This Millennial Built a Serious Art Collection through Social Media
Portrait of Dylan Abruscato, 2022. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Szabolcs Bozó, C.L.020, 2018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
For many years, native New Yorker Dylan Abruscato felt alienated by the prospect of art collecting. He’s a millennial who loves art, but he feared that he lacked the deep art world connections he’d need to build a fine art collection.
A major transition led Abruscato to reevaluate his priorities. “When my wife and I moved into our first apartment together, I became obsessed with this idea of starting a collection together and filling those walls with art,” he told Artsy. His grandparents shared a mutual love of collecting (prints, in particular), and Abruscato and his wife, Sarah, wanted to follow in their footsteps as they established themselves in their new Brooklyn home. Dylan, who works in partnerships and marketing, learned to translate his professional values to his emerging collecting practice: He makes genuine connections with young artists, purchasing their works and supporting their early careers.
Jansson Stegner, installation view of TBT, 2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Szabolcs Bozó, C.P.005, 2018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos have also made the most of their millennial internet fluency. As they prepared to make their first acquisitions, the pair embraced online buying and social media. Dylan was a fan of painter Jordan Kerwick’s fine brushwork and depictions of quiet domestic scenes, and in 2017 he decided to cold message the artist, requesting a work. “Buying a piece from him was as easy as texting a friend,” Dylan said.
Through such intimate channels, the couple pierced through what had previously seemed an impregnable space of art collecting. In the five years since that exchange with Kerwick, they have amassed a collection that includes works by rising artists Anna Weyant, Szabolcs Bozó, Monica Subidé, and Jansson Stegner.
Vojtěch Kovařík, Two Scoops, 2018. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos pursue different interests as they build their collection. Dylan, for his part, prefers work that leans toward the emerging style of “cuteism.” Bozó’s colorful paintings of animals and imaginary creatures fall into this category. “He’s in this crop of artists that seek the aesthetics of childlike images paired with nostalgia,” Dylan said. “And for some reason, those bright bold colors and nostalgia spoke to me, whereas my wife is drawn to more timeless pieces, particularly modern takes on classic masterworks.” For example, Sarah spearheaded the purchase of Stegner’s finely detailed sketch of a young woman. The artist is known for a figurative realist style that draws inspiration from Egon Schiele and Alice Neel.
Some of their individual pieces beautifully balance such playfulness and serious modernist concerns. Take, for instance, their large-scale Vojtěch Kovařík painting, Two Scoops (2018). The painting, which features a large figure holding two miniscule scoops of ice cream, reflects Kovařík’s heavily modern style and evokes the bulbous forms of Pablo Picasso and Paul Cézanne.
Charlotte Keates, Night Time Swim, 2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Jordan Kerwick, Untitled (Commission), 2017. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
The Abruscatos’ enthusiasm for the artist has proven prescient. Kovařík just made a major auction debut at Phillips’s Hong Kong 20th-century and contemporary art and design day sale this past June: His painting Mother Afrodita (2020) sold for HK$945,000 (US$120,378), an incredible 278% above the median estimate of HK$250,000 (US$31,906).
Equally formidable is the pair’s small-scale painting by Charlotte Keates, Night Time Swim (2017), which features a home’s surreal exterior. Keates, who boasts an impressive 754 followers on Artsy and commands strong primary-market sales, is known for her fine brushwork and her architectural subject matter. She paints lonely interiors and exteriors in a manner that evokes the utopianism and Cold War anxieties of the 1960s and ’70s.
The Abruscatos also own work by Anna Weyant, who made a triumphant debut at the spring New York auctions in 2022. Weyant sold paintings at each major auction house, for about $1 million per canvas. Of their highly valued collection, Dylan said, “I think we got lucky early on by buying from these artists who have since had huge secondary sales. We’re really just trying to collect what we love.” The pair advises their friends and other young collectors to similarly buy what they love—not what they think will sell on the secondary market in a few years.
Ben Sledsens, Waterfall Moon, 2021. Courtesy of Dylan and Sarah Abruscato.
Prior to the pandemic, the Abruscatos approached galleries and art fairs as interested viewers, not as collectors. Over the past few years of the pandemic, as online sales became the norm, they built their collection via virtual channels. Now, they confidently attend fairs and gallery shows with the eyes of trained collectors.
“I have made so many purchases through social media without ever seeing [the work] in person,” Dylan said. “So when galleries shifted to online viewing rooms it wasn’t a shock to our system. It was exactly how we had been purchasing art to date.” He added, “I’m all about democratizing collecting for young collectors. It’s the reason why I love Artsy so much; it’s just such a great way for anyone to discover artists and chat with galleries.”
Young artists continue to appreciate the value that the Abruscatos place in personal relationships. “I was lucky enough to connect with people like Dylan [through social media], who not only loved my work, but were excited about the journey I was on as an artist,” Bozó told Artsy. “Dylan was one of my first supporters, and it’s been great to watch his collection continue to grow.”