something to remember

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NY Art Collection

She’s an artist and she loves artists. Her fine art collection is worth 100 million dollars. Walls of her apartments are graced with pieces by the likes of Kahlo, Lempicka and Picasso! Let’s have a look at Madonna’s luxurious New York apartment.

I get strength from my art – all the paintings I own are powerful. As an artist myself, I know what it's like to put your heart and soul into something. You can feel the presence of another person. – Madonna

Art was the subject that naturally came into my mind when I was thinking what to write about in the next chapter of Something to Remember. Initially, I wanted to analyse Madonna as a zealous art collector, but during my research I came to realise that easier and much more interesting would be presenting references to art in her own works. I abandoned the subject of collecting art in favor of the way it inspires and that served as the base for the article Art (in) Pop. However, according to rumors that surfaced recently, Madonna was planning to sell her New York apartment, located in posh neighborhood Upper West Side. Refined, stylish, decorated with real masterpieces – from Picasso to Lempicka. Surely they’re not to be sold with the apartment, but fairly speaking, it’s the last chance to see them on New York walls. It’s an occurrence inspiring enough to go back to the subject of Madonna-collector, however, in a slightly different form than initially planned.

It is estimated that all the works owned by Madonna are worth over 100 million dollars. Interestingly, what she paid for them, was only one fifth of that figure.

Art in her life appeared as early as in the childhood. Her relatives are visually gifted and, as she says herself: if you go to enough Catholic churches, there’s art everywhere. But it was only her visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts that ignited Madonna’s flirt with art with capital A. She learned about works of Diego Rivera and, naturally, Frida Kahlo. As an indigent dancer in New York, she was eligible to claim a free entry to all museums in New York. The ‘art virus’ was spreading rapidly:

I’ve always been kind of obsessed with Frida Kahlo, so I was really into the idea of getting something that belonged to her. And then from Frida Kahlo I found out about Tina Modotti and then I started collecting her stuff and Edward Weston, and one person always leads to another person with me, because for me it started with Diego Rivera, then it went to Frida Kahlo, then it went to Tina, and Edward… Also, if you’re into Picasso, and you want to find out about him and that whole area of art and European culture, then you start reading about Man Ray and the surrealists and Andre Breton, and all of a sudden you’re in that whole world and you start having interests in other people. It’s like a disease.

It was therefore obvious that for her first ‘salary’ Madonna gets herself a piece of artistic world, and in the second half of the 1980s, the singer became the owner of the long-beloved Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait and a painting by Fernand Léger. They would hang in her Malibu house and, despite not matching completely anything in the property, were still special as her first artistic investment after all. 

Christopher Ciccone in Madonna’s New York apartment. In the background: Tamara Lempicka’s Nue a la Colombe (1930) 

Let’s go back to Manhattan. Almost 600 m² of stylish, breath-taking interiors, designed by Christopher Ciccone in 1989. Madonna’s younger brother had 10 days to create a perfect space for her sister, and although never professionally trained to be an interior designer, he’s an artist himself and did an impressive job later with scenography for the Blond Ambition Tour. The project of the apartment is entirely his work, whilst its realization was supervised by the architect Stephen Wang of the New York-based studio Procter and Wang. Majority of the interior is dominated by early Art Deco, inspired by the building in which it is located. By the end of the 1980s, Madonna became the owner of 3 neighboring apartments, only to connect them and transform into one big, two-floor  property. Ciccone decided to keep as many original elements as only possible, including fireplaces and mouldings, paying attention even to details like door knobs and the color of the screws. The apartment is crowned by ultimate Art Deco works of Tamara Lempicka. 

Right by the front door, guests and occupants are greeted by a Pompeiian klismos chair from the 19th century, with Laure Albin Guillot’s 1930 photograph La Cantate du Narcisse hanging next to it (left). In the entrance hall, original glass door dating back to 1915 has been kept to date. There is another klismos and an over 200 year old, Irish white cobalt mirror (right). The glass part of the gilded chandelier by Süe et Mare has been manufactured by the crystal studio Daum. The floor is graced with a carpet designed by Edward Fields. 

On the walls in the corridor, are hung deformed nudes photographed by André Kertész and George Platt Lynes from 1920-1930 (right). The hall is a very important part of the apartment. A castle is not a castle without a moat – that’s how Christopher explains the role that this part of home holds in every respected apartment in New York.

A painting by Fernand Léger, which has been mentioned earlier as one of Madonna’s first purchased artworks, Les Deux Bicyclettes (1944), hangs in the living room. Observant people will spot phenomenal painting Veiled Heart (1932) by Salvador Dalí on the right. Beautiful bookshelves, clearly inspired by Piet Mondrian, have been designed by Christopher Ciccone. Every corner of the apartment is inspired by an artist and there are many pieces of furniture typical for Art Deco.

Another work by Lempicka present in the apartment is Andromeda (1929), famously displayed in music videos for “Vogue” and “Open Your Heart”. It hangs above a chest of drawers by Eugéne Printz with characteristic folding doors (c. 1930). Andromeda is one of four paintings by Lempicka owned by Madonna – all of them represent women. Two of them have been purchased on Madonna’s behalf by Darlene Lutz, her advisor and art dealer. Lutz said: She's not big on three dimensional work, but sometimes I still show it to her. We go constantly to exhibitions and to see collections, and that gives me the opportunity to see how she is looking at things, which changes all the time. 

In the dining room (left) hangs another work by Lempicka, Nana de Herrera (1930), also used in Madonna’s videos. In the dressing room (right), the wall is decorated with The Young King of the Black Isles (1906) by Maxfield Parrish. 

I’m not going to focus on describing apartment’s furniture as I’m too excited about an original Picasso painting! A portrait of Dora Maar, which is hung in Madonna’s study, was purchased years ago during an auction at the Sotheby’s for 5 million dollars! Madonna adores this work, having called it un-believable, and Picasso is the one artist she would let paint a portrait of her: 

Picasso would have been amazing. (…) It wouldn’t have been a pretty picture, but we would have liked it anyway. (…) He paints your personality, he doesn’t paint your portrait.

Madonna can’t live without a gym, and naturally has a private one in her apartment. On its walls hang Portrait of a Boxer (c. 1945) by Claggett Wilson and an untitled photograph by František Drtikol from 1927. Interestingly, the gym is completely soundproof and has its own stereo sound system.

It’s worth mentioning that Madonna’s art collection also includes Frida Kahlo’s My Birth, although not in her Manhattan apartment. The singer is a great admirer of Bouguereau, Rembrandt, Edward Hopper and tens of other artists representing cubism, surrealism, modernism, pop art, Art Deco... Madonna’s taste is highly eclectic, what somewhat reflects her own artistic identity: evolving, diverse, ever-searching. Only one thing comes back like a boomerang – an image of a strong woman, as strong as Kahlo and Lempicka, whose personalities and life stories fascinate Madonna. 

Now, why not do your own art research? It’s as easy as googling names of artists I have already mentioned to explore their creativity and rich styles. Works by Piet Mondrian, the famous My Birth by Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dalí’s Veiled Heart, and other paintings worth to be familiar with. Check them out!

MS / transl. Matt 

All photographs of the apartment were taken by Durston Saylor in 1991.

Ps. On November 19, 2012, the property discussed in this article was eventually put up for sale for $23.5. However, photographs accompanying the advert pictured the apartment without its valuable furniture. Supposedly, all the paintings had also been already relocated (Madonna famously likes to keep them near). That means all the prominent works by Picasso, Lempicka, Dalí and Kahlo, which are the main subject of this article, are still part of her art collection.

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