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Interview
Art Basel in Miami Beach 2019

'My mother placed a Calder mobile above the bathtub': inside the collection of Candia Fisher

The New York-based arts patron on her fascination with maritime artefacts and her regret at missing out on one of Monet's waterlilies

Emily Fisher Landau (seated), with her daughter Candia Fisher, in front of Mark Tansey’s The Bricoleur’s Daughter © Ngoc Minh Ngo

The collecting gene runs strong in Candia Fisher. She inherited a love of art from her mother, Emily Fisher Landau, the noted collector and philanthropist who has a home in Palm Beach and made substantial donations to New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, where she serves as an honorary trustee. New York-based Candia, a collector and philanthropist in her own right, is a member of the century-old Fisher Brothers real estate dynasty. She is also the manager of the family’s art collection, and organised exhibitions at the Fisher Landau Center for Art in Long Island City, until it closed in 2017. More recently, she organised a show on her mother’s collection at LX Arts in New York (On the Turn: Selections from the Collection of Emily Fisher Landau, until 6 December).    

The Art Newspaper: What was your most recent buy?

Candia Fisher: I’m fascinated by maritime artefacts and so recently purchased a sailor’s “Wooly” needlework of sailboats, which was made around 100 years ago. I also recently purchased a Nicolas de Staël drawing that I love.

What is your preferred way of buying art?

I really do like auctions. I also love rooting through [antiques] shops like Avery & Dash in Stamford, Connecticut, or the small shops on Nantucket.

What is the most valuable piece in your collection?

To me, it’s a portrait of my mother by Warhol.

My mother placed one of her Calder mobiles over the bathtub

If money was no object, what would be your dream purchase?

There is one piece that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind— a Monet Waterlilies painting that [did not sell] in 2010 at Christie’s, London where they were asking £30m to £40m. I was there at the auction house after the sale and Amy Cappellazzo (who was still with Christie’s at the time) asked me if I “wanted to see something really amazing?” She took it out to show me and it took my breath away. It was one of the best [Monet’s] I have ever seen. It came up at Sotheby’s, London, in 2014 and sold for £31.7m [with fees].

Which work do you regret not buying when you had the chance?

So many. It wasn’t that long ago that you could buy works by René Magritte, Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Hart Benton and John Singer Sargent for what now seems like a steal. I feel like I missed some opportunities with those artists.

If your house was on fire, which work would you save?

Again, the Warhol portrait of my mother.

Which work in your collection requires the most maintenance?

The latest addition to my “collection” is a gorgeous peacock that made a home in my backyard in Connecticut about two months ago and never left! I am so in love with him that I got him a female companion; I have to build them a shelter so they can stay warm this winter.

What is the most surprising place you have displayed a work?

My mother placed one of her Calder mobiles over the bathtub and I loved living with it while I was growing up. She loved to look up at it while relaxing in the tub and I think that was quite clever. I only wish I enjoyed taking baths more.

Which artists, dead or alive, would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Mark Tansey because he is such a unique representation of an artist who has both technical skill and vision. John Singer Sargent because I want the dish on all of the women he painted… and the men! Vermeer because when you look at his work hanging next to other lesser Dutch painters in The Hague you understand why he was so revered. Van Gogh because I think we need someone really tortured at the table. Georgia O’Keeffe because I actually met her shortly before her death, but I was so in awe of the fact that I was meeting her that I didn’t process everything as much as I should have; I’d love a second chance. [Photographer] Laura Gilpin because she had such a soft and ethereal way of looking at people and nature and people in nature. Diane Arbus because her fascination with people and the human condition is so interesting.

What’s the best collecting advice you have been given?

In my case, I have really just tried to emulate my mother because I can’t do it any better than she did. The other person is [the artist] Jane Holzer.