in other words

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#34 On Trading Diamonds with Man Ray—Collector Sylvio Perlstein


Sylvio Perlstein with Untitled (For You, Leo, in Long Respect and Affection) 4 (1978). Art © Dan Flavin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo courtesy and credit: Paul Rousteau

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#34 On Trading Diamonds with Man Ray—Collector Sylvio Perlstein

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

“Because Sylvio is courageous, I was able to buy more hamburgers to keep up my strength, and more paint to continue painting,” said artist Robert Ryman about collector Sylvio Perlstein, who was a patron of his at a time when few others were interested.

Born in Belgium, Perlstein grew up in Rio de Janeiro, where his family moved when fleeing the Nazis in 1939. Perlstein bought his first work of art from a florist in Brazil; over the course of the next five decades, he would add more than 1,000 works to his collection by artists including Man Ray; Duchamp; Carl Andre; Diane Arbus; Hans Bellmer; Magritte Solowitz; Donald Judd; Hannah Kirk; Max Ernst; Bruce Nauman; Edward Shea; and Andy Warhol—to name just a few.

“For me, it was not even a collection. It was things that I saw, and I liked,” Perlstein says. “To tell you the truth, I never count them. I’m not well organized.”

A selection of works from the Perlstein collection is now on show at Hauser & Wirth, New York (“A Luta Continua”, until 27 June). Reflecting on the differences between the art world then and now, Perlstein tells host Charlotte Burns: “Today, it’s not so much art anymore; it’s a real business. At that time, you could easily acquire works from the artist because it was more about friendship.”

From exchanging diamonds for art with Man Ray to hanging out with artists in New York in the 1970s at the legendary Max’s Kansas City, Perlstein talks about a life in art and his tastes (“ugly can be nice, too,” he says).

“What does it mean, art? Anything. You can make art from shoes, from a nice bag, from a hat—it’s also art. Everything is art,” he says. “Buy what you like.”

For the full transcript, click here

Sound bites from the show:

“What does it mean, art? Anything. You can make it from shoes, from a nice bag, from a hat. It’s also art. Everything is art. Buy what you like.”

When it’s ugly it can be nice, too.”

“I see what I like, and I’m happy with what I see.”


Sylvio Perlstein


Raised in Rio de Janeiro, Sylvio Perlstein has lived and traveled extensively between Brazil, Belgium, France, and the United States. Time and travel played fundamental roles in the evolution of his collection. He began in early adulthood to visit exhibitions, meet artists, exchange ideas with dealers and other collectors, and ultimately established a network of lifelong relationships that sustained an intimate, ever-growing understanding of artistic breakthroughs, revealed in a cache of hundreds of artworks in his holdings.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

The live record

Behind the Scenes with Sylvio Perlstein

6 Images

A Luta Continua. The Sylvio Perlstein Collection” exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, New York, 22nd Street

A Collector Follows His Nose Through the Maze of Modern Art” by Arthur Lubow in The New York Times (13 April 2018)

US Debut of the Sylvio Perlstein Collection at Hauser & Wirth, New York” in Blouin Artinfo (15 May 2018)

Sylvio Perlstein Collection at Hauser & Wirth — an extravaganza of weirdness” by Ariella Budick in the Financial Times (2 May 2018)

Where to look

"A Luta Continua: The Sylvio Perlstein Collection" at Hauser & Wirth (until 27 July)

13 Images