The world-renowned chef’s picks include works by Cecily Brown, Tracey Emin, and Alex Katz. 

By Bridget Hallinan
August 28, 2019
Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Earlier this year, world-renowned chef and restaurateur Massimo Bottura partnered with The Dalmore—one of the world’s most well-respected distilleries—to create a single-malt Scotch whisky called The Dalmore L’Anima Aged 49 Years, which, as you can deduce, was aged for 49 years. The whisky was on auction at Sotheby’s from April 25 through May 9, and sold for a whopping $140,350 (all proceeds went to Bottura’s non-profit, Food for Soul). Now, Bottura is returning to Sotheby’s once more—this time, as a guest curator for an upcoming auction. As it turns out, his taste in art is just as impeccable as his taste in whisky.

Each season, the international auction house invites a tastemaker to select their favorite artworks from hundreds on offer for the Contemporary Curated auction, which offers “accessibly-priced works by leading artists of the post-war and contemporary periods.” The bi-annual sale occurs in March and September at Sotheby's in New York, and this fall’s edition takes place on September 26—Bottura, as an enthusiastic collector, was a perfect fit for the curator. He has artworks displayed in his home, as well as at his iconic restaurant Osteria Francescana and newly minted inn, Casa Maria Luigia. In a promo video for the sale (above), Bottura credits his wife, Lara Gilmore, with sparkling his interest in contemporary art.

“Meeting Lara opened my mind,” he says. “I started looking at contemporary art in a much deeper way”

Gilmore notes that the art in Osteria Francescana can serve as a clue for diners, revealing the thought process behind Bottura’s dishes—and indeed, Bottura says that he likes to look at art and use it as inspiration for his food. One of his more famous dishes is “Beautiful Sonic Disco of Love and Hate at the Gate of Hell Painting with Wicked Pools of Glorious Color and Psychedelic Spin Painted Lamb, Not Flame Grilled,” which had a colorful splatter of beet and herb sauces inspired by Damien Hirst’s spin paintings. In the video, he also names an Ai Weiwei work—the one of him “playing like a kid with legos,” aka “Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn (LEGO)”—among his favorites. Bottura says it depicts Weiwei breaking a 2,000-year-old vase, which symbolizes him breaking his past to build his future—the same philosophy Bottura says he uses with his cooking. 

"Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard," by Cecily Brown.
Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

For the Contemporary Curated auction, Bottura selected 19 works, including pieces from Cecily Brown, George Condo, Sam Francis, Alex Katz, Kerry James Marshall, Elizabeth Peyton, Ed Ruscha, Tracey Emin, and more. Sotheby’s helped him make his picks, which he described as meaningful—in the video, he mentions how a triptych from Cecily Brown (shown above) can be related to older triptychs, if you take a deep look. He also called out a work from Katz, who’s one of his favorite artists. All of the art will be on display at Sotheby’s York Avenue galleries from September 19 through September 25 ahead of the sale—if you're interested, the exhibition is free and open to the public.

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