Private Collection: The Celebrity As Collector, Steve Martin
Few people know that Hollywood actor and comedian Steve Martin is a serious art collector. He's a regular visitor of galleries and the international fair circuit, and developed a penchant for collecting early in his life.
By his own admission, the actor is an obsessive collector who bought his first painting—by the 19th century American artist James Gale Tyler—at the tender age of 21.
"Collecting art is my biggest hobby," the actor told Time magazine in a 1987 interview. "Art is so different from what I do that it's an escape for me… It's like, good grief, these things are so beautiful—how did this happen?"
An exhibition of Martin's collection at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas in 2001 lifted the curtain on his purchases, and there are some impressive names.
At the time, James Mann, curator of the Las Vegas Art Museum told the Las Vegas Sun, that the actor "does not hesitate to place emerging, younger artists along with 20th century masters, even a few artists who have been under appreciated and obscure."
Mann concluded that Martin's collection was "a very sincerely assembled group of works. He admires what he buys and he has good quality on the whole of these artists."
The comedian owns artworks by contemporary American artists such as Eric Fischl, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, as well as examples of post-war and modern American painting by Edward Hopper, and a drawing by Willem de Kooning.
The collection was described as "relatively conservative," and "heavily figurative" by SFGate critic David Bonetti. He pointed out that it includes only paintings and drawings and contains little avant-garde, conceptual, or media art.
However, the comedian has come a long way since his 2001 exhibition of his collection. While his tastes don't seem to have changed, he hasn't shied away from taking on new challenges. In October 2015, for instance, Martin curated a survey of the work of the Canadian landscape painter Lawren Harris, at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, which is currently on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario this summer.