Hester Diamond in Shanghai

By Sotheby's
Hester Diamond in Shanghai

H ester enjoyed traveling and making friends with people from all walks of life. Between 2002 and 2009, she and her second husband Ralph Kaminsky frequently traveled to and lived in China, often staying for three months at a time. They would rent an Art Deco style apartment in the French Concession in Shanghai – using it also as a base to travel around China. She loved ancient Chinese art and made it a must to visit the local museums wherever she went. And yet it was contemporary Chinese art that lay closest to Hester’s heart. She frequented local galleries and artists’ studios and picked out artists she considered best bets. Hester had the eye. All the artists that she bet on became the most recognized names in the contemporary Chinese art scene, collected and exhibited by major museums worldwide, and coveted by the most powerful collectors at auctions. In Hester’s eyes, Shanghai was the new New York, permeated with creativity and changes. The unique charm of Shanghai puzzled as well as dazzled her. Here, she found a sense of belonging.

"I loved Hester for her fearlessness, her eccentricity, her impeccable eclectic taste and her spontaneity; when she decided she wanted to know about Shanghai, she rented an apartment and stayed there for two years. She had boundless energy and was always surrounded by young people. I so admired her effortless flair for design; how she transformed her apartment, mixing contemporary design with old masters and Renaissance paintings. When I first visited her in her NYC apartment, she told me my Shanghai home was an inspiration for her own home; I was so thrilled and so humbled. And I miss Hester."


"Hester Diamond was someone ahead of the curve — or better, outside of the curve. I met her on her first trip to Shanghai and she wanted to see not just the traditional sights but loved our street food adventures, hitting the Shanghai bar scene, hearing young musicians, and experiencing Shanghai vibrant nightlife. I had no idea she was a collector of Old Masters until I visited her apartment at the Art Deco El Dorado building. But I saw Robert Viola video art at the same time. When I expressed admiration for her traditional apartment décor, she told me that she was redoing the apartment in Pop style. Hester was an original and her art collection reflects a combination of her unique perspective and extraordinary vision."

Han Feng, Designer and art collector. Photo: Manolo Yllera

"I met Hester in Shanghai in 2007, at the time when I was going through major changes in my personal and creative life. We were neighbours at the Jinjiang Hotel. She had been like a mother to me, welcoming me into her family and her heart, teaching me about life, about art, and most importantly about being passionate and curious about everything around us. I know it was this appetite for living life to the fullest, which was often expressed as a thirst for knowledge and a desire to discover, that had fuelled everything she had done, including her art collecting, and this is also her most important legacy."

"With unique insights and an extraordinary eye, Hester gave me a lot of advice and help. She is not only a visionary collector, but also a well-respected designer and artist. To me, she is an enthusiastic, warm-hearted, and dear friend as well as family. May she rest in heavenly delight."

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