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Living With a Thousand Best Friends

In artist-collector Hunt Slonem’s world, clutter is comfort.


Hunt Slonem’s Hell’s Kitchen habitat is 15,000 square feet. Cramped New Yorkers accustomed to tiny spaces might get dizzy at the prospect of filling that much openness, but Slonem, an artist and lifelong accumulator, had the opposite problem: He was moving from a Tenth Street studio that was a mind-boggling 40,000 square feet, divided into 89 rooms. “I had to give away 27 sofas,” he says wistfully. “I lost a thousand things in the moving process! I was beside myself.”

Illustration by Jason Lee  

This space, which had been headquarters for a movie company, now houses Slonem’s painting studio as well as his ever-expanding collections, mined from flea markets and antique fairs. In an interview in Vincent Katz’s book Pleasure Palaces: The Art & Homes of Hunt Slonem, he describes his collecting technique as “cluttering.” For him, objects are friends; the more there are, the more he’s inspired. “I have to have a certain amount of stuff in place before I can function and paint,” he says.

Slonem is a prodigious multitasker. He paints (rabbits, birds, portraits) several hours a day. He’s also planning his next show, at the Marlborough Chelsea gallery next year, launching a rug collection with interior designer Marc Charbonnet, and working on his next book, with Vendome Press. Grey Gardens director Albert Maysles has a documentary in the works about him. But nothing gets in the way of twice-weekly flea-market visits. After shedding so much during the last move, “I feel I am entitled to get a thousand new things!” he says, chuckling.


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