Why Rafael de Cárdenas Collects Art

Artsy Editorial
Nov 20, 2013 2:43AM

“I’m not really a design collector,” Rafael de Cárdenas admits, seated between artworks by Vanessa Beecroft and Nick Van Woert. “I have furniture that I like, but it’s not breaking the bank. Art is breaking the bank [laughs].There’s definitely an art embargo: No more art for the rest of 2013.”

Fortunately for de Cárdenas, only a month remains in his self-appointed ban on buying art, and in 2014, he’ll be good-to-go. Until then, buying work on behalf of clients will have to suffice—the part of his job that may have first lit the collecting spark. “Advising clients and buying things on their behalf that I couldn’t necessarily afford sort of drove this aspiration to have some of those things as well,” he says. “As those things became reachable to me, I acquired them.”

His first acquisition would come from trading with interns and friends. “I started pretty casually,” he says. “I bought these two Patterson Beckwith photographs about ten years ago for nothing. They were so perfect, and that was probably the thing that started it.”

Today, a seasoned collector, de Cárdenas designs couture interiors for his clients—and a perk of his full-service design means advising clients on their art collections. “Our residential clients sign up for the whole package,” he says. “They’re getting whatever they get, including art history. Which is funny; we’ve had some pushback. I’ve had art advisors say, ‘Why are you qualified?’ And it’s like, “Why are you qualified?’”

Defending his post, de Cárdenas explains: “Art and design have always been historically married; it’s only been since Modernism stripped decoration, which threw out art with it as a decorative thing. I think that art is very much a part of residential interiors, it’s part of every interior. And it’s also the quickest way, I think, to change a space. Decorating magazines are always saying, ‘Change your room,’ or, ‘Change your color’.. But I feel it’s like just changing a few objects around does a lot more.”

Rafael de Cárdenas’ go-to galleries:

Johnson Trading, the gallery that represents his furniture work.

Demisch Danant, where Suzanne Demisch “has the best French 20th century program that anyone has,” he said. “I feel like she’s our design guru.”

Photographs by Clemens Kois

Next: Inspirations

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