From now until Dec 16th, the AGO’s Art Rental + Sales Gallery, located at 481 University Ave at Dundas, will showcase the private art collection of Jeanne Beker in their second annual Collector’s Series. We had the opportunity to chat with Jeanne about how she chooses art, what advice she has for those of us beginning our own collection and why this collaboration with the AGO is so meaningful to her. Candid, honest and full of wisdom, CTV’s Fashion Television host shares with us personal stories and intimate details about the art she loves that fill her home with beauty and intrigue. And yes, she has a David LaChapelle hanging in her boudoir. “It goes with the decor,” she says with a smile.

What are you drawn to when buying art? What really hooks Jeanne Beker?

An image that I want to live with. I don’t like images that are disturbing; I appreciate them on an artistic level but I don’t want to have to live with that. There are so many different reasons for buying art and why you are attracted to a piece. It has to speak to you, it has to make you think about something you want to think about, or don’t want to think about but is good to think about.

Within this collection, when and what was the first piece of art you purchased?

The first piece I ever got was by Marion Perlet; it’s a head. That was from a show I went to with Toller Cranston  in 1980; we continue to this day to be great friends, he’s like a brother. I was living on top of an art gallery that was owned by his coach Ellen Burka. Toller was living next door and we became fast friends. I had just come out of a relationship and had this groovy new apartment and had landed  the job with CHUM and CityTV. He said, “Now you have to start collecting art.” I said, “I can’t afford art!” He was such a big art collector; his walls were just rife with stuff. He said, “No-no-no, find a Canadian, try to focus on one artist, you should support Canadian artists, the price is much more reasonable, you can do it! I’m going to take you to my friend’s art show.” Marion had a little art show, she was a struggling artist at the time. We went to her show and it was a collection of a series of heads and that one (pointing to the painting on wall) I just loved! “I’m going to buy that for you,” insisted Toller. And then he plunked down $300. I felt like I arrived. From there, I started collecting Marion’s work and now have quite a few pieces.That’s the one artist that I’ve really stayed true to over the years.

How does one start an art collection?

If you just buy what you love, you don’t have to think about it as a collection. That’s what intimidated me. I thought collectors were for people who bought serious art, who knew what would escalate in value. I just wanted to surround myself with beautiful and original pieces that would stay with me for the rest of my life, that my kids could really grow up with. It was never about buying a piece that fit in or matched the walls, or that I’d even have the right space for! Often times, I was most challenged because I’d really like a piece and then I would just go for it whether it would fit over my couch or not. It didn’t matter, somehow, you find a space for these things. I think it’s great to support Canadian artists wherever possible because if we don’t, who will? There’s some great ones around and often you get better value. It’s interesting to find artists at the early stages of their careers and follow them. I really liked mixed media. I’m not a purist in that way; photography, scultpure, interesting eclectic pieces. To thine own self be true! Don’t buy something because someone else likes it. You are the one who has to live with it.

You are involved in countless events and projects around the city; what does being a part of the AGO’s Collector Series mean to you?

I am so wildly flattered! Maybe this means I’ve arrived. I always felt like I was on the periphery of things. I fought for credibility from a certain part of society, for a long time. I was a bit of a renegade and certainly not conventional in my approach to anything that I ever did. I’ve been fortunate enough to blaze a few trails but to be asked by the Art Gallery of Ontario to get involved in ANY project I’d be quite taken but, something like this, to be asked to open up my home in a way and display things that are so personal, precious and intimate to me – that reveal a lot about my relationships with people, in a sense –  I thought it was pretty fabulous.

If you had an unlimited budget, what would hang on your wall?

Probably something from one of Picasso’s periods; I love them all!  Maybe since I’ve recently been turned on to Chagall, with the AGO’s exhibit, I’d pick something from him; I love his whimsy and mysticism.

Can you tell us the story of your David LaChapelle piece?

We started following him in the early days of his career, in the ’90s. He is just really wonderfully nuts. A few years ago it arrived and I opened it up and it was a gorgeous portrait of Jodie Kidd, one of my favourite models. I’m not sure what the location is but he sent it to me with a beautiful note thanking me for all the support over the years. It came when he had really catapulted into the art world stratosphere and became a true art star. I have it in my bedroom. It goes with the decor, it has such a feeling of sensuality and grace to it, it’s perfect for the boudoir.

A LaChapelle in the bedroom; not bad Jeanne! Not bad. 

~ Jen McNeely