Specifically Commissioned

The second volume of the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors is almost here but today we are having another look at our first volume. Besides writing about private collections our authors also wrote a number of short texts for the Art Guide, which we titled Shorties. The Shorties deal with various topics concerning collecting and collectors.

Silvia Anna Barrilà for instance looked at collectors who do not buy but instead commission! She found out that the practice of commissioning art works happens from New York to Naples, by real-estate tycoons and dentists alike.

“Walking down Park Avenue in New York City, you may not notice any difference between the Lever House and other buildings. But in the 1950s, this was the first modern glass skyscraper on the avenue. In 1998 it was bought by real-estate tycoon and legendary collector Aby Rosen, who initiated a 25-million-dollar renovation of the building and turned the lobby into an exhibition space. Works on show here were not just purchased from a gallery. Rather, they were commissioned specifically for the space from artists like Sarah Moris, Jorge Pardo, Tom Sachs, or Taryn Simon. After the show, the art became part of the Lever House Art Collection.

This kind of approach, reminiscent of Renaissance commissions, requires the artist to directly confront the space and surrounding conditions, which can present both limits and opportunities. More than anything, it involves a much closer relationship between the artist and the collector – sometimes even the collector’s influence on the artist’s work itself.

There are numerous collectors who occasionally or routinely opt for this particular way of buying art. If you follow the imaginary forty-first parallel from New York to Naples, you will find, for instance, Maurizio Morra Greco, a dentist who transformed a former picture gallery in a sixteenth-century palace into his art foundation. Morra Greco invites international artists to his space on a regular basis, who in turn bring novelty to the local scene and engage locals in a dialogue with art. For the first exhibition at the foundation, in 2006, he commissioned German artist Gregor Schneider, who transformed the foundation’s cellar in a dark labyrinth.” 


The freelance journalist Silvia Anna Barrilà is specialized in the art market. Since 2008 she has been writing for the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and for international media covering art, including Damn, Auction Central News, Artinvestor, and Monopol.

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