A systematic up-close look of art and life

Interview with art collector Roberto Toscano 

It all started with the purchase of an etching by Richard Serra in 2011 which turned out to serve as the very foundation for Roberto Toscano’s art collection. Since then he has been searching for artworks that somehow enter into a dialogue with this specific piece. Not only do they prompt questions about his perception of life, they also drive him to engage with them in a more systematic way. The best pieces fuels his curiosity and makes him wanna look at them from up-close. For Roberto Toscano, collecting art is an in-depth study of art’s physicality and life. Now, it is your chance to get a little closer to his collection…

Name: Roberto Toscano
Location: NY, NY, USA
Started collecting in year: 2011
Number of art works in collection: 40+

How did you become an art collector?
I started collecting art around 2011; being a composer, I had already been thinking about the relationship between the visual arts and music for many years – but it was not until 2011 that I decided to begin to acquire works for myself. Before that, my research was mainly focused on art from the first half of the 20th century, work that I would not particularly want to collect – not that I could afford any of the work that was preoccupying me at the time anyway.

How would you describe yourself as an art collector?
I collect in depth, I am looking to acquire as much work by the small number of artists I am obsessed with as I possibly can. I am especially focused on the work of Sterling Ruby, Oscar Tuazon, and Daniel Turner. I engage with DT’s work the most – the ideas he grapples with are closest to the analogues I am dealing with in my own work.

What was the first artwork you purchased?
The first work I acquired was an etching by Richard Serra from the WEIGHT and LEVEL series – in a way, that etching set an aesthetic perimeter for me engage with in the subsequent work I acquired.


What is the main motivation behind your collecting?
My main motivation is in being able to study work from up-close. I collect the work of sculptors – so actually physically having the work is a very different experience from seeing them in photographs; my goal is to extract as much information from them as I can. To build as many parallels and bridges between physical and sonic objects as I can.

Describe your collection in three words.
INDEX. MASS. ENTROPY

Is there any particular type of art that appeals to you or anything that unites all the works in your collection?
I started with the Serra and then attempted to add pieces that entered into some sort of dialogue for or against the tenets set forth by that particular body of work. Sort of like establishing a giant weight that other objects fall towards – this kind of gravitation around the Serra is always on my mind. 


How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?
Very important. Though it varies, I am very close with some of them and others I have only said a quick hello to at an opening. If they value their privacy, I am fine with that as well.

What do you enjoy the most: The hunt associated with collecting art or the joy of ownership?
The hunt, not in acquiring work per se, but in the anticipation of what these guys are going to come up with next. Whether it is Un Pont by Oscar or Particle Processed Cafeteria by DT, there are always new projects being developed which extend my understanding of the field and offer new possibilities for me inside of music as well.

What are the wishes for the future of your collection? What would you like to see happen to it?
I am open to showing the collection, though, it is still a bit early. I collect for myself, but am happy to share the work with whomever is interested in it.

What work of art do you wish you owned if the price tag did not matter?
I think it is too early to worry about this. My goal is to support the careers of the artists that have added so much to my own work and to my own life. This dialogue with them (whether direct or indirect) is what I care about the most. I rarely think in terms of price tag or market. I guess, right now, it would be a small painted-over photograph by Gerhard Richter; it is my favorite series of works by him.

How do you know when you stand before a really great piece of art?
When the work makes me question something about myself or my own work or life, then I know I need to engage with it in a more systematic way.

What is the best advice you have given or been given in terms of art collecting?
“In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.”

David Foster Wallace