Born in Zurich, educated in Paris and lived in New York in the 1980s, Suzanne Syz is the definition of a delighted creative spirit. Collected by royals and celebrities around the world, her one-of-a-kind jewelry designs are inspired by fairy tales, travel, and indispensably, art and joy. Ever since her encounters with the art world’s legendary stars like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons, her lifelong passion for contemporary art has guided her and her husband to build a inspiring art collection.
What made you want to start collecting art?
I’ve always been attracted to art since my childhood. My father used to paint aquarelles in his free time and collected art. But it was in New York in the early 80’s that we really decided to collect. We were lucky enough to meet talented artists through our friend Bruno Bischofberger, such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente and Julian Schnabel.
What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
Artists of “now” – living in the present and being surrounded by pieces that reflect today’s artistic movements.
When did you fall in love with a piece of art? What was it?
The First time I fell in love with a piece was in 1982 at the first exhibition of J.M. Basquiat in the cellar of Annina Nosei’s gallery in Soho. An “Indian Head”, brilliant!!
What is your focus regarding the artists in your collection? Are you more interested in emerging or renowned artists?
In general, our collecting goes mainly with emerging artists! Exceptions are Elaine Sturtevant and my dear artist friend John Armleder.
Is there any particular type of art that has consistently attracted you, or anything that unites all the works you have acquired?
I really buy what makes me vibrate. Some pieces are very powerful, others unconventional, or even disturbing such as “Fred the Frog rings the bell” by Martin Kippenberger, which is hung on the wall of my sitting room alongside others pieces.
What was the first artwork you purchased? How many artworks do you own?
Among the first ones was an aquarelle self-portrait by Francesco Clemente. The collection now has about 1200 pieces.
Where do you display your collection?
Part of it is in our bank in Geneva, in my office and houses; some are lent for international exhibitions; and others are in storage. But we like to live with the pieces, so none of them really stay in storage for long.
There are exhibitions in Geneva to display your art collection publicly, how was the experience?
We showed a small part of the collection at Art Genève last year, and it was a great success. We will also show about 14 pieces from our art collection at the Musée d’Art Contemporain in Geneva.
What considerations guide you to make a purchase?
It has to fit into the collection; and our curator Nicolas Trembley, my husband and myself have to agree to buy the piece!
How important is it for you to meet the artists who created the artwork?
It is extremely important for me to meet the artists in person and also exciting to learn what inspire them!
You are having Nicolas Trembley as the curator of your collection. How would you describe the cooperation/relations with him?
Total harmony! Nicolas is a very valuable and trusted adviser.
What is your advice to young and fresh collectors?
Buy with your heart, instincts and just slightly over budget! (laughs)
The Smiling Lady Looking at the Art World
Could you share with us some interesting stories from your encounters with legendary artists Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and Jeff Koons?
For the birth of my first son, Marc, we asked Andy to do a portrait of myself holding Marc in my arms. I went to the Factory, had my Polaroid done and waited for the call. When I arrived to see the painting, I was disappointed as I had my lip closed and looked very strict. I’m a smiling and laughing person, and as I did this portrait for my son, I wanted him to see me smiling! So I took my courage and talked to Andy about it. He was a bit surprised to start with (as he was already a superstar), but he said “ok, I’ll see what we can do, We’ll call you”. He then called and I went to the Factory! He was so surprised of my first reaction that he finally made 3 different portraits of Marc and myself and gave me all three of them! I was so thrilled about it and love them!
Jean-Michel was always cracking dirty jokes and I used to cry from laughing; that’s why I got “your teeth” drawn with a marker on a dinner napkin from him, which I still keep preciously!
What was your happiest moment being involved in art?
The collection being recognised with a first prize by The Swiss Institute of New York.
Why has art become important in your life?
I couldn’t live without being surrounded by art. It gives me enormous joy!
What are you especially excited about in regard to art in 2016?
Looking forward to see Art Basel! Even after over 30 years, it is still super exciting to discover new talents!
Do you find any particular link between the art you collect and the jewelry you design? If yes, what is that?
Art inspires me for my designs.
Who in the art world inspires you the most for your jewelry design?
Contemporary art in general inspires me, no particular artist! One: “General Idea” from the 60/70s! (Pills)
What do you think are the commonalities between artists and jewelry designers? Would you consider yourself actually as an artist?
No matter which artist or designer in particular, creative people are inspired by different things or happenings in their lives and translate that into their art!