When a Mentor Said Tear Down Your Collection and Start Over, They Did

Show Us Your Walls
By Jori Finkel
Arthur Lewis and Hau Nguyen at home in Los Angeles. Behind them, from left, are Samuel Levi Jones’s “Remnants of Fabrication” (2017), a sculpture made of materials that include pulped medical reference books; “Hair Portrait #2” (2012), by Mickalene Thomas; and “Enough About You” (2016), by Titus Kaphar. Mickalene Thomas/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Brian Guido for The New York Times
LOS ANGELES — Many contemporary art collectors have an adviser. Arthur Lewis is lucky enough to have a mentor, instead. A decade ago, Mr. Lewis, then a merchandising executive at the Gap, and his partner, Hau Nguyen, who owns hair salons, invited the collector Joy Simmons to their home here, where they had art by popular provocateurs like Jeff Koons and Paul McCarthy. She was not impressed. “Joy told us we have to take everything off our walls and start all over again,” Mr. Lewis said. “I’m really grateful for what she said,” he added. “It helped us discover our passion as collectors: artists who tell stories that we understand personally as two people of color.” [More]
Samuel Levi Jones's "Remnants of Fabrication" (2017); Pulped medical reference books, mixed media, steel; 30 x 14 x 14" [HxWxD]. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer
In the den are, from left, Amy Sherald’s “Pythagore” (2016), and Lauren Halsey’s “Kingdom Splurge” columns (2015). The ceiling art is Aaron Sandnes’s “Interest of the Strong (Thrasymachus)” (2015), and on the table, left, is “400 km North of the Equator”(2013), a sculpture by Oscar Murillo. Brian Guido for The New York Times
From left, Ferrari Shepard’s “I Like Coffee, I Like Tea” (2019); Tschabalala Self’s “Bodega Run” (2015); in background, Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s “Wings Not Meant to Fly” (2012); in far background, Bethany Collins’s “May 11, 1963” (2017); a Karon Davis sculpture, “Ishmael” (2017), center, near piano; and “Joy Ede” (2018), by Amoako Boafo. On mantel, from left, Kehinde Wiley’s “After La Négresse, 1872” (2006) and “The Goddess of Democracy” by the Propeller Group. Brian Guido for The New York Times