“A s an avid collector and activist for well-being, art has always been a gateway to expression,” says Kevin Love, the NBA power forward selected to guest curate this season’s Contemporary Curated auction on 28 September. “Having the ability to curate a group of works that speaks to my experience and reflects how I see the world has been an eye-opening exercise. There are a lot of factors that contribute to the value of art, but the way it makes you feel cannot be measured.”
Sotheby’s is honored to partner with collector and NBA star Kevin Love for this season’s Contemporary Curated auction. Over the past decade, Love has taken the NBA by storm, his career highlighted by five All-Star selections, an NBA Championship in 2016 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, an Olympic gold medal in 2012 and a FIBA World Championship in 2010. Love is a passionate collector of post-war and contemporary art, and his interests range from photography and film to sculpture and works on canvas. Highlights of his personal collection as well as the Curated auction include works by Rashid Johnson, Antony Gormley and Ed Ruscha, and his selections from the auction include outstanding examples by Ernie Barnes, Cindy Sherman, Cy Twombly and Jennifer Packer.
“Art is discovery.” Love says of his experience with artworks as well as collecting. “I started collecting to fuel my constant pursuit for curiosity and it’s taught me to take things as they come without fear or judgment,” he tells Sotheby’s. “The more you learn the more you realize you haven’t scratched the surface.”
Love has become an undeniable force beyond sports as he helps normalize the conversation surrounding mental health and creates an opportunity for others to do the same. Continuing his advocacy in this space, he founded the Kevin Love Fund in 2018, dedicated to inspiring people to live their healthiest lives while providing the tools to achieve physical and emotional well-being. Since then, Love has been awarded the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Change Maker Award by the Child Mind Institute, the NBA Cares Assist Award, and was an ESPY Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award finalist, all due to his work in mental health awareness.
Below, Love speaks with Sotheby’s about his collecting journey and shares insight into his picks.
A Life Less Ordinary: with Kevin Love
You own works by Cy Twombly, Antony Gormley, Ed Ruscha and Gordon Parks. What draws you to those artists?
I would say my collection includes a lot of 80s contemporary artists; John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, George Condo, Richard Prince – people and artists whose work represent what I like visually, but that I’m also drawn to through their backstories. Where they came from, how they got to be here, why they put paintbrush to canvas.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you acquired your painting by Rashid Johnson, and what the piece means to you?
With Rashid, we were introduced by a common friend, someone who has helped me and introduced me to several artists. From there, our relationship grew and has landed in a beautiful and meaningful place. Rashid is a unique human being and I’ve always found his work to be very powerful.
Is it important to you to meet the artists you are collecting, if they are still working today?
Absolutely. It’s great to find a heightened level of connection with the artist. Anytime you can have that relationship with the artist, and find a different level of connection with them, it adds so much more personal value to having the art living in your space.
For example with Ed Ruscha, it’s the humor and wit in his work. He expresses himself with fluidity in language and with text through the American vernacular. He just speaks in a way that some artists don’t. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he also has something to say. I’m a big fan of film and especially old Hollywood. That was something that I was truly drawn to with Ed: Selling the idea of the West Coast and the American Dream. I was born in Los Angeles, so it speaks to me. Ed’s a good man and someone I’ve also developed a great relationship with. I’ve visited his studio in Culver City a few times. I really admire and enjoy his work.
People know you as a basketball player, first and foremost – but are you also a creative?
I was exposed to art from an early age, especially photography. My dad always had a camera with him. It was something that was always around all the time. I mean, if you saw my father, you saw the camera. Photography was certainly the medium that was favored within our family. But I think art forms take many shapes and sizes. I think between basketball and athletics, that was also a major part of our family, as well as music. My aunts were professional harp players. My uncle is a singer, so I saw creativity take on many guises throughout my childhood. It’s where it all started but it became something different as my mind and my interest grew.
“With Ed Ruscha, it’s the humor and wit in his work. He expresses himself with fluidity in language and with text through the American vernacular.”
I often carry a camera with me. I think you just can’t forget to look up, and that’s how I think about photography. People are so worried about capturing moments with their phone, and I have truly no problem with that. But I feel like truly capturing the moment and the essence of it while still living in it, having your camera with you and being able to capture that is unlike anything else.
How important is it to you to surround yourself with, and live with, art?
I think what I’m looking for in artwork is something that, like a lot of people, it makes you feel something. You have a visceral response to it. In a lot of ways, it’s cathartic. I want to feel emotion. I want to feel it when I walk into a room. What does it feel like? Art makes me consider certain things in my life in a certain way. [Cy] Twombly does that, [Jennifer] Packer is the same, Ernie Barnes is the same. There are a number of artists that, for different reasons make you feel something.
Sometimes you can pinpoint it, sometimes you can’t. But I think that’s what’s special about it; it’s that every artist drives something different out of you. Artists have a responsibility to be truth-tellers and to speak about current times or past times. I think of a lot about Gordon Parks and the Segregation of the South series. I have his work at home and in my collection, and it feels like an art movement in itself. It feels very powerful in that way, and it’s saying something, it’s hopeful. It speaks to the absurdity of that time, but also modern times: how far we’ve come, but how far we have to go. There is such a heaviness to it, and you feel a lot in that moment when you consider and take in his work.
Who are the artists that most excite or inspire you currently, or that you would like to add to your collection?
One of the artists that has really inspired me, because he dabbled so much in the grotesque and the beautiful, is George Condo. His subject matter, the way that he makes his art. I’ve seen his process and how he goes about putting the brush to canvas or the pen to paper in his drawings. It’s really something to behold. With an artist like Twombly, or somebody that he has inspired, like Rashid Johnson, they speak so much through their art in terms of addressing mental health, anxiety, melancholy and where we are. I think you saw that a lot with Rashid’s work through the pandemic and how he is expressing himself in the current time.
When I have become friends with or spent time with artists, I value those authentic conversations. It’s been really fun. I feel like every person, every man or woman is my superior and that I can learn from them. And those are people who maybe aren’t problem solvers, if you will, but I still feel at the same time, there’s a lot to be learned from artists that have a lot to say. Their take on life is worth listening to.
What do you hope that your art collection will say about you to future generations of your family?
I love Antony Gormley – he is always interpreting the human body within space. I was drawn to it because as an athlete, you’re always understanding where you fit within your sport. But also from a human standpoint, you are always asking yourself, not only the meaning of life, but where do I fit in this world? … He has very grand, large works public displays of this sculptures that people from all around the world can see and say, “That’s a Gormley.” But I really love – even from a very ground-level, intimate perspective – I love seeing his work and just how it looks up-close.
I feel like it makes me consider a lot about myself and my interpretation of the human body. You start asking yourself a lot of questions and I think that’s healthy. It’s incredibly powerful for me to own the work and to live with it, and to see it every day. That makes me consider a lot in a very positive and healthy way.