie but that only sells pieces by students at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). There I picked up a painting of Gene Wilder by artist Jennifer Ley and a set of the most unique tea cups by Lisa Bradley. While traveling through India, I got a beautiful set of hand-carved doors that are 150 years old and inlaid with mirrored accents.
What do you hope or aspire to add to your collection?
Travis Louie had a show in LA on Nov 12, and it was awe-inspiring. I hope to get a piece from that series.
I have a few Mark Ryden sketches, but I would love to own one of his paintings someday. The detail and flawlessness in his brushwork and color are heartbreaking.
A friend recently showed me some original drawings by Winsor McCay, one of the early animators who paved the way for all to follow, including one of the rulers of my imagination, Walt Disney. I was floored by the beauty. I would love to have one of his original comic strips one day.
Also, who can’t appreciate the merriment in each of Jeff Koons’ works? I recently saw a giant fuchsia balloon animal dog of his in person. Just stunning! It makes me smile just to think of it.