An interview with collector Chris Ward

The man himself, Chris Ward, in his downtown loft in front of a masterpiece from Todd Schorr

An interview with collector Chris Ward

We have been friends with Chris Ward for a number of years now and his collecting vision is one we really admire. The more we get to know him, the more we click on several levels. Chris is best known as one of the founders of Neversoft – the company that launched the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk video game franchises and continues to pave new ground in the ever evolving video game industry. When Chris entered the art world he was immediately taken by the works of many leading pop surrealists and since then he’s focused his collecting habits on creating a snap shot of the New Contemporary Art movement. With a keen eye, he’s thus far amassed a very impressive collection featuring many of the movement’s leading players. Ward’s collection includes major works from the likes of Joe Sorren, Camille Rose Garcia, Todd Schorr, Marion Peck, Josh Keyes, Jeff Soto, Dave Kinsey, Glenn Barr, Julie Heffernan, Greg Simkins, Scott Musgrove, Kent Williams, Tim Biskup, Amy Sol, Brian M. Viveros, Ron English, and many, many more. Please read on to find out a bit more about his vision and what he’s on the hunt for in the year ahead, as well as take a look inside his Venice home and downtown LA loft.

Living room view from 2nd floor - works from Soto, Barr, Baseman, Koopman, Mars-1, Musgrove, McGrath, Olivas, and many more on view
One of the main walls in Chris' Venice living room with works from Soto, Lola, Ota, Biskup, Garcia, Musgrove, Mars-1, Shag, and many more

How long have you had an interest in art?
Since I was a young kid. At school I used to draw pages of a comic called “2000 AD” instead of listening to the teacher. The artists were called “artdroids”, a 2000AD term for artist. Artdroids such as Kevin O’Neil (Nemesis), Cam Kennedy (Rogue Trooper), and Massimo Belardinelli (Meltdown Man) really inspired me. Look these guys up, trust me it’ll be well worth. These artists and the comic still influence me today.

Sylvia Ji in the dining room with view into the main living room area
Works from Amy Sol, Josh Keyes, and Marion Peck

Does anyone else in your family collect or create art?
No not really. I think I’m making up for this fact.

Works from KuKula, Yosuke Ueno, Amy Sol, and Dan-ah Kim in the stairwell of Ward's Venice home

Besides art, is there anything else that the collector bug in you searches out regularly?
If we’re talking real collecting, then I tend to just collect one thing at a time. Interestingly each thing I collect has lead and inspired me to the next. I went from collecting Comics, to Metal/Rock albums, to limited edition screen prints (mainly band and concert related), and that lead me to pop surrealism and collecting original works of art. Although at 12 pence each, comics were way cheaper.

The work of Nathan Ota... the artist that gave Ward 'the bug'
Joe Sorren's "The Lonely" in the Venice home of Chris Ward

First piece purchased and when/why?
Haha, that’s testing my memory. I came upon the “Kitchen Sink” exhitbiton at La Luz De Jesus back in April of 2007. I was taken aback by the paintings in the show, and I think I bought half of them. Still have most of them, if not all of those pieces. I discovered one of my favorite artists, Nathan Oto, from that show. My first big purchase was two large prints by Tim Biskup (each a run of 1) and a Joe Sorren piece, “The Lonely”, which is still one of my favorites to this day.

A stunning sculptural work from Colin Christian
A showstopper of a piece from Elizabeth McGrath in his downtown loft space with Bronze from Joe Sorren resting beneath

Do you have any sculpture in your collection?
Yes I do. Scott Musgrove, Joe Sorren ( “Mr. Kurabi’s Tales of Lovely-ness and All Things Eaten” ), and a couple of Liz Mcgrath’s (The Savoy). I just bought a Joe Sorren/Jud Bergeron sculpture called “Headlong”, which is awesome. Those two guys are so talented, haha, as indeed are both Liz and Scott.

A massive work from Julie Heffernan resides in the living room of Ward's Venice home alongside a wall full of magnificent works from our movement

Favorite piece you currently own?
I love them all. But if you were to twist my arm, I’d say my Todd Schorr piece, “When Fairytales Collide”. Many reasons why, but as a collector it’s just such an honor to own one of Todd pieces. For me, it really was the pinnacle as a collector to get the chance to own a Todd Schorr piece. Close behind, would be my Julie Heffernan piece “Self Portrait of Fabulous Droppings “, such an amazing work of art. Also the aforementioned Joe Sorren, which makes me so happy just looking at it.

An early work from Camille Rose Garcia (alongside a prized lamp in his downtown loft)
A strong work from Jeff Soto in his downtown loft space

Biggest regret (that piece you slept on and missed)?
There was a James Jean show in New York that I absolutely loved the pieces. I missed out on all of them… I was gutted. I remember getting the preview and they all just sold before I could get in. And since each of his shows are so different I know I’ll never see the like of that work again. Makes me so sad.

Beautiful new work from Laurie Hogin with a stunner from Joe Sorren residing in the hallway

What was your biggest score of 2009 collecting wise? 2010? Best score to date?
That has to be my Todd Schorr piece, “When Fairytales collide. “. Thank you Merry! Some scores of 2010 have been Laurie Hogin and Ron English. These guys were definitely on my “to get” list of 2010. My collection has changed a little in direction, one might say it got a little more “painterly”. The Kent Williams piece I recently purchased embodies that change in direction.

Works from Ekundayo and Natalia Fabia in upstairs hallway of Ward's Venice home
View of Ward's downtown loft space... works from Garcia and Keyes in the background

Who is at the top of your want list for 2011?
James Jean or David Choe. These guys are top of the 2011 list. Oh, I do want another Joe Sorren too.

Living room view from Ward's downtown loft
Works from Dave Cooper and Adam Wallacavage in the downtown loft

If you could add any piece of artwork to your collection, from any time period, which work would that be?
Well, if I had that power, why stop at one? haha Can I take a time traveling shopping cart with me and have 30 minutes to fill it? I’m super fond of an artist called Arthur Rackham… so he’s my first stop.

Master bedroom view with works from Camille Rose Garcia, Scott Musgrove, Dennis Hayes IV, Elizabeth McGrath, and more (sculpture),
A beautiful piece from Greg 'Craola' Simkins

Curious what your long terms plans are for your collection. Do you ever see yourself stopping? You are still so young and your walls are already filling up, but this is an addiction as we all know…
The walls are indeed already full and overflowing. I’ve already moved on to using my friend’s walls. I don’t ever see myself stopping, only growing and appreciating more different and varied artists. I would like more people to see the art in my collection. This is a big concern of mine as I don’t think art should be hidden. I’m lucky enough to have collected some great pieces. Overall it’s been a great journey. I’ve met people along the way who have inspired and influenced my collection and taste. They hopefully know who they are.

The work of Victor Safonkin in the posh setting of Ward's downtown loft

Please name an artist that might be off many collector’s radar, but that you enjoy and would like to offer some props to.
The artist I’d really like to mention, and whom I have in my collection, is Victor Safonkin (again, thanks Merry). He’s an awesome Russian painter in the old masters mold with a great surrealist tilt. His figures have a very Mother Russia feel. His paintings and design skills have influenced film makers like Guillermo del Toro and Terry Gilliam.

I’d just like to add if it wasn’t for gallery owners like yourself Andrew, I would never have the desire to collect or the collection that I have. It really takes great gallery owners bringing new and inspiring artists to the publics attention, as well as, open-minded collectors to help drive this fantastic art scene. It was and is a special time.

Many thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer these questions and allowing us access to his beautiful homes. Please watch for future collector interviews to be posted here in the months ahead.

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