The Art Of Succession: The Roy Family Collection Guide

Tiger, Lion, and Leopard Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens 1616, which features behind the Roy family in a promotional photo for HBO's first series of Succession. Image © Christie's / Tiger, Lion, and Leopard Hunt © Peter Paul Rubens 1616
Louis Denizet

Louis Denizet, Head of Acquisitions[email protected]

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With the much-awaited finale of HBO's viral hit, Succession, we take a deep-dive into the covetable art collection featured on the show. Charlotte Stewart, Managing Director at MyArtBroker, is joined by Fanny Pereire, the art curator behind the show, and many other high-profile series, as they discuss artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher Wool, and more.

In a captivating and enlightening conversation with Fanny Pereire, we gain valuable insights into the significance of well-curated art collections for fictional narrative and character development. Pereire, renowned for her work with esteemed clients like Logan Roy of Succession and Bobby Axelrod of Billions, casts light on the crucial role she plays as the visionary behind the art choices of some of our most beloved (or loathed) billionaire characters.

The recent surge in attention towards featured art collections in televised dramas has generated considerable interest in contemporary culture. Pereire reveals that this trend emerged as a response to strict copyright laws within the film industry, which created a demand for contemporary art curators with specialised insight and expertise in selecting artworks that reflect the lives of the characters. Since artworks are unique, reproductions of originals are created, involving reproduction licenses that mirror the principles of copyright laws.

The success of these television shows not only fuels our insatiable desire to connect with characters and their lavish lifestyles but exemplifies the artistic intersection between different mediums in the creative industry. Pereire describes her role as "creating a bridge" between the art world and the film industry providing artists with another platform to showcase their works outside the traditional setting.

The integration of curated art collections in television series demonstrates a commendable level of artistic patronage and enhances the overall contemporary appeal of the productions. Their support and patronage of art forms of all mediums also provide a unique opportunity for the artists to add a new dimension of provenance to their artworks.

"It's a very high-level product placement for artists to be able to showcase works in these stories. Well, it has become… but they certainly didn't see it that way until then. With some of the artworks, the film set is now considered part of their provenance."
- Fanny Pereire

Art has for a long time been connected to brand collaborations, a fact which Succession highlights, not least as we saw Kendall Roy sporting many designer outfits so exclusive they lay on the cusp of wearable art. In Season 3, for example, he sports an oversized chain designed by contemporary artist Rashid Johnson, in collaboration with Liz Swig, in a moment which seems to highlight the inevitable convergence of the art, luxury goods and film and television worlds when money is at play.

Untitled (Anxious Man) by Rashid Johnson. The image is of a humanoid, square face created in frantic black crayon scriblles on a cream background. Image © Whitney Museum of American Art / Untitled (Anxious Man) © Rashid Johnson 2018

The conversation with Pereire not only had us captivated with insights into the meticulous process of reproducing artworks and the subsequently filmed destruction of the works, but underscores the importance of the collaborative artistic process.

Where art, money, and film converge, art is not only created, but also destroyed; as Pereire explains, the most common contractual element of licensing artwork reproductions for television or film is an obligation to destroy reproductions once filming is complete. One notable destruction Pereire recalls is the filming production of Changing Lanes (2002), where she vividly describes the astonishing moment when an Antony Gormley sculpture was suspended and dropped from a crane from the ceiling of The Armoury. The seemingly iconoclastic act resonated with Gormley himself, having expressed that he "loved" watching the footage.

Beyond the logistics, Pereire emphasises throughout her conversation with Charlotte Stewart, the crucial role of curation in shaping the character's personalities within the series. Although careful not to reveal too much, she did tell us one aspect of her approach: her team never refers to the actor by name. Instead, their focus lies on understanding the character and selecting artworks that would establish their art collection and tastes.

Read below to find out more about the characters of Succession and the art collections that they would flex!

Spegazzini #01 by Frank Thiel, as featured in HBO's Succession - MyArtBrokerImage © Sean Kelly 2014 / Spegazzini #01 © Frank Thiel 2012/13

Logan Roy

The ruthless patriarch of the Roy family, whose loud expletives and icy stares silence boardrooms equally quickly; his taste in art collecting leans towards bold, imposing pieces that reflect his desire for dominance and control.

