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The collector-philanthropist Shane Akeroyd has long been a quietly supportive art-world presence. As well as holding numerous institutional board and committee memberships in the UK and internationally, the British-born, Hong Kong-based FinTech entrepreneur is also underwriting the associate curator position of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale through to 2030 and recently initiated an annual £50,000 acquisition fund with the Tate. On 6 June he launched the Akeroyd Collection, an online platform that shares his extensive collection of film, video and moving-image works in a six-weekly programme of screenings and commissioned texts. The first programme features works by Tony Cokes, Joan Jonas, Takahiro Inamori and Lydia Ourahmane. Akeroyd, who is at Art Basel this week, tells us more about his collecting habits.
The Art Newspaper: What was the first work you ever bought?
Shane Akeroyd: My first piece was Flashers (1996) by Adam Chodzko and then not long after Grotto (2000) by Chris Landoni, who unfortunately is no longer with us. They were each making interesting work at that time, and I met them both. But I was also collecting a whole bunch of things, not just moving-image work. Around that time, I also bought a Damien Hirst spot painting, which is now on long loan to Tate.
You’ve always bought moving-image work in conjunction with other media.
I never thought about collecting moving-image work specifically until relatively recently when I realised that I actually have a pretty substantial moving-image collection. It’s around 200 pieces—15% of the overall collection, which is around 1,500 works. So, it’s not a big percentage but it just keeps growing because when you have a certain body of work you want to keep adding to it. It sort of creeps up on you; all of a sudden there are these groups and bodies of work, and instead of it being an occasional purchase it becomes more pre-meditated.
How would you define your taste?
I like stuff that is more challenging, that deals with issues that are important, whether it’s immigration, racial politics or gender politics, I’ve got a lot of queer art in the collection, and particularly in the moving-image collection. P. Staff is one of the first contributors to the website with whom I’ve also become very friendly with, thanks to [the curator] Polly Staple. She and Sadie Coles have both been very important to this whole project; it was Sadie’s idea in the first place.
What first turned you on to art?
I came from humble beginnings—a mixed-race kid in a council house in Kent with a teenage mum—so there was no money and I’ve always had to work. My brother and I were into Roxy Music and David Bowie, listening to music and, when we could, going to nightclubs in London. We were generally interested in culture before we really knew anything about it. Then, by happy coincidence, around 1983 I met [the gallerist] Paul Stolper. His father was a big dealer and I ended up hanging out in his house in Sloane Square; we started going out to shows and meeting artists. We’re still very good friends.
Much of your collecting seems to be shaped by the many relationships you have forged throughout the art world, with curators, galleries and especially artists.
Massively. I’m close to people who work in public galleries, in private galleries and of course, most importantly, the artists. Sarah Lucas is definitely one of my favourite artists because I’ve spent the most time with her over the years, and I’m very good friends with Joan Jonas. Being able to hang around with Sonia Boyce in Venice was a real privilege, and Ingrid Pollard is also someone I’m now developing a friendship with. I talk to artists a lot; it’s a great privilege.
Where do you like to eat or drink while you’re in Basel?
Highlight of the week and a wonderful celebration is always the midweek Kunsthalle Basel dinner at Restaurant Kunsthalle. I’ve also had some super-fun dinners with wonderful artists, gallerists and collectors at Rhyschänzli. But nothing beats lunch at the Restaurant Im Park at the Fondation Beyeler followed by an afternoon in the museum. That’s where the deal for the Tate British Collection acquisition fund was hatched with Maria [Balshaw] and Polly [Staple]!
What tip would you give to someone visiting Basel for the first time?
Get to know how the trams work or be with a friend who does!