A black-and-white Ed Ruscha painting with the words “Let’s Be Realistic” spelled out in bold white letters hangs outside the sound-proof trading room at art collector Adam Sender’s hedge fund.
Sender’s curator, Sarah Aibel, 28, is giving me a tour of the art-stocked office in an old loft building in New York’s SoHo district.
“Trading is what he does for work,” Aibel says of Sender. “And when he’s not trading, art is what he does for love.”
In the trading room, the light is movie-theater low. Sender, who declined to be interviewed, is seated at what resembles a science-fiction command center, surrounded by two dozen glowing monitors.
Out in the hall, a Kara Walker mural runs along a wall. A pink-and-green neon sculpture by minimalist Dan Flavin illuminates a corner. An otherwise generic conference room is hung with a piercing John Currin painting. “The Activists” depicts a frail elderly woman seated before a microphone, holding a sheet with a presumed list of grievances.
“The traders are so focused on finance, the art gives them a break,” Aibel says.
Sender, 41, has collected art since 1998 and currently has about 800 works. Over the years he has bought and sold, including several auctions that yielded prices far in excess of what he originally paid.
Sender used to work at SAC Capital Advisors LP for Steven A. Cohen, another big art collector. A painting thought to be owned by Cohen, Edouard Manet’s “Self Portrait With a Palette,” sold at Sotheby’s in London last month for 22.4 million pounds ($33.7 million). Cohen paid $18.7 million for the painting at Christie’s International’s 1997 auction of the collection of Wall Street financier John Loeb.
A small portion of the collection hangs in the New York office, where about 25 employees conduct the business of Sender’s firm, Exis Capital Management. A rotating array of artworks hangs in Sender’s apartment in the Tribeca section of Manhattan. Yet more art fills his weekend retreat in the Hamptons section of Long Island. Another chunk is stashed in a warehouse in Long Island City, New York.
Eventually these works, and the rest of Sender’s collection, will be on view to the public thanks to a plan to open an exhibition space. Sender has acquired a property in Long Island’s picturesque Sag Harbor. Aibel declined to go into more detail.
In the meantime you can get a taste of Sender’s holdings through his website, http://www.sendercollection.com, which he re-launched late last month. He has doubled the number of works on the site and presents a video by William Kentridge, the South African artist whose retrospective at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art recently ended.
The website reveals Sender’s taste for intellectually challenging work and his penchant for certain artists. He owns about 80 drawings by Raymond Pettibon and 16 sculptures, installations and photographs by Matthew Barney, for instance.
Aibel describes the website as a “lending library” where museum curators can search for works they may wish to borrow for exhibitions. The website lists which works are out on loan. New York’s Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Swiss foundation Beyeler are among current borrowers.
Sender’s own corner office, with unobstructed views of downtown Manhattan, has some of his favorite artworks, including “Absence,” Luc Tuyman’s muted 2001 painting of an empty chair. The office does present more usual hedge-fund fare. Copies of Alan Greenspan’s “Age of Turbulence” and Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” grace an end table. An antique ticker-tape machine stands on a plinth.
Risque in Office
The art in Aibel’s office veers into the risque. A photograph by German artist Thomas Ruff depicts a blurry woman in lingerie towering over a man on a leash crawling beside her. Aibel joined Sender in 2006, working alongside curator Todd Levin, who spearheaded Sender’s collection from 1998 to 2008.
While much of Sender’s collection is notable for conceptual underpinnings, some of it is just pretty. A painting by artist Annie Kevans, a portrait of a sweet-faced young girl, is one of the artists classified on the website as “Up and Coming.” Sender bought it because “he just responded to the fantastic painting,” said Aibel. The work is slated to hang in the bedroom of Sender’s three-year-old daughter.