Alessandro Ronfini is an architect in New York City. Astrid Chastka is a jewelry designer and co-owner of the line, Metalepsis Projects.
AS: Tell us about your background. Do you remember your first interaction with art?
AC: I went to school for architecture, but I’ve been making art ever since I can remember. I come from a family of six kids and my mom thought art was the best way to keep us busy. She would give us a bunch of paint and let us do our own thing. I loved it and I’ve been doing it ever since. Every now and then if I have free time, I’ll try to take a new painting class or printmaking course… something to stay active.
AR: I was always surrounded by art as a child. My dad collects art and our walls were literally covered from floor to ceiling with paintings. Artwork was everywhere! I also did a lot of my own work when I was younger – just small paintings and projects, but they were very memorable. As I grew older, I became more and more interested in the history of art and architecture and eventually studied architecture in university.
AS: What was your first art purchase? What’s your dream piece?
AC: My first purchase was a work on paper by Laura Sallade. I’ve been given a lot of artwork over the years and also traded for a lot, but her piece was one of the first that I spent time contemplating and actually purchased. This was about two years ago.
I would love to own either a Sol LeWitt, because of the architectural nature of his paintings and sculptures, or a Cy Twombly. I studied a lot of mythology when I was younger and found it fascinating that he would incorporate that into his paintings, even though it often just looked like a giant mess of paint.
AR: I would love to have a sketch by Egon Schiele. He’s one of my favorite artists.
AS: What does your collection say about you? What pieces do you tend to gravitate towards?
AR: That we both have architectural backgrounds – most of our pieces have a very geometrical focus! We also like to have relationships with the artists we collect. For the most part, everything we have has been acquired directly from the artist.
AS: How has your collection changed over the years?
AC: Well, it sort of blew up when we moved in together; we merged a lot of work [both laugh]! We also have made a real effort to show our collection. When you live in New York, you often don’t feel at home in your apartment because it’s not yours. We decided we loved the neighborhood and the space, so we’ve tried to make the apartment a place that we wanted to come home to. Adding art to the walls changed the atmosphere so much! It’s a slow process and a lot of hard work but it has made such a difference.
AS: Were there any works that were hard to part with? Do you have a favorite piece right now?
AR: I had to part with a series of photographs that I took many years ago with some friends. They weren’t really anything of monetary value, but they meant a lot to me. They hung in an apartment I lived in while I was working in Copenhagen and they’re still there.
My favorite piece right now is the tiger print from Telegraph. It adds so much color. And this painting… Astrid made it for me.
AC: When I was really little, my family moved into a new house and my room had purple walls. On one of the walls, the previous owner had painted a large unicorn with rainbow hair. One day I came home from school and my mom had painted all the walls white – I was heartbroken. That was one of the first significant pieces I “had” to get rid of. It’s completely ridiculous and funny today, but man, I loved that wall!
Over the years I’ve had to part with many Steve Keene paintings. Fortunately, they’ve all gone to friends and family.
My favorite work is our piece by Laura Sallade. I’m extremely happy with the purchase.
AS: What drives your passion for collecting?
AC: Knowing the artist is very important to us, and feeling like there’s something in the artwork that’s just “perfectly you”. It’s hard to describe, but there’s always something that pulls at you. You can almost immediately identify with it.
AR: We like helping emerging artists. There’s a sense of philanthropy plus we really enjoy the work! It’s really nice to hear the story behind the piece, too.
AS: If you weren’t collecting art, what would you be doing? Do you have any other hobbies that fulfill you as much as collecting?
AC: I have too many hobbies! I’d love to do more with ceramics, some really weird architectural-focused pieces. I really enjoy creating; it’s a great outlet.
AS: Do you consider yourself a collector?
AC: Yes, we’re getting there. I’ve always had a tendency to collect but I think over this past year we’ve really become beginning art collectors.
AS: What is your advice to new collectors? Any mistakes you wish you could have avoided?
AR: Make sure you put effort into framing and hanging the pieces. We’ve had lots of pieces that we didn’t take care of and they’ve gotten damaged. And be proactive and follow your instinct for what you love.
AC: If you want art on your walls, there are so many things you can do that don’t require you to be an experienced or skilled collector. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your art – sometimes, those pieces are the most interesting!
August 17, 2014