Interview: Tech Visionary Oliver Luckett Shares His Amazing Contemporary Art Collection
Entrepreneur Oliver Luckett is well-known for founding companies that have helped shape the digital landscape. In addition to being a tech visionary, he’s a passionate art collector and supporter who, along with his husband Scott Guinn, has amassed an amazing array of contemporary art.
The couple’s Reykjavík home serves as their own personal gallery that boasts many Icelandic artists and American street artists. Both are a nod to Luckett’s trajectory. He first rose to prominence in the late 90s before eventually becoming one of the co-founders of theAudience in Los Angeles in 2011. The firm managed the social media pages of celebrities and brands such as Obama for America, Coachella, and Pixar. After selling the company in 2015, he and Guinn eventually made the move to Iceland.
Luckett has supported emerging artists while pursuing his career in emerging media. Offices for theAudience, for instance, were written in The Los Angeles Times as being “an explosion of visual stimuli” that featured custom floor-to-ceiling murals, abstract sculptures, and chandeliers like a hand-blown glass octopus. Not just a patron, Luckett is also a connector who uses his influence to showcase artists’ incredible creative voices and talents. The singer Usher was introduced to the work of Kozyndan when he visited theAudience’s offices, and their work was subsequently featured on his 2012 album called “Looking 4 Myself.”
Since ending his time at theAudience, Luckett founded Reykjavík-based startup EFNI. The firm helps “budding ideas bloom and reach their full potential.” From strategic planning to creative direction, they’ve assisted the launch of Icelandic companies like HausMart—an easy-to-use tool that allows an artist to open an instant store just by downloading the free app and having a camera phone.
We were honored to speak to Luckett about his and Guinn’s art collection and advocacy, as well as giving you a peek into their awe-inspiring home. Scroll down for our exclusive interview.
You were raised in an art-loving household. What is the first artwork you fell in love with?
I grew up in both Clarksdale, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. My father has always been a great patron of local artists and helped cultivate my love for art as well. The first artwork I fell in love with was by Thomas E. Eloby. When I was 10 years old, Thomas was set up in our guest house drawing in charcoal and ink. I would collect scraps from his collages, and later my dad gave me an amazing mixed media piece of Martin Luther King Jr. that hangs in our house today. My mom also did fun batiks and lost wax bronze casts.
How did your appreciation of art grow as you got older?
As I grew older and worked with more and more artists, and as their art became more intertwined with my businesses, I realized how important their work is to challenge us all and to break the status quo by expanding our thinking.
How would you describe your collecting taste?
Scott and I both have the same taste, but I think our style of collecting art is driven more by the people we meet and experiences we have. Almost every piece of art in our home is either from the artist themselves or from a shared experience.
What do you gravitate towards when buying art, and how do you decide what you’ll purchase?
We gravitate toward strong portraits and figurative, character-driven art. In regards to how we decide what to purchase… we tend to be very impulsive, and we saw no real rhyme or reason to the collection until we saw it all together for the very first time when we moved into our new home in Iceland (the first location/building that housed the entire collection!).
What was the most memorable artwork (or artworks) you’ve ever acquired?
That would have to be an undisclosed artist’s self-portrait that was in her show but not for sale. She showed up at my door at 5 am with the painting wanting a ticket to Amsterdam and $5,000 in cash in exchange for this particular piece that she knew we loved very much. We have still yet to hear from her and that was almost 20 years ago.
What are some of your favorite pieces currently on display in your home?
We can almost say that every piece in our collection is our favorite. BUT to name a few, we love all 40 pieces of Kozyndan, best friends of ours from Los Angeles who do amazing pencil panoramics in intense detail and digital color, one of which is called THE SPIRIT ANIMAL COLLECTIVE; Einar Orn who was our friend and art guide on our first trip to Iceland has many incredible one-line drawings; Arran Gregory is the artist who made our life-sized mirrored wolf sculpture; Gabriella Fridriksdottir has an entire guest room dedicated to all of her fantastical characters that live in the guest room next to the FURRY NEST ROOM, an entire floor to ceiling to wall-to-wall piece made of colorful artificial hair weave by Hrafnhildur Arnardottir (aka “Shoplifter”); Devin Liston is a close friend and street artist from LA who has many pieces in many styles throughout our house from his days in the trio CYRLE to his current solo artistry where he was our first Artist-in-Residence to create an exhibition inspired by an Icelandic found objects; and of course Daniel Lismore another very close friend and personal muse gave us the only existing life-size piece from his amazing show called BE YOURSELF EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN that we produced in Iceland at the Harpa music hall.
You are dedicated to supporting art and making it accessible to people. Can you talk more about what that means to you and how you do it?
We have always surrounded ourselves with artists in many ways. As patrons of their artwork, as close friends and mentors, as well as trying to build a family network and a collaborative environment that brings together business, art, and meaningful relationships that extend beyond the present time. It gives us great joy to see artists we know and help cultivate beyond the two of us and work in harmony with other artists they would not normally think to work with (unlikely pairings such as Azealia Banks and Daniel Lismore to Jack and Jack and Can’t Stop Good Boy).
One of the reasons we were able to purchase and live in our current home in Iceland was to carry on the Art legacy the building was originally constructed for. As mentioned earlier, our close friend and talented artist Devin Liston came to live in our house for just over 6 months as we renovated and prepared for the arrival of all our art and furniture from LA. He created an exhibition that was a study of Icelandic artist Birgir Andresson. Birgir was famous for creating amazingly descriptive portraits, but because his parents were blind they were all done in text over Icelandic Pantone colors.
In Devin’s show, he painted all of these portraits in his own style which was the first time anyone got to see these images of Birgir come to life through the eyes of another artist. We hosted this first exhibition in the Kjarval Husid main living room. The most rewarding aspect to this show was definitely seeing Hogni Oskarsson and his wife Ingunn Benediktsdottir purchase the first and most magnificent piece Devin created for the show. The other interesting element to Devin’s exhibition was that each piece was created on found or reused objects… one of which hangs in our house.
Finally, one of our favorite projects we created together was at Memphis University School with the help and guidance of our friend Grant Burke who heads up the arts program at our alma mater Scott and I coincidentally both attended! The Luckett-Guinn Artist-in-Residence program houses a local artist to create a piece of art on campus during school hours. They get to see the artist’s process and have a much more personal experience to help cultivate their own appreciation for art. Even if a student “doesn’t like” the art, Grant, Scott, and I still see that as positive because at least they are being challenged to find out what they don’t like and maybe even why…
Is there an artwork (or an artist in general) that you don’t have in your collection but would love to have?
So much of our collection is about self-discovery and serendipity… so we just don’t know what we don’t know yet. When it comes to art neither of us is driven by the feeling of desire or need, it is much more driven by the feeling of adventure and serendipity.
What are tips for someone who wants to get into art collecting?
Collect what you truly love and what immediately inspires you. Follow through on gut instinct. Don’t second-guess yourself by what other people think. The art surrounding you is for you and it should remind you of that initial emotion, that initial wonder, that initial connection, and it should express the part of you that is unique.
Be yourself.. everyone else is already taken!
All photos by Eugene Kim / My Modern Met unless otherwise noted.
This article originally appeared on My Modern Met.