After collecting for years and getting involved with a number of art and culture institutions in New York, Liz Swig decided to step out on her own, founding LIZWORKS in 2014. The project pairs contemporary artists with brands to create unique collaborations and limited editions, which so far have included partnerships with Jeff Koons, Bernardaud, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Selima Optique, and more. This week in Miami, two pieces from LIZWORKS are available for purchase—“Happy View” by Vik Muniz for Selima Optique at the Design Miami/ Marketplace, and “Jungle of Eden” by Paola Pivi at The Webster.
Whitewall spoke with Swig to hear more about the new commission.
WHITEWALL: You are a long-time collector, you count many artists as your friends, you’re involved with so many organizations and institutions. But what made you decide to take it to another level, founding Lizworks, where you pair artists with brands?
LIZ SWIG: You know its interesting, as you said, I really grew up surrounded and gravitating towards art, design, films, anything and everything that dealt with culture. That brought me to majoring in art in college and then starting to collect almost instantly right out of college. And then, you know how things happen, one thing sort of goes into another and life takes you where you wind up going. To make a long story short, I think the first board I went on was the Israel Museum, I think they’re amazing. Then I became involved with The Whitney and The Film Society. I was passionately involved with each and every one of these organizations. I revamped their fundraising efforts through galas, reaching out, and producing for them. Eventually, from doing these things for all these institutions, I thought it would be really great to do this for myself.
I had it fixed in my head that I wanted to see a canvas for artists in dinnerware. I loved the idea of creating a tablescape as just another canvas, you know, eating with a David Salle or a Jeff Koons or Marina Abramovic. I had been in Paris for fashion week and met Michel Bernardaud. He had just done a plate with Rudolf Stingel, and I thought “Oh my God, Michel, this is what I want to do!” I started working with them, bringing artists to really collaborate and design. And it just took off from there.
What I do and I love doing is the really unexpected. I work with artists and brands to take them to other places that I think are unique, fun, and smart. That’s how it began. And then I had this idea of seeing the world through the artists’ eyes and creating artist-designed eyewear, and there’s more ideas like that to be hatched from this little brain.
WW: It seems with LIZWORKS your goal is to bring this level of integrity in the connections that you can make. It’s like you can understand both sides, and can bring it to the next level. Do you see it that way?
LS: That is really what I want to do and I believe in. It’s interesting because it’s the exact same way that I went about collecting, it’s the same way I went about being on these boards. I hope to bring an integrity to it. I have very little interest in just putting a name on something just for the sake of it. It doesn’t speak to me. I try to create something logical but unexpected and with integrity, creating a whole new dialogue for both the brand and the artist.
WW: You mentioned becoming interesting in “seeing the world through the artists’ eyes,” which I’m assuming lead to your collaboration with Selima Optique, who you’ve worked with to create eyewear by Vik Muniz, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and now Paola Pivi—debuting in Miami. From a collector stand-point, what kind of role you see editions like these playing in future collections?
LS: That’s an interesting question and I don’t know if I really have an answer. I know that my editions are aimed at many different people in that, let’s say for Vik or Sugimoto, the person who really adores these artists and wants something really unique but usable, that speaks to a collector that really wants to expand what they’re collecting in this artist. And then the person who does not have the ability to go into the realm of an artist but they really adore and they want something that is really limited, we also speak to that.
I think that with the blurring and merging of art and fashion and film and hotels… I think editions are going to become more popular in a different way than they have been. Everyone wants an Andy Warhol T-shirt from Uniqlo or a Koons bag from H&M. Those are editions of a kind.
If you really are providing in the marketplace limited-editions of integrity and quality, I think you’re speaking to a lot of people.
WW: This week in Miami you’ll be debuting a new limited edition series at The Webster from Paola Pivi with Selima Optique. How did that collaboration come about?
LS: This project with Paola is so cool. I love working with her. It’s a project that’s about love, fun, and spirit. I had this idea of telling a story, almost like a romance told through eyewear. There’s a feminine set of glasses and a masculine set of glasses and they meet and have this romance. The shapes are based on insects, so there’s a butterfly and a caterpillar, and all these sorts of things that grow and are organic in colors of pink and lavender.
I commissioned an artist to tell the story in a comic book that comes with the piece. So you get a great box that has an icon with one if the images from the comic book and a really cool pouch, whichever glasses you want, and a comic book all debuting at The Webster.
WW: And you’ll also be showing Vik Miuniz’s “Happ View” project at Design Miami/, as well, right?
LS: Yes exactly. It launched at the end of September in New York. It is just a happy, fun collaboration. It was a dream to work with Vik. He wanted some sort of fun, light, happy, Brazilian colors and we did that.
WW: This is your first time presenting Lizworks during the Miami fairs—are you wearing a lot of hats this week though, as both a collector and multiple museum board member?
LS: I will be wearing multiple sunglasses [laughs], forget the hats!