Carey: Today on our show we’re talking with Sue Stoffel. She’s a collector and an art administrator with 25 years of professional art experience in numerous aspects in the art world. Sue, thanks so much for being with us today.
Stoffel: An honor to be here, thank you.
Carey: When you were growing up were you influenced a lot by the arts? Were your parents involved in the art? If we can go back that far, how did you get involved and influenced by the art world?
Stoffel: Very much influenced through my childhood. I grew up in New York City. I’m fourth generation Manhattanite and my mother is an artist, both my grandmothers were artists. One aunt runs the oldest non-profit cooperative gallery in New York. And my other aunt on my fathers side was one of the founders of the African Art museum in Soho in the ‘80’s. And so my mother was taking me through SoHo in the 60’s, a greasy haired teenager looking at the works of Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg and Warhol, and so it all went in through osmosis.
But it really didn’t come out until I moved to Switzerland in 1980 and started collecting. I was getting married and I went to visit a wonderful old dealer, named Anne Rossler and I asked her what I should buy my future husband as a wedding present and she said there’s only one thing and that’s art. And so I bought my first piece which was a Christo and from there it’s 30 years later, maybe even more, and 350 works later.
Carey: Wow, 350 works that’s how many art works are in your own collection?
Stoffel: Yes, correct. I am a collector. We call ourselves junkie collectors because it’s what we do. We don’t do anything else. My husband used to call it “Susan bags” because he would rather me spend $2000 on a Prada bag than a work of art- and I disagreed, and so we were collecting Swiss art when we were living there. Then I started to go to Art Basel in 1985 and that changed my perspective globally in terms of what was happening in the contemporary world. And that’s when our art collection started to expand.
Carey: And what was the first Christo that you bought?
Stoffel: It was the Wrapped Leonardo in Milano. It was a work on paper that he had attached a wrapped sculpture on and then there was the matching photograph that went with it. So this was from 1982.
Carey: I didn’t know that. Could you just describe that a little bit more.
Stoffel: Sure, I’m going to walk over and looking at it. Yeah, I don’t know exactly which Piazza in Milano it is, maybe it says on here. Yes, here it is, wrapped monumental Leonardo project for Piazza della Scala in Milano, it’s signed and it is a piece of a cotton wrapped sculpture with his iconic string stapled onto a photograph that he has penciled around of the Piazza della Scala.
There are some really old 1950’s, 1960’s cars parked in the background. So it’s a cool piece and you’ll see it as you come into my apartment. It’s the first piece you see and kind of opens the dialogue to everything else that’s hanging in the apartment now.
Carey: Wow, that is a cool piece. That’s amazing, sounds gorgeous and also of course now very, very valuable piece. Those are quite amazing things to have. That’s essentially an early preparatory drawing of his, isn’t it?
Stoffel: It’s more than a preparatory drawing. There is a depth, there is third a dimension. It is actually a sculpture on the wall.
Carey: So then let’s move forward from there. That was your beginning of kind of your foray into your collecting. You’re in Switzerland, what happened next? And I assume at this point you’re not involved in art administration?
Stoffel: Not yet but that kind of change in 1994, 1995 when we were collecting quite intensely.
I came back to New York for a trip and went to visit the marketing directors of the Whitney and MoMa and put together some best practices of how museums were approaching their contemporary collectors. And I took that to the Kunsthalle in Zurich and I said, “Listen I’ve got this idea, there are a lot of contemporary collectors now out there who don’t feel connected to the museum. I’d like to develop a program,” and they actually bought it and asked me to direct it. So I did that for 5 years before coming back to New York.
I was working with other collectors around Switzerland and organizing lectures and tours and getting into private collections and taking them to art fairs, to the opening of the Gugenheim, I developed kind of a network of very interested contemporary art collectors around Europe and I brought that back to New York with me.