Navin Thukkaram is a technology investor and entrepreneur who has achieved a great deal at a relatively young age. He was previously a Partner at Vulcan Capital, where The Wall Street Journal reported his investments generated over $1.5 billion in returns. Following Vulcan, Thukkaram was Chief Operating Officer and an angel investor in Qwiki, a mobile video startup acquired by Yahoo! in 2013. He has been featured on CNBC, Fox News Business, Fortune and other major media outlets. Thukkaram is on the board of SkyKick, a cloud software company, and is an advisor to the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations.
Where do you see tastes moving with a new generation of art collectors entering the market?
I believe the next generation of art collectors wants to feel even more connected to the art they acquire. This certainly goes for me. The story behind the art and the artist’s journey are just as important as the visual presence of the artwork.
Silicon Valley has famously produced scores of relatively young people who have rather profound means. Do you sense that art plays a significant role in the tastes of that increasingly influential community?
Silicon Valley is, at its core, a place of enormous creativity. Creative people are always drawn towards art. While you see more substantial art collections among the older, more established residents of the Valley, I know many younger technology executives that caught the collecting bug shortly after selling their first company.
Is an enthusiasm for art something that you grew up with in your family or is it something that you have come to personally later in life?
When I moved to Seattle after business school with tons of debt, there wasn’t a big art budget for my one-bedroom rental apartment. But I was able to get started by buying inexpensive original art from local artists. It was only much later that I developed a deeper appreciation for collecting and began to do so seriously.
What are some of the driving principles that govern your art collecting tastes?
Every significant piece in my collection has a story. I want to feel connected to the art, because the story is as important as the art itself. Why is it significant to the artist’s life or the history of its genre? How does it reflect the period, culture or the artist’s creative journey? Further, a prudent strategy is to collect the highest quality pieces that you can afford, instead of spreading resources across too many works. And of course, buy art that you are excited to look at every day!
Are there any artists that you are particularly taken with at the moment?
I recently began collecting works by Jacob Felländer, a well-known Swedish photo artist collected by the Swedish Royal family and the Clintons. To me, his art is a visual representation of what it means to be alive today and live in global cities like New York or Stockholm. Notably, Felländer pushes, or maybe breaks, the boundaries of what a photograph can be and brings many other disciplines into this work.
Navin Thukkaram will appear in conversation with photo artist Jacob Felländer at Sotheby's New York on 2 October, 2016 at 12pm. The talk will be followed by a tour of the Photographs exhibition with Senior Specialist and Director of Sale Emily Bierman.