Collective Design Dialogues: Adam Lindemann on Why Art Collectors Should Care About Design

“Great design can be as important as great art in a collection,” said the art collector and dealer Adam Lindemann. “It’s very important to combine the two.”

Lindemann should know. He’s not only an established art collector (in 2016, he was the seller of the Jean Michel Basquiat painting that sold for $57.3 million to Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa, which, at the time, was the record for the artist at auction), but he is also a connoisseur of design. His collection houses everything from an Art Deco dining room set by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann to a contemporary lounge by Marc Newson in riveted aluminum. In 2010, he wrote a book on the subject, Collecting Design (Taschen), for which he interviewed a number of storied collectors including entrepreneur Murray Moss, design dealer Suzanne Demisch, art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

As Miami Art Week was kicking off, we spoke to Lindemann about the difference between art and design, both aesthetically and in terms of their market. Having run his own investment firm, he also always keeps an eye toward the value of the work he collects. And while he has said that you can’t buy design for investment “if you don’t have a feeling for what you are buying,” for Lindemann, the design market has, at times, felt as frothy and exciting as that of the art world.

Here, Lindemann spoke to us about the differences between art and design, the strength of the design market, and why collecting design should be imperative for anyone collecting art.

Rozalia Jovanovic: How did you start collecting design?
Adam Lindemann: I think I got really into furniture when I decorated a house I had upstate built by Richard Woods, in Woodstock. I met Paul Johnson. I filled the whole house with Paul Evans. Then I started buying French 70s. Then I started buying more deco. Then I got into French 50s. Eventually I liked contemporary.

Why should people buy design?
The reason to buy design is because I think it represents tremendously good value. All collectors of art eventually get the design thing going.

Why is that?
It suffered a lot during the crisis of 2008 and 2009. And here we are almost 10 years later, and it never really recovered, other than the mid-century French: [Jean] Prouve and [Charlotte] Perriand and [Pierre] Jeanerret.


Marc Newson, Lockheed Lounge. Designed in 1985, this work is in an edition of 10. Courtesy of Christie’s.

Tell me about the prices at that time.
Contemporary design was flying in 2007. Lockheed Lounges, Marc Newsons and Ron Arads. Joris Laarmann. All these new designers were being treated as if they were artists. [A look at some records at Christie’s showed that in June, one of Newson’s iconic works, ‘Pod of Drawers,’ went for $763,500 in a New York sale at Christies whereas in May 2007, a similar chest of drawers went for $1,048,000. However, another iconic work, Newson’s Lockheed Lounge sold In October 2007, a Lockheed Lounge went for 748,500 British pounds ($1,008,147). But in a London sale this past October, one of the same riveted aluminum lounges went for 1,568,750 British pounds ($2,112,933), the highest price for a work by Newson at this auction house.]

When you say ‘as if they were artists,’ what do you mean, exactly?
With artist prices. With the respect of artists as opposed to furniture makers. Prices were sky high.

Which designers would you say are hot right now?
I think Prouve is hot.

What about the contemporary market, for living designers?
I’m a big fan of it, but there’s limited resale. Like there was at one time, speculation. It’s no longer a speculators market. It’s very much a ‘buy to own, buy to use’ market. So, it’ll always be around. But it’s less speculative than it once was. There was a lot of speculation in the market in ’07 and ‘08. And poof, it’s gone. But there has been appreciation in great things, by Prouve, Perriand, and even Jeanneret. I think that’s a function of the very strong dealers that are involved in their markets. These people have been building this market for years and years and years and it kind of paid off. You can’t underestimate that people like what they see regularly, and they support it.

How is design different from art?
It’s unthinkable that people are gaga over rusty furniture. But yet they are. We pay for rust. The more dirt and the more rust on it, the more we like it. In many other fields, it’s all about how shiny and blingy it is. Jeff Koons’s ‘Celebration’ series is all about bling and repressed sexuality. Or Marc Newson, with that shininess to it. Even the design of Apple; it’s all smooth and has that perfect shine. And then you think of cars, sports cars and the car market. What’s been popular for a long time is the over-restoring of things. Ralph Lauren’s car collection is all shined up and painted. Everything is as perfect-looking as possible. But you think of Prouve and Perriand pieces, it’s all about how rusty they are, and their original patina and original paint. It’s interesting that it lives in its own aesthetic, which is different from the way other things are valued.

Why is design important?
Great design can be as important as great art in a collection. It’s very important to combine the two. The idea of having beautiful art and crappy furniture is a tasteless concept. I get as much pleasure sitting on my great chair or table as I do from looking at a great painting.

December 05, 2017

Collective Dialogues: Adam Lindemann on Why Art Collectors Should Care About Design