Only in her early thirties, Anne Huntington is an inspirational young collector driving the future of contemporary art. Apollo, the art magazine, has featured her in its ‘40 Under 40’ list, she has curated more than 30 exhibitions and supports several New York institutions, from the Guggenheim to the Whitney. In the meantime, she is adding to her personal collection of established and emerging artists, some of whom are shown here.
Anne Huntington is a young collector. But at the age of just 33, she is already an old hand. With student internships at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the David Zwirner gallery in New York, and her first job at Phillips, the auction house, she has actually been in the art world for over a dozen years. She has amassed a collection of hundreds of artworks, including some by the leading young artists of her generation. She has curated and funded exhibitions and performance works and produced films. And she has picked up some wisdom and insightful life lessons along the way.
We meet at the Sant Ambroeus Coffee Bar at Sotheby’s in New York’s Upper East Side on a sunny early-spring day to talk about her passion for art and the art world – “I couldn’t live without it,” she says – and the steep learning curve that art collecting has been for her. Poised, precise, professionally but casually dressed, she seems all business. But when she cracks a smile, it is enormous.
Huntington was raised in New Jersey where, more than 40 years ago, her parents Ray and Eileen co-founded Huntington Learning Center, a tutoring company for kindergarten through to twelfth-grade students that became well known in the US through a successful television advertising campaign. In recent years, she has been working for the family firm and is now its Vice President of Business Development, which has been keeping her heavily involved, she says, in developing public-private partnerships with a focus on special-needs students.
Countrywide trips to conferences and to the learning centers are a constant, too. Huntington is immersed in education theory and practice, and takes it very seriously. What makes a good teacher? “Empathy,” she says. All told, the work is fascinating, but the corporate world is not the art world.
"I'm skeptical when I hear people talking about investment returns... but it shows what I am buying has market validation."
We are greeted by Eric Shiner, Senior Vice President of Sotheby’s contemporary art department and former Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, when he spots us in the café, and he enfolds her in a huge hug. “Anne is always joyful. She’s whip-smart and a whirlwind of energy,” he says. “And she’s dedicated to supporting artists in everything that she does.”
“Eleven years ago, I joined a lot of organizations, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Museum,” says Huntington. “Over time, I’ve focused on organizations that align with my current interests. I have had to curate my professional and personal time.”
Huntington has retained her association with two institutions in particular. She remains a co-chair of the Young Collectors Council at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum and a founding member of the Future Leadership Council at the Whitney. “The Guggenheim’s is the only young collector group that acquires work for the permanent collection,” she says. “That doesn’t exist elsewhere.”
She also keeps up an involvement in charities such as the New York City Coalition for the Homeless and the art and mentorship group Free Arts NYC. Her work for the Performa Biennial, the live-art festival in New York, has meant funding a handful of its artists and performance art projects. RoseLee Goldberg, the founder and Director of Performa, is one of Huntington’s inspirations, along with Jennifer Stockman, the arts philanthropist and former President of the Board of Trustees at the Guggenheim, and Alexandra Munroe, the Guggenheim’s Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts.
Huntington’s support of the art world extends to film, too. She was an Associate Producer for The Price of Everything, a documentary on the art world directed by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn and co-produced by Jennifer Stockman. The film debuted in early 2018 at the Sundance Film Festival and was acquired by HBO Documentary Films.
“I’ve focused on organizations that align with my interests. I had to curate my professional and personal time.”
Her personal collection includes works mostly by living artists. Some of it is figurative, while much of it, by her own description, is “pretty and personal”. The art that covers the walls of her home from floor to ceiling includes works by Dustin Yellin, founder of Brooklyn’s non-profit Pioneer Works; subversive arts collective Bruce High Quality Foundation; Los Angeles painter Jonas Wood; the multiple award-winner Natalie Frank; and Shepard Fairey, best known for his Barack Obama ‘Hope’ campaign poster. Veteran artists include Pop artist Tom Wesselmann and the painter of striking nudes Lisa Yuskavage. That tiny list barely scratches the surface.
Today, Huntington admits that she is still learning as a collector, and is now more focused on collecting particular artists’ works than before. One such example in her collection is by Margaret Lee, the New York-based artist and Lower East Side gallerist. And her collecting has earned her the accolade, of which she is particularly proud, of being included in the 40 Under 40 Global list of influential art-world players in the art magazine Apollo.
When asked to talk about a favorite purchase, Huntington, surprisingly, picks one of the older artists in her collection, David Hockney, whose hugely popular Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective ran from November 2017 to February 2018. “I saw my work, a Hockney iPad drawing, at Pace Gallery years before the Met show.” It excited her because “it represented an established artist working in a new medium, one that is central to a whole evolution in art.” (She adds that the work happened to have the same date as her birthday, adding considerably to the appeal.)
Huntington has never sold any work from her collection. “I’m skeptical when I hear people talking about [investment] returns,” she says. But she is not unhappy when works similar to ones she has purchased, or those by a particular artist she owns, go up in value, sometimes by a great deal in a short period of time. It happens a lot, she says. “I like to see that because it shows what I am buying has market validation.” That said, she will not be parting with anything in her collection anytime soon – “I don’t want to!”
The art world has changed a great deal in the years Huntington has been actively collecting. “It’s become more accessible,” she notes. “You have the ability to see what’s going on all around the world because of all the online platforms. They have changed the landscape of the art world. It’s a disruption, but a good disruption.”
Arts writer Alexandra Peers contributes to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.