Stellan Holm Gallery offers major works by contemporary masters and emerging artists worldwide. Fine Art Shippers caught up with its director Deborah Lee to talk about how they guide their clients in building their collections. During the conversation, we also learned an amazing story of Stellan Holm’s accidental encounter with Jean-Michel Basquiat on the streets of New York.
Stellan Holm Gallery: From Blue Chip Artists to Young Talents
Can you briefly introduce Stellan Holm Gallery? What art do you specialize in?
Deborah Lee: We are a secondary market gallery and art advisory focusing on post-war contemporary art and emerging artists. Our team consists of the founder, Stellan Holm, and myself. Stellan’s expertise lies in the blue-chip contemporary artists like Basquiat and Warhol. As for me, I have a particular interest in emerging artists, especially young female artists of color. This dynamic has proven to work very well for us. We collaborate very effectively, which is great.
How long has your gallery been on the market?
Stellan, originally from Sweden, began his career in the art world at a young age. He met and befriended Andy Warhol in Sweden in 1976, and then he opened a gallery space in Stockholm in 1983. In 1984, he went to New York, where he met Basquiat. Interestingly, he encountered Basquiat on the streets of New York and just approached him. They quickly developed a friendship. Through this connection, he quickly became part of Basquiat and Warhol’s circle. Soon he established his own gallery space, with locations in Chelsea, the Lower East Side, and the Upper East Side.
The Covid pandemic prompted us to change the way we used to operate. In April 2020, our lease for the gallery space we had on the Upper East Side was coming to an end. For obvious reasons, we decided not to renew it. We thought, let’s see how things unfold. Eventually, we realized we could efficiently carry out our work from the comfort of our homes. As things started to return to normal, we transitioned into a hybrid work model. Stellan converted part of his UES home into an office and viewing space, which is now available by appointment. I have a home office space in Brooklyn, where I work on some days, and on other days, I join Stellan at his home office for meetings or client presentations.
As an art advisory, how do you guide your clients in building their collections or helping them find and buy what they need?
First, we need to understand their goals. Are they interested in investment, or do they want to connect with specific artists they resonate with? What are their preferences in terms of the geographic origin of the artworks they want to collect? This initial information helps us determine the best approach. With Stellan’s expertise in blue chip art and my focus on emerging artists in the primary market, clients can consult with either of us based on their interests. Alternatively, we can collaborate and provide support together.
For clients interested in art as a financial asset, we suggest following auctions and other relevant events, even if they can’t physically attend. Nowadays, you have a lot of online and mobile options. Apps like LiveArt, for example, provide an easy-to-use interface for tracking auctions, art fairs, and openings. And, of course, we are here to help with our expertise and knowledge of market trends.
Do you participate in art fairs?
In the past, we used to actively participate in art fairs, but now less. Yet we still make it a point to attend them regularly. This allows us to stay up-to-date and provide first-hand insights to our clients who may need help keeping up with all the art events. Being physically present at an event is a different experience that gives you unique information you can’t just read about in a review: general mood, conversations, etc. And, of course, it’s simply enjoyable.
Which criteria do you use when you select emerging artists to work with?
I personally look for the expression of their identity – race, ethnicity, and culture – through their artwork. This allows us to understand how their upbringing, cultural background, and experiences have shaped them. There are a lot of emerging and established artists that I appreciate, among them Ga Hee Park, Cecily Brown, Minjung Kim, Christina BanBan, Sasha Gordon, Gego and Sarah Sze (their Guggenheim exhibition was fantastic), Tracey Emin, Kelly Shami, Maria Chang, KangHee Kim (known as @tinycactus), and so many more.
Apart from the established artists, I also find joy in supporting and introducing artists who may not be represented by galleries (yet). I am fortunate to call some of them my friends: Mei Juan Foo( @meijuan.foo), Kelsey Skordal (@scored_all), and Monica Torres (@island.artt).
What is the best part of working in the art world for you?
As a gallery director, I have to visit a lot of exhibitions and other events, which I love, although it might be challenging to follow everything that interests me. One of the best things for me is working with someone who genuinely supports my growth, and in that regard, Stellan has been an incredible collaborator. He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Whenever I have a question, he always seems to have the answer at his fingertips. His support and encouragement always motivate me to explore and experience new things.
Photo courtesy of Stellan Holm Gallery
Images in the order of appearance:
-A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat in Stockholm
-Stellan Holm’s portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat
-Jean-Michel Basquiat next to his painting, Stockholm