Mary Aboujaoude at Thomas Canto's installation, Illusory Perspectives, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris
This week we get to know collector and Art Advisor Mary Aboujaoude.
Mary has always travelled extensively, having been raised in Paris and lived throughout the USA and Africa. It was this fluidity of movement that led her to begin collecting art at an early age, as a means of growing memories and a collection.
Through the mid-90s, after raising her family, Mary began exploring the inner processes of the art world. She spent time with other collectors, visiting private collections, foundations and attending art fairs.
Since 2005, Mary has been involved in dozens of solo and group installations for projects from Los Angeles to Gabon. Focusing on emergent and mid-career artists from Europe, Africa and the Americas, Mary enjoys working with artists directly to find engaging public and private installations that will suit their work.
She a special affinity for volunteering and fundraising efforts benefiting AIDS research and education for marginalised, underserved regions in the world. Today, Mary lives with her daughter, Gabrielle and works between Paris and California.
Latitudes: You mentioned you started collecting art from a young age. Can you elaborate?
Mary: Our family moved to Paris, France from New York in the early 1970s, and at that time my mother’s best friend was a known, French artist who became a formative part of influencing my love for artists and art. I bought my first artwork at eight years old, and asked my mom to hold onto it until I had my first home. The painting is a large-format oil, depicting a pastoral, countryside village in the Loire Valley, France. It recalled the view from the fast train window travelling as a child. The fields of colour, a church steeple and red clay roofs dot the countryside. The second most influential element of collecting came in my early thirties, when my best friend (an avid collector whose father was a prominent gallerist in Paris) began inquisitively wondering where “the next Picasso” was. Discovering new artists who would become known to our generation was an intriguing thought. With the changing art market and how visibly accessible art was becoming with the internet, finding good artists no longer rested solely in the hands of galleries or art institutions. In the face of a Covid-19 era, being able to connect and share art without walls or having to travel is ideal for this moment in time.
What was the first piece you acquired as an adult? A wooden African mask, made from found objects, from a local Congolese artist, while I was living in Kinshasa, Zaire in 1987. I liked it because he made a contemporary interpretation of his own ancestral mask from objects he found within his tribes discarded effects.
My most recent purchase is a new artist I discovered on Latitudes: Lunga Ntila, South Africa, who I acquired just this month.
Lunga Ntila, Dismantle, Digital collage, Edition: 10, 100 x 100 cm. ENQUIRE
A piece you are particularly proud to have in your collection? I have several artworks as gifts from artists that were given as a 'thank you' for working with them. I had the extraordinary privilege of visiting the Venice Beach studio of American artist Ed Ruscha. His work is among my most favourite in the world. While a friend was there to acquire a work, Mr Ruscha decided to sign a newly, unreleased book of his and slip in a small, penned illustration as a thank you for our visit. What a thrill!
You have an affinity for Africa, who are some African artists you have your eye on? I moved to the Congo at 21 and later set up a non-profit organisation mentoring young women in Cameroon and Gabon. During this period I explored many artists’ studios and since have enjoyed attending the NY/London African artists’ Contemporary ArtFair 1:54, since 2013. Some of the greats I have had my eyes on are Adejoke Tugbiyele, Joburg’s Giggs Kgole, Ethiopian Julie Mehretu and Benin’s Meschac Gaba.
What is it that leads you to purchase a specific work? Initially, I am drawn to a work by how the piece makes me 'feel' when viewing it. I usually ask myself questions, internally, to analyse how the work expresses itself to me by looking at the composition, scale, form, colour, movement and intention. It’s important to me that I find myself wanting to interact with the work visually, intellectually or emotionally. And finally, I am drawn to acquiring an artwork as a means of showing support to the artist and their career ultimately.
Is there a particular medium or style you tend to collect? Initially, I try to stay open-minded to any and every kind of artwork, but after many decades of looking at art, I am more sure of the kind of artwork I do not like. That said, I am open to mostly everything. I do love sculpture. I love the dimensional quality of sculpture in every form but I rather tend to collect artwork of artists who I know more about. As I learn more of the artist’s internal process and the meaning behind the work, I am more likely to be drawn to the artwork.
Works that caught your eye while browsing Latitudes?
Follow Mary on Instagram: @luvneverdies
To browse the full selection of works available on Latitudes, click here.
Further Reading In Articles
African Artist Directory