Why I collect: Amélie Huynh

The Paris-based jewelry designer on her entrepreneurial endeavors and approach to collecting

By Florence Derieux 

‘I started collecting by chance about 10 years ago, when my then partner, an art and design collector, took me to the Grand Palais to attend the FIAC art fair. At the time, I was entirely unfamiliar with the world of contemporary art and, although my background was in jewelry, which itself can be hugely impressive, entering a gallery was still quite an overwhelming experience. That day, I fell in love with a lightbox by Mohamed Bourouissa on display at Mennour. It was thanks to the gallery’s director, Jessy Mansuy, who accompanied me around the stand explaining everything, that I was able to take the plunge and make my first acquisition. Since then, she’s been helping me to build up my collection – whether with artists from Mennour or from other galleries – to ensure it has coherence.

‘I always buy from galleries. I can purchase design at auction, but not art. I need to see and experience firsthand the works that go into my collection. Art is timeless, and there is a seemingly infinite number of artists, both living and deceased, so the decision-making process can feel complicated. You don’t necessarily know what to buy, or at what price, and nobody wants to make a mistake, so I think it’s better to be accompanied. I’ve noticed that, over time, my eye has formed and my taste has evolved. Initially, I wasn’t interested in figuration; I was more inclined towards abstraction and minimalism. I was attracted by pure, radical pieces. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research: I’ve visited numerous exhibitions, fairs, and studios, and I’ve developed relationships with other galleries. Lately, I’ve become aware that I’m sometimes seduced by colorful, soft works that I certainly wouldn’t have looked at before: recently, I acquired a piece by Ugo Rondinone.

‘I love the work of Lee Ufan and François Morellet, and I just bought a painting by Jean Degottex. I’m also very interested in photography. I’m a big fan of Wolfgang Tillmans, and I continue to follow Bourouissa’s career. Currently, I find myself drawn to the work of a generation of young artists from North Africa, particularly Algeria and Morocco. I recently acquired a piece by Latifa Echakhch, and I dream of doing the same with Hicham Berrada and Dhewadi Hadjab. My collection also includes sculptures by Camille Henrot and Alicja Kwade, as well as ceramic pieces by Yuji Ueda, Otani Workshop, and Takuro Kuwata.

‘My family history has enabled me to develop my relationship with art even further. Together with my father – a Cambodian in love with France, where he immigrated to at the age of 15, who has lived in Hong Kong for almost 30 years – and my sister, Mélanie, we manage the group we co-founded, Æra Nova. This includes Holidermie, the cosmetics brand Mélanie created, as well as D’Orsay perfumes and the Statement jewelry line, which I launched myself. Æra Nova regularly collaborates with artists: I recently worked with the young Franco-Japanese artist Tiffany Bouelle, for instance, to produce a jewelry line for Statement. Projects like these enable me to introduce the work of young artists to a different audience.

‘In 2013, we acquired Château Toulouse-Lautrec Malromé, near Bordeaux, which was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s family home. It belonged to his mother, Adèle. My sister and I set out to purchase works by the painter, with the aim of creating an intimate collection linked to his family life. We succeeded in bringing together sketches, sketchbooks, photographs, and lithographs produced during the artist’s lifetime. We have also presented exhibitions at the château by Jeremy Demester, Tadashi Kawamata, Daidō Moriyama, and Prune Nourry.

‘I collect in order to surround myself, both in my home and in my workplace, with art that I can admire every day. I find it extraordinary to be able to own even a tiny fraction of an artist’s body of work. Everyone has their own unique aesthetic sensibility, their own definition of beauty, and some might see my collection as modest, in as much as I don’t own any monumental works. However, coming from the world of jewelry, I think I have a special appreciation for owning something “small” yet priceless, because that’s the very definition of a diamond!’

Credits and Captions

Florence Derieux is an art historian and curator.

English translation: Art Basel. 

Published on May 06, 2024.

Photographs by Bettina Pittaluga for Art Basel. 

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