Style | The Aesthete

Tobias Meyer talks personal style: Part Two

Sotheby’s worldwide head of contemporary art discloses more of his personal tastes and preferences.

November 12 2009
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is artist Nicolas de Staël [1914-1955]; when I was 16 I really wanted to look like him. I love the simplicity of his look, the fact that he always had these impeccable white shirts. And I must say, someone who always gets it right is Tom Ford. He really never misses a beat.

In my fridge you’ll always find several litres of the German mineral water my grandmother always had, called Apollinaris, which I can get in New York; and Fage Greek 2% yoghurt and fresh fruit.

The best souvenir I’ve brought home recently was great images in my head – particularly, as I think now, of Patmos. I don’t really collect when I travel.

A recent “find” is a sandwich shop in Vienna called Trzesniewski, in the Dorotheergasse, which is actually a rediscovery, as I went to it often as a student. It’s still simple, inexpensive, totally its own thing. It’s located on the ground floor of a baroque building and serves these amazing spreads on dark bread which you have with a “pfiff” – a tiny glass of beer. Dorotheergasse 1, Vienna 1010 (+43-512 3291;

My favourite room is the kitchen in our New York flat. It has an English Regency table and Danish Biedermeier chairs. It’s cosy but not conservative. I love the moment we have breakfast early in the morning, for the view as much as the room. The sun on the park always inspires me.

The best gift I’ve given recently was a drawing by Matthew Barney from the last performance he did in LA, which was called Ren. I gave it to my partner Mark [Fletcher, an art adviser]. Mark used to work with Matthew Barney – he’s his artistic hero.

The site that inspires me is any ocean or sea, the Mediterranean in particular. I love the idea of approaching and reaching the edge of an ocean, because it really feels like you’ve arrived somewhere. When I was a child and we’d drive to the sea, we’d play a game to see who’d spot the water first.

An indulgence I’d never forego is buying art. I have this theory that certain works are endlessly inspiring, and others have a finite ability to inspire you. Sometimes you know which is which, but you still go there either way, because you think, “Let’s just see. This is worth exploring and getting something from, even if just for a bit.” Others you know will be keepers. Doing both helps you to keep an open mind, which is arguably the most important part of collecting.

The artist whose work I would collect if I could is Picasso, if I were constrained to focus on only one, for the sheer breadth of his talent, the consistency of interesting output, the diversity of media. You could buy anything, everything, and you wouldn’t be bored.

If I didn’t live in New York, the city I would live in is London, because it’s global and comfortable at the same time. Ideally, in one of those beautiful studio buildings in Glebe Place in Chelsea. I could never afford it, but that doesn’t matter.

If I weren’t doing what I do now, I would want to be Stanley Kubrick’s cinematographer. Exceedingly specific, I know, but think about it: Barry Lyndon, Dr Strangelove. To just sit next to him, to visualise and create those inimitable shots with him… Everything he did was a complete stroke of genius.