It’s always exciting to discover an influential figure in another realm—be it tech, fashion, entertainment—who shares a passion for art, and when we learned that Google Executive Chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt was a major enthusiast, we couldn’t help but jump at the chance to speak with him. We learned he has a taste for the masters of early Modernism, but not without a finger on the pulse of today’s trends.
Artsy: Who are some of your favorite artists?
Eric Schmidt: I have many. Cézanne, because to me, it all begins with him. I enjoy Rothko and, of course, Picasso, who really cannot be beat. He was a true master who obsessively created, had a staggering body of work with well-conceived pieces, and was working on ideas with his brushes, pens, and hands that dazzle us to this day. Of contemporary artists, I am very interested in Rudolf Stingel. His Palazzo Grassi show will prove to be historical.
What advice do you have for aspiring collectors?
Buy only what you love, what you know a bit about, and about which you are excited to learn more. Try to understand what is the basis of the beauty of the piece.
What’s your favorite museum and why?
The Museum of Modern Art in New York, without question. I remember the first time I went to MoMA. Their collection is literally amazing and their exhibitions are world-class.
Are there any current trends in art that you're particularly excited about?
The “return” of painters and painting; look at the historic role of painting and you will see it’s time for it to return.
What role do you think technology/the internet has to play in the art world?
A great one. Very simply, it is an image-based industry and we are getting so much better at connecting people with those images. And computers can help a lot with imagery and searching.
At Artsy, we spend a lot of time and energy thinking about design too. What do you think the key to good design is?
You have to find the way to make something that stuns, that seems simple, that looks like nothing that came before.
What is one design object that you own that you couldn’t live without?
My new Motorola phone, of course! (Moto X, with an authentic wood back, very retro).
Are there any companies out there that you think are doing exciting things with design?
I think the new David Adjaye furniture line for Knoll seems cool [watch his video interview about the line with Cool Hunting at right]. There is a renaissance in design coming, with new materials and design technologies.
What projects are you working on at the moment that we should know about?
I'm working on a book about managing smart, creative people, along with my Google responsibilities.
Installation view of Palazzo Grassi by Stefan Altenburger, courtesy the artist. Portrait courtesy Eric Schmidt.