Adam Sender: The Art of Collecting

Adam Sender is a go-getter who graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in history, and went on to a successful career in the financial world. He worked as a portfolio manager at Point72 Asset Management before going on to start Exis Capital Management in 1998.

As Exis hedge fund manager, Sender made bank by monitoring 24 screens daily in his New York office. But money was not just an end in itself. It was to be spent on your passion, and for Sender that was contemporary art. By 2010, Sender had collected about 800 works–paintings, sculpture, and photography. Many were in and around his office. They included a black and white Ruscha painting with the words “Let’s Be Realistic,” a Dan Flavin neon sculpture, and a Kara Walker mural on the wall outside his office. He also had photographs by Matthew Barney. Sender’s curator Sarah Aibel said, “When he’s not trading, art is what he does for love.” She added that, in the intense world of finance, the art gives the traders a break.

In November of 2011, Sender put some of his collection on public exhibition. The exhibit was called “Home Alone,” and a house he owned in Miami was chosen as the site. It was felt that Miami had a diverse population, which would be attracted to the various different artists. The exhibit included works by Sarah Lucas, Raymond Pettibons, Raqib Shaw, and Thomas Ruff. Some works were commissioned especially for the exhibition. Although it was a public event, the number of people attending was limited due to the size of the house; a bigger exhibition was planned for later.

But things don’t always go smoothly in the financial world. In 2006, Sender sold 40 works for about $20 million. By 2014, Sender had closed his hedge fund and was looking to sell 400 works of art through Sotheby’s, making $70 million. The sale was estimated to take 18 months, and included works by 139 artists. In the sale were Cindy Sherman’s photo “Untitled#93,” which Sotheby’s thought would bring $2 to $3 million, and also John “Baldessari’s Commissioned Painting: A Painting by Edgar Transue,” which might bring another $3 million.

Sender has been praised for his knowledge of the art world, and for his astute choices. He bought pieces by established artists, but also brought his own vision to building his collection. He’s also been acknowledged for sharing his collection on his website. As well as selling works, he’ll be donating many to institutions.

In a 2011 interview, Sender said, “I was trying to buy the very best work.” It always pays to buy the best.

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