Kate Garner’s full-length photograph of a scantily clad teenage Kate Moss cuddling a teddy bear is a caricatured ode to the power and vulnerability of young womanhood. When printed in a finish dubbed “diamond dust” – as it is at the London home of Joy Abiola, vice president at private equity firm Cebile Capital – the work is an unapologetically kitsch piece of third-wave feminism in all its confusing, postmodern glory. That this was the first artwork Abiola acquired from Zebra One Gallery director Gabrielle du Plooy is an indicator of both her penchant for pop culture and her sharp eye for future appreciation. She paid £1,500 for it in 2013 as an undergraduate at University College London; today it’s worth £5,000, says Du Plooy. Not bad for a coup de foudre. “I bought it on a whim just because I loved it,” recalls Abiola. “I have it in a bedroom these days, but back then it was the hero piece in my living room.”
Elegant, with a composed, self-assured presence, Abiola worked at Citi Private Bank and Pantheon Ventures before joining Cebile. While building her career she has also been steadily adding to her art collection. “I always go for things that speak to me on a personal level,” she says, adding that Du Plooy – now both art adviser and friend – has a knack for knowing what makes her tick. Their almost monthly catch-ups, often over a glass of wine, have resulted in an array of high-impact works on Abiola’s walls, including an edition of one of David Hockney’s iPad drawings of tulips, Untitled 346 (2016, purchased this year for £15,000 and so bright it is almost neon; and Roy Lichtenstein’s Huh (1976) – the most valuable piece she owns, acquired for £18,000. At the heart of her collection, however, is a clutch of street-art pieces. Headliners are from Dom Pattinson, Dan Pearce, Dain, and D*Face, all of whom have made the transition from pavement to gallery in the wave that was popularised by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in the 1980s and resulted in Banksy’s cult status today.
Abiola’s favourite piece is This Fragile World by Suffolk-based Pattinson; bought earlier this year for £8,000, it has already appreciated by 50 per cent, says Du Plooy. “It’s a rare example using gold leaf. In the past few months a similar piece sold for £18,000 in LA.” Abiola owns a second, equally striking spray-painted work by Pattinson (bought in 2015 for £6,000) that depicts three zebras. “Both these pieces make me think of Africa,” she says, “and the colours make them playful and uplifting.”
Street art is a new focus for Du Plooy’s gallery, which was founded in 1978 by her father, selling works by the likes of Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe. Since taking over, Du Plooy has homed in on pop-style works by artists closer to her own generation – “emerging artists we believe will go on to have great careers. Dain is the perfect example; in the past year he’s been celebrated as one of the most influential street artists currently working in New York,” she says.
The Brooklyn-born Dain graduated from tagging walls to creating screen-printed and collaged artworks – often combining black and white images of Hollywood stars with spray paint, his signature “circle and drip” over one eye – which have been exhibited worldwide and feature in the permanent collection of Urban Nation, the Museum for Urban Contemporary Art in Berlin. “Being shown alongside cult figures like Banksy and Invader is another factor in the explosive rise in prices for his work,” adds Du Plooy.
It’s the mash-up of Dain’s work that appeals to Abiola, who owns two pieces, bought for £5,000 in 2017 and £8,000 in 2018. “The twisting and reconstructing of images is what makes it exciting and relevant,” she says. “It’s such an apt reflection of contemporary culture.” Likewise with the remixed homage to Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Girl in the Pink Converse (purchased for £2,000 in 2016, now worth £4,500) by Mason Storm – a Londoner known for hyperrealist paintings that put a provocative spin on famous images – and the nuanced, mixed-media Dwayne by Daniel Martin. The collaged and defaced portrait by the Dutch artist was bought for £2,000 at one of Du Plooy’s regular charity exhibitions, Identity, with a percentage of the profits going to The Mental Health Foundation. “It looks so different from my other works and from stereotypical street-art style,” says Abiola of the most subdued piece in her collection, “but it still has the same reworked approach to making an artwork.”
The shared aesthetic is broadly one of searing brights and irreverent collage, a mirror of the hip hop culture that was emerging in New York at the same time the language of contemporary street art was evolving. Abiola’s next collecting move, however, could be in the realm of sculpture: Du Plooy sees John Ahearn – who made his name with public art in the South Bronx during the 1980s – working well, while Abiola says her dream street-art purchase would be “Olek’s 2011 crocheted London taxi, without a doubt”. It’s a striking choice: a neon-adorned black cab by Polish artist Agata Oleksiak, the Christo of guerrilla knitting, who crochets around full-scale real-life objects. “We want the collection to grow organically and fit the existing space,” says Du Plooy. “Just imagine the fun we could have if Joy moved into a bigger place!”