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The Los Angeles–based collector Alberto Chehebar’s love of art really started with Keith Haring. If you were in New York in the mid-eighties, chances are you would have found him at the artist’s Pop Shop. When he could, Chehebar bought a subway drawing, and his artist-focused collecting has continued since then.
Living in Miami and now L.A., Chehebar has avidly built relationships with artists, alongside Jocelyne Katz for the past 15 years. Late last year, the pair let us into their home, which has sweeping views of the city. Works by George Condo, KAWS, and Jonas Wood are found throughout the light-filled space, along with midcentury modern furniture. He spoke with Whitewaller about a few recent acquisitions he’s excited about, and why collecting has no rules.
WHITEWALLER: What were your early experiences with contemporary art? Is it something you grew up around?
ALBERTO CHEHEBAR: I grew up with art and design in my house. My parents have always been very passionate about it. I definitely got the bug from them.
WW: How did you start collecting? What was your first piece, and do you still have it?
AC: I went to school in New York in the mid-eighties. Keith Haring was all over the place. I used to go to the Pop Shop every opportunity I had and spend everything in my pockets on posters to hang in my college dorm. My first year back from college I bought my first work from Alberto Mugrabi. It was a Haring subway drawing. Alberto and his dad, Jose, were just getting started in the biz. They were three or four years into it.
I still have it and live with it. This was 30 years ago.
WW: How has it evolved since then?
AC: I went back to Colombia to work and immediately started buying artists that were around me and were important in the national scene. Art back then was very local.
It wasn’t really until 1999, when I moved to Miami, that my collection really took off. I got deep into photography. From there I jumped to everything imaginable. I’m an impulse buyer—I have no rules. I buy what I like. Supporting young artists and being able to have a conversation with them is really where it’s at for me.
We’ve been collecting together, Jocelyne Katz and I, for 15 years. We do the fairs, studio visits, and auctions together. Her patience and sense of calm and my impulsiveness and neurosis have proven to be a great recipe for us.
WW: What’s a recent acquisition you’re excited about?
AC: I bought a Judith Linhares and an Eliza Douglas yesterday. I’m really excited about both.
WW: How would you describe the community of collectors in L.A.?
AC: We moved to L.A. five years ago following the art, not the collectors, so I really couldn’t tell you much about them as I haven’t met many of them yet. My community here and my friendships are all with the artists.
WW: What are you looking forward to at and around Frieze Los Angeles?
AC: L.A. deserves an amazing fair. This is the creative capital of the world. I can’t wait to see the whole city transformed into one work of art.
WW: What’s a show you’ve seen recently you’re still thinking about?
AC: I saw two very different shows recently in New York: Mark Grotjahn’s new body of work at Gagosian and the small works of Lisa Yuskavage at David Zwirner. Both were epic, emotional shows for me.