Actor Liev Schreiber on Why He Collects Art From His Friends, and the Beloved Painting His Mother Made Him
Liev Schreiber claims he’s not an art expert – “I know very little about art,” he tells Artnet News – but as an actor who graduated from the Yale School of Drama before achieving success on both stage and screen , it can relate to young people artists struggling to make a living from their craft.
That was part of what drew him to New York Art Academy, where he has become a staple of the school’s fundraising parties. The annual Tribeca Ball, where the school opens the doors to students’ studios, is one of Schreiber’s favorite places to buy art.
“It felt like my own experience to graduate for the first time and get hired to work in a professional theater. The feeling I imagined walking through these studios, that these artists must have felt when they saw all these well-healed New Yorkers come to see their pieces, was really exciting for me, “says Shreiber.
“I loved being there for this moment of your updating: they’ve always been artists, but somehow that financial exchange has confirmed them as such,” he adds. “And I remember that feeling for myself and really appreciated being there for someone else’s story.”
Ahead of this year’s ball – a virtual event, of course – Schreiber spoke to Artnet News about the art he’d bought for his New York City home over the years and the beloved painting his mother had painted of his dog.
What was your first purchase?
A painting my friend made in college. Her name was Gina Freschette. It was a favor because she was broke. It was an abstract job and I had just done my first movie appearance and paid off my student loan and was flush. I think I gave her $ 1,000.
What was your last purchase?
Anna Park makes friends. She is a doctoral candidate at the academy. It’s an absurd, distorted picture of a group of people at a party looking kind of drunk and blurry. When an artist captures an idea perfectly – I thought between the title and the picture – she has really nailed the chaotic, drunk state we call making friends, which people take for granted in social situations. I found the ironic title really perfect.
What is the most expensive work of art you own?
I have a piece by Jan Frank. He is my neighbor and we are friends. It’s a summary on plywood. Actually, I’m taking that back. I have a Sam Messer typewriter. This is probably my most expensive job.
Where do you most often buy art?
From my friends or from the New York Academy. The Tribeca Ball is about meeting the artists. And that’s the reason for me to buy pictures. You have a connection to the artist and to the piece.
Is there a work of art that you regret buying?
Why buy it if you didn’t want to buy it? It is not my business. I don’t think about the resale value. I buy for reasons beyond the work itself. I want to keep something that someone has done that means something to me.
What work do you have hanging over your sofa? What’s with in your bathroom?
There is no wall behind my sofa, but it is in front of Jan Frank and my Madeline Hines. In the bathroom I have Nick Sanchez pen drawings of my children and lots of photos of them.
Madeline Hines, Window I. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
What’s the most impractical piece of art you own?
My favorite piece is actually impractical, I think, because it’s so big, but it makes me happiest. It’s a gigantic bear, I think it’s called Ursa Major by Aliene de Souza Howell. It’s one of the first things I got. It’s hanging in my daughter’s bedroom. It’s a giant woodcut of a bear swimming in space and it makes me happy every time I look at it.
Another is something my mother painted for me, but I don’t have it anymore because it’s rotten. My mom made a huge Bollywood movie poster of my dog Chicken. It was a nine by six foot woodcut of a Jack Russell with a rainbow over his head. I loved it, but it was very hard to hang on. I used to have it in my back country house, but at some point it rotted in the rain. I should have taken care of it better.
Aliene de Souza Howell, polar bear. Courtesy of the New York Academy of Art.
What work do you wish you’d bought when you got the chance?
I don’t remember such things. I think as soon as I got the chance to buy one [Saul] Steinberg, but it was way too expensive for me so I don’t regret it! It was nice, but I couldn’t afford it.
If you could steal a piece of art without getting caught, which one would it be?
Naomi [Watts, Schreiber’s ex-wife] took an extraordinary photo of our daughter Kai that she has in her office and that I am obsessed with. I suppose I could just reproduce it and buy the same frame and everything, but I’d love to steal the one she has.
The New York Academy of Art’s virtual gala streams will be streamed on April 5 at 6 p.m. The students’ artwork will be available for sale until May 2nd.
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