Conversation With Adam Lindemann

Conversation With Adam Lindemann
New York–based art collector and entrepreneur Adam Lindemann is a busy man, but Sarah Douglas caught up with him in his Chelsea office to chat about the house that David Adjaye is designing for him and his wife, art dealer Amalia Dayan; his upcoming book on design for Phaidon; and his relaunch of Ikepod timepieces with superstar designer Marc Newson.

How do you and Amalia collect art?  

We don’t exclusively search for trophies. I recently went to a collector’s home and thought, “Wow, these are the highlights of a contemporary auction!” I can close my eyes and tell you what that would be: the right Richard Prince cowboy photograph, the right Christopher Wool painting, the right Damien Hirst. Something about that is just not right. It’s like having too much foie gras.

Do the two of you ever disagree on purchases?  

I loved Jonathan Meese when I saw his debut exhibition in London and wanted to buy the whole show, but Amalia didn’t like his work then. Instead, Charles Saatchi bought it. Eventually Amalia came around. With Anselm Reyle it was the opposite. Amalia forced me to buy his first painting from Gavin Brown. I put it behind my desk and lived with it for four months. Then I bought as much as I could. Sometimes you can’t make a decision at once. But right now there is pressure to do so because the market moves so fast.

That sounds like the problem with buying at fairs.

Fairs are a sensory overload. They’ve been unbelievably good for the dealers and not so good for the art. But this is the world we live in. The fairs are the dealers’ revenge on the auction houses. Any collector who is serious had better put on good shoes and start hoofing it.

What creates these astounding values in contemporary art?  

Well, one thing is supply and demand. But the other thing is ambition. The great dealers are the ones who bring out the ambition in collectors. You want to compete. You want to be part of those artists who will make history.

Have you thought at all about having a private exhibition space?  

It’s as though I’ve curated my own museum in my head. Hopefully I’ll still be doing this in 20 years. Then it will be time to figure that out.

In the meantime you’re building a house with the architect David Adjaye.  

Amalia was my divining rod on that. I am giving him full freedom. This will be one of the most eccentric and original private homes in New York City. And if it’s not, it will be a failure. You have to take that risk.

Two years ago your book Collecting Contemporary (Phaidon) came out. How is the sequel, focused on design, coming along?

Writing the book is how I am finding my way through this field. What I like about the design world is that it is still relatively unstructured. It’s really the Wild West. That’s also the problem with it. An object can seem very collectible, and then you find out there’s a warehouse full of them somewhere.

What aspects of design interest you?  

Designers who conceive of an entire universe and are either architects or have the mind of an architect. That’s what is so attractive to me about Marc Newson’s work. He has a single-minded focus, and his use of materials is all about challenging the way things are put together.

How does that play out in your collaboration on Ikepod?  

Our values are antithetical to the rest of the watch industry. They say luxury equals tradition, and we say sophisticated luxury equals innovation.

You once stated that the ultimate mistake in art collecting is to buy “the right artist but the wrong piece.” What did you mean by that?  

Buying the name and not the work. Revealing that you don’t know the difference.

Ah, buying with one’s ears, so to speak, and not with one’s eyes. Is it comparatively rare these days for people to buy instinctually?  

Art is now an investment. Everything is an investment, including one’s time. Talking to you right now is an investment. I could be doing something else. I chose to do this.

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"Conversation With Adam Lindemann" originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction's January 2008 Table of Contents.