Art | Finders Keepers

Large-scale sculpture

Adam Lindemann thinks big in business. With his adviser wife’s counsel, he applies the same strategy to his art collection. Bettina von Hase reports.

November 14 2010
Bettina von Hase

Montauk is a fashionable fishing community on the south shore of Long Island, New York. Follow the signs on Route 27, turn right at Deep Hollow Ranch, the oldest ranch in the US, and you soon find yourself in an enclave of art connoisseurs’ homes. There is photographer Peter Beard’s residence; the former Warhol estate; gallerist David Zwirner’s most recent acquisition; and last, but not least, the weekend home of Adam Lindemann and Amalia Dayan, which they share with their two small daughters. This couple with unusual and ambitious collecting habits live in a shingled house in lush gardens that drop down dramatically to rocks and crashing sea below. On the lawn, fortified in places for the occasion, are placed large-scale works by an array of the hottest artists of the moment.

Investor and entrepreneur Lindemann and art dealer Dayan focus on large-scale sculpture, about 50 per cent of their 150-piece collection. (The other half consists of paintings and furniture –mostly French items from the 1960s and 1970s, which Lindemann particularly likes.) “We never worry about size,” he says. Walking around their estate, the most spectacular piece is a 7m-high yellow teddy bear with a black lamp, made out of bronze by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, which sits on the lawn overlooking the ocean. Lindemann, a dark-haired mixture of jock and intellectual, commissioned Untitled (Lamp/Bear) (2005-2006) after Fischer showed him a picture of a fibreglass cast that he had installed outside the Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam. By the pool is a large, colourful 2008 aluminium work, The Ego and the Id by Franz West, which has recently come back from a stint at the south-east entrance to Central Park. The bear rules the roost, to the extent that pilots approaching Montauk Airport give directions such as “go left of the bear” or “right of the bear”.

Lindemann comes from a business background. After Yale Law School, he took a job on Wall Street at Oppenheimer & Co, before starting an investment firm and then a radio broadcasting company, Mega Communications, sold in 2007. He is CEO of Ikepod, a joint watchmaking venture with designer Marc Newson.

Lindemann and Dayan’s collection, which also includes art-filled homes in Manhattan and Connecticut, started when they met 10 years ago and has become well known for its boldness and financial clout. “It has balls, and not only because of the scale,” says Dayan, granddaughter of the late Israeli politician Moshe Dayan. “There is tremendous belief and commitment.” She met Lindemann at a Phillips de Pury preview in New York, where she was working. “I knew his brother, and I thought maybe there’s a slight potential he might buy something in the day sale.”

They became friends, and she taught him how to research, from the magazines he should subscribe to, to the artists he should look at. “My zone is artists of my generation,” Dayan says. “I really get it, I understand it intuitively.” Now an independent art dealer (with a gallery in Manhattan, Luxembourg & Dayan), she persuaded him to collect mostly those artists from whom they could get seminal works. Dayan knew the artists and brought these valuable relationships into the mix; Lindemann came along for the ride and found he really enjoyed himself. He says, “I was a boring, bourgeois collector before, bogged down by little details. Amalia pushed me to be the most ambitious, constantly looking at a lot of work”.

He had an epiphany when she took him to Paris to see Takashi Murakami’s show in 2002: “I had a feeling I was in a historic moment,” he says. “Amalia was worried I wouldn’t buy, having told the dealer I was a good collector, whereas I didn’t know anything then.” Instead, he bought most of the show. “I knew I’d hit the jackpot. It was just there. The stars, the moon, the art consultant; the skies parted and Moses came down from the mountain and handed me the 10 commandments.” Murakami epitomised the type of perfectionist, glossy artist of that heady time; in Lindemann’s words, he “made an entire artistic universe possible”. Fischer, meanwhile, succeeded precisely because he was the antidote of slickness, when it became clear in 2008 that the financial world had to stop spinning.

“I steer Adam towards the idea of an artist,” Dayan comments, “and he has the courage and vision to go forward.” Her interests lie above all in conceptual art, and her professional background – she studied history of art in Tel Aviv and New York – prepared her for the complex process of selection. Lindemann did not like Richard Prince’s “Rasta” paintings show at first, but bought one of them two years later. (“These images were still in my head. Everyone had trashed the show; but in fact, they looked like de Kooning paintings that people had loved just a year earlier – only more radical – so it was clearly a good time to be a contrarian.”) Likewise, he finally came round to Maurizio Cattelan after Dayan proposed him. She also had the financial acumen to realise when the right time came in 2008 to buy these two highly valued artists. It was not so much that their prices had gone down, but that works became available as collectors had to sell. “When the market softened, we decided to fill in what was missing.”

Lindemann and Dayan have courage and confidence in equal measure. Her guidance transformed his attitude and his existing collection of Warhols, Basquiats and African art. Now they own pieces by, among others, Jeff Koons, Jonathan Meese, Damien Hirst, Paul McCarthy, Anselm Reyle and Thomas Zipp. They aim to be as “dramatically different as possible from an evening sale at Sotheby’s. We try to avoid the trophy work, but go for the difficult, unexpected or out-of-favour piece,” he says.

However, he is also the man who bought Jeff Koons’ deep-pink Hanging Heart for less than $2m and sold it at Sotheby’s for $23.5m, making him a pin-up with hedge funders everywhere. “My process of art collecting is the same as what I did on the arbitrage desk at Oppenheimer & Co. I read everything; there’s nothing I don’t read about art.” The financial risk-taking has been worthwhile. “Being smart means smart on the art and on the money,” he says. “Amalia made the collection a good investment. She kept me engaged, and made it stimulating. In fact, art became my best investment.”