On the Wall

At Home With Chicago Collectors Larry and Marilyn Fields

By

Larry Fields at home with a Christopher Wool
Larry Fields at home with a Christopher Wool
Two Kara Walker pieces are displayed in the living room, with a long Ed Ruscha against the right wall.
Two Kara Walker pieces are displayed in the living room, with a long Ed Ruscha against the right wall.
A joke painting by Richard Prince and a more recent piece by the artist are displayed together in this sitting room.
A joke painting by Richard Prince and a more recent piece by the artist are displayed together in this sitting room.
A pair of paintings from the Belgain-born, Mexico City-based artist Francis Alÿs's "rotulista" series, in which he showed the small canvases he had made (visible to the left and right) to Mexican sign painters, commissioning them to make the larger copies seen here.
A pair of paintings from the Belgain-born, Mexico City-based artist Francis Alÿs's "rotulista" series, in which he showed the small canvases he had made (visible to the left and right) to Mexican sign painters, commissioning them to make the larger copies seen here.
Adam Fields regarding a large painting by Angel Otero, with a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph in the background
Adam Fields regarding a large painting by Angel Otero, with a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph in the background
A Christopher Wool painting, from his famous series employing a spray gun to apply enamel to canvas, dominates a wall by the kitchen.
A Christopher Wool painting, from his famous series employing a spray gun to apply enamel to canvas, dominates a wall by the kitchen.
Upon entering the apartment, one is greeted by a "gazing ball" piece by Jeff Koons—acquired from the artist's recent show at David Zwirner—that Larry says is both an evocation of childhood innocence and a reference to the orb-like lawn ornaments common in the suburban neighborhood where Koons grew up.
Upon entering the apartment, one is greeted by a "gazing ball" piece by Jeff Koons—acquired from the artist's recent show at David Zwirner—that Larry says is both an evocation of childhood innocence and a reference to the orb-like lawn ornaments common in the suburban neighborhood where Koons grew up.
Behind the Koons is a Neo Rauch, which Larry describes as a surreal yet classically composed commentary on life in East Germany under the Stasi, and a George Condo.
Behind the Koons is a Neo Rauch, which Larry describes as a surreal yet classically composed commentary on life in East Germany under the Stasi, and a George Condo.
This Mark Tansey is a richly multilayered painting, executed entirely in a single shade of blue and showing a famous ancient sculpture of a hermaphrodite reclining on Anna Freud's psychoanalysis coach, with paintings of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche above.
This Mark Tansey is a richly multilayered painting, executed entirely in a single shade of blue and showing a famous ancient sculpture of a hermaphrodite reclining on Anna Freud's psychoanalysis coach, with paintings of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche above.
A Fred Tomaselli
A Fred Tomaselli
An exceptionally fine Damien Hirst butterfly painting
An exceptionally fine Damien Hirst butterfly painting
From right, a small Sol LeWitt sculpture by the window echoing the Chicago skyscrapers visible outside, a Lucio Fontana piece of a tablet of slashed and fired clay, a Rashid Johnson bronze encrusted by black soap, and a Christopher Wool; on the floor is a crocodile chair by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne
From right, a small Sol LeWitt sculpture by the window echoing the Chicago skyscrapers visible outside, a Lucio Fontana piece of a tablet of slashed and fired clay, a Rashid Johnson bronze encrusted by black soap, and a Christopher Wool; on the floor is a crocodile chair by Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne
Another view of the Wool, which Larry says summed up his feelings when his apartment was under renovation, plus, in the corner, an exceptionally fine Fred Sandback installation—"minimalist art requires a lot of space to breathe," Larry noted—and, on the right wall, a Richard Tuttle
Another view of the Wool, which Larry says summed up his feelings when his apartment was under renovation, plus, in the corner, an exceptionally fine Fred Sandback installation—"minimalist art requires a lot of space to breathe," Larry noted—and, on the right wall, a Richard Tuttle
Another view of the Lalanne chair
Another view of the Lalanne chair
In this office, Man Ray's iconic photograph <em>Le Violin d'Ingres</em> is joined by a much larger photo from Cindy Sherman's 2008 "Society Portraits" series.
In this office, Man Ray's iconic photograph Le Violin d'Ingres is joined by a much larger photo from Cindy Sherman's 2008 "Society Portraits" series.
In the dining room, a sizable mirrored Jim Hodges spiderweb piece is nestled in the corner, joined by a Cy Twombly and, to the far right, a Jasper Johns; on the long Nakashima-style table sits a delicate Gabriel Orozco sculpture, while a set of four William Kentridge sculptures are arrayed on the windowsill.
In the dining room, a sizable mirrored Jim Hodges spiderweb piece is nestled in the corner, joined by a Cy Twombly and, to the far right, a Jasper Johns; on the long Nakashima-style table sits a delicate Gabriel Orozco sculpture, while a set of four William Kentridge sculptures are arrayed on the windowsill.
A Man Ray work by the kitchen
A Man Ray work by the kitchen
In this series of early Richard Prince photos, which the artist made while working as a preparer of magazine clippings at Time-Life, each woman is wearing a hat and looking to the right. The placement of the Richard Tuttle piece to their left is due to that sculpture's humorous resemblance to a hat.
In this series of early Richard Prince photos, which the artist made while working as a preparer of magazine clippings at Time-Life, each woman is wearing a hat and looking to the right. The placement of the Richard Tuttle piece to their left is due to that sculpture's humorous resemblance to a hat.
A Tony Feher consisting