Newcastle-born Anita Zabludowicz is a momentous force in the art world. Considered to be one of the most influential collectors and art patrons, she and her husband Pujo established the Zabludowicz Collection in 2007 to support early-career artists. Extending across London, New York and Sarvisalo, Finland, the remarkable collection is celebrated for its enduring commitment to producing a vibrant and sustainable art ecology, through a residency programme and by championing experimental new media.

Quintessentially Art had the privilege to chat with Anita about the beginnings of her collecting journey, her vision and approach to acquiring art, and exciting future projects.

Quintessentially Art: How did your collecting journey begin?

Anita Zabludowicz: Before I started collecting, I actually studied art. In the winter of 1990, I went on an art tour in New York and saw a show called High and Low at MoMA. For the first time in my life, I encountered artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Jeff Koons and Roy Lichtenstein. I didn't know anything about Pop Art or even Contemporary Art, but I felt that my soul was on fire.

The tour continued into collectors' homes which is where I saw some of the same artists and began to realise that people were collecting their work. By fate, I met a woman who became my best friend and remembered asking her what she did for work; she candidly told me that she was an art collector. Inspired by what I had witnessed that day, I thought to myself, I'd like to be an art collector. It was as simple as that.

I went on to study the history of art, and I attended as many lectures as I could. I first collected Modern British Art, as I was fascinated with Ben Nicholson, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon. The first work I ever bid on at auction was a Ben Nicholson painting at Sotheby's; it still hangs in our living room. Back then, I never even imagined I would become an institutional art collector.

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Donna Huanca, MELANOCYTES/ETHERIC LAYER, performance view, Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2016. Photo: Thierry Bal

What has changed or developed within the collection?

The collection has grown and is now very institutionally-focused. Naturally, having a public space has influenced what we have purchased, and we have commissioned works specifically for the collection and specific exhibitions. We have always been interested in new technology and, as our space is an old church with volume but not great wall space, we collect and show video, sound and multimedia installations, as well as Virtual Reality art. We also still collect and adore painting.

For us, it is paramount to support the work for its importance and relevance to the times we live in and to allow the public free access to the most interesting international art that is being created. The intention is to also give a platform to early-career artists and curators.

The investment is cultural and not financially focused, which means we have to take every purchase very seriously. We want to make sure we are creating something unique that is not being done anywhere else.

Are you strategic in your approach when putting together exhibitions or does inspiration come organically?

We want to show art that is not yet mainstream, practices that are influential but not widely understood. We also seek to provide artists with a platform at pivotal points in their development. We hope that the shows we have done with artists like Jon Rafman, Andy Holden, Ryan Trecartin, Lizzie Fitch and Donna Huanca are ultimately seminal moments in their careers.

When it comes to discovering artists, we see as much as possible, not just in commercial galleries and international fairs, but also in universities, artist studios and artist-run spaces. For me, the latter are the most important and most precarious. They need our support now to survive.

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Issy Wood, Mad at Me, 2018, Installation View, Zabludowicz Collection, London. Photo Tim Bowditch

What can audiences look forward to in the future?

Our future plans are very exciting. Although our spaces and offices are currently closed, we are postponing rather than cancelling exhibitions. The first thing we did when we closed was call the artist Mark Tichner, who we adore, and ask him to make a poster for our front window – little did we know that he was just about to launch a nationwide poster campaign. He sent us this fantastic work called Please Believe That These Days Will Pass, a brilliant and timely sentiment.

We have continued our 'Families Create' Saturday sessions via our website, which is where we get kids and their carers together to get creative and do practical art workshops inspired by our collection. We have also been broadcasting on Instagram Live with different collectors, who take us around their homes and collections (every day at 17:30 GMT). That has been really exciting and fun.

Virtual tours of the American multimedia artist Trulee Hall's show, her first institutional solo show in Europe, are available online now. She makes films that are presented as installations, something we have become known for showing. Her work is spectacular.

Just before the spring lockdown, Trulee Hall produced and performed an incredible opera called Tongues Duel the Corn Whores, an Opera. It was such a magnificent performance – camp, excessive and surreal! Her current show includes a series of video installations exploring sexuality. It is a riot of camp juxtapositions, gold snakes and naked witches. She is very much in the lineage of prominent artists like Mike Kelley or Leigh Bowery, mixed with Nathalie Durberg and Carolee Schneemann.

Lead image: Mark Titchner, Please Believe These Days Will Pass, 2020. Courtesy the artist. Poster installed in the currently closed Zabludowicz Collection gallery window whilst the gallery is temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: David Bebber
Photo of Anita above: Anita Zabludowicz, photo David Bebber. Artwork credit: Kelly Walker, Untitled, 2009 (detail). Zabludowicz Collection. Courtesy the artist.

To learn more about Quintessentially’s Art Patrons programme, please enquire with us here.