Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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216 CULTURED With an eye for collaboration, Liz Swig plays art-world matchmaker with Jeff Koons, Kara Walker, Vik Muniz, Paola Pivi and more. BY BEE SHAPIRO PORTRAIT BY KEN BROWAR The New York born and bred dynamo Liz Swig has been a force behind many of the art world's most lauded institutions (think: former board positions at the Whitney, Lincoln Center and currently for Creative Time), and over the last five years she has acquired a reputation as a subversive dealmaker. But the longtime collector, who via a call from Paris where she was scoping out the works at FIAC, says she buys "with a real, passionate point of view," one where she isn't thinking about straightforward pieces that hang on the wall. Rather, through her company, LizWorks, she has achieved a witty commentary on commercialism through unconventional pairings. Before she launched her own firm, Swig collaborated with Vera Wang and Hugo Boss, on company installations. In another project that pre-dates LizWorks she matched Jeff Koons with the French porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud. "I just had this idea—however crazy it was then—of providing artists with new mediums and new canvases," she says. Landing Koons was no small feat—and it was far from an outlier either. Swig followed up with pitchers by Kara Walker and Last Supper plates by Marco Brambilla. If there seems to be a Warholian air to such commercialism, each project contains a nuanced undercurrent. For example, by picking the pitcher as her vehicle, Walker, who often explores race in her work, references "the unpaid and overworked artisans who have refined our sweet tastes from the cane fields to the kitchens of the New World." Getting some of the industry's most lauded artists to consider alternate means of expression requires "a point of view, passion and energy," says Swig, naming three attributes she recently brought to the table for an alliance with auction house Phillips. Aside from her drive, Swig also has an eye for winners. As a nascent collector, some of her first purchases were works by Cindy Sherman, as well as pieces Rob Pruitt and Jack Early co-created. She predicts that her latest LizWorks venture—artist-designed eyewear—will turn into a cultish hit. This month, in collaboration with Selima Optique, she will debut limited-edition eyeglasses by Vik Muniz at Design Miami, and a pair of sunglasses by Paola Pivi will be available at the Miami Beach boutique The Webster. "I love seeing the world through an artist's eyes and taking that conceptual idea to a literal level." OFF THE WALL

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