Logan’s personal collection— seen in private settings such as his bedroom, where he has a small Egon Schiele study and Juan Gris paintings on each side of the doorway, or in passing conversation, when a joke is made about burning Logan’s Paul Gauguin collection for insurance money— mostly reflects Logan Roy’s age, and more traditional tastes.

As Fanny Pereire explained to us, Logan’s self-made status and decades-long rise to power helped to inform a steadily built, well-advised and traditional collection.

Meanwhile, artworks and artefacts seen at his offices serve explicitly as a backdrop to his titanic power. In positioning, for example, Frank Thiel's Spegazzini #01 (2012) as Logan’s backdrop, in a scene where Kendall watches on, Pereire reveals that the artwork was intended to become a daunting figuration of Kendall’s relationship with his father. Similarly, in his office, Logan’s desk is backgrounded by a row of historical prints and ancient armour; doubtless reflecting his appetite for gory and militaristic business operations.


Kendall Roy

As the overly ambitious, tormented and self-defined prodigal son, Kendall Roy’s art collection reflects the manic tumultuousness of his tastes and enthusiasms (as in business plans) with a chaotic mix of avant-garde installations and provocative works.

As exemplified by ‘KenFest’, in Season 3 Episode 7, Kendall’s tastes tend to revolve around his image of himself as a martyr – literally, he compares himself to Jesus, alongside some frequent and equally uncomfortable attempts to insinuate himself with New York’s underground hip-hop scene. For this reason, we would not be surprised if Kendall owned at least one Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, seeking his ‘crown fit for a king’ there.

Again, in Season 3, and reflecting his somewhat misguided identification with hip-hop culture, Kendall Roy can be spotted wearing an oversized gold chain, from a line tellingly entitled 'ANXIOUS MEN', designed by contemporary artist Rashid Johnson in collaboration with Liz Swig.


Roman Roy

Roman’s sarcastic and irreverent attitude to pretty much everything makes it difficult to imagine him enjoying any art too sincerely. While this leads us to think he is probably the most investment-minded of the siblings when it comes to art collecting, we can’t help but wonder if he doesn’t also have a secret private collection that reveals his vulnerable side – namely, his issues with parental figures and eventually his grief at Logan’s death. With a love life that is in equal measures strange, overdetermined, and clinical as is Roman Roy’s, it is easy to envision a collection comprising cold Naked Portraits by Lucian Freud, and depictions of grief-twisted figures such as Francis Bacon’s.

High Society by Cecily Brown - MyArtBroker Image Sotheby's 2006 / High Society © Cecily Brown 1998

Shiv Roy

As the most level-headed of the children, and a calculating daughter, who is always ready to outmanoeuvre her siblings and seize power for herself, Shiv Roy’s art collection surely boasts refined, abstract pieces that exude sophistication and command attention through subtlety. Speaking with the art advisor to the show, Fanny Periere, we mutually concluded that Shiv likely owns more female artists than her patriarchal family. Pereire professed a wish that she had procured Shiv a work by British contemporary star, Cecily Brown, whose work is influenced by Abstract Expressionists Willem de Kooning and Francis Bacon. But maybe Shiv would also be interested in some historically overlooked female artists too-Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell’s abstract expressionism suit Shiv’s refined taste, big budget, and affinity with underrated women in equal measures.

All four seasons of Succession also explore Shiv Roy’s divided affiliation with the family name, and with democracy. Once showing a promising career, independent of the family business, in political advisory, Shiv battles against her father to maintain American ideals, and later with her brothers to prevent them from calling an election in favour of an extremely right-wing president. Perhaps, then, her art collection also features political overtones; works might include abstract Gerhard Richter canvases and one of Leon Golub’s more moderate portraits.

The virtual art collections curated for television series like Succession, by experts such as Fanny Pereire, have become a hot trend, bringing together the worlds of art and entertainment in a captivating way, and feeding an art market that sees investment, flex culture, and the ability to build a collection that tells a personal narrative as convergent goals.

In Succession, the characters' collections define their tastes and reveal their aspirations and struggles, in a visual feast that takes us deeper into their world. From Logan Roy's traditional and imposing pieces to Kendall Roy's avant-garde and provocative choices, the art reflects the characters' complex, albeit fictional, lives, in a way that is not too dissimilar to the revealing choices of real art collectors today.

Read, or listen, to the full MyArtBroker Talks podcast with Charlotte Stewart and Fanny Pereire here.

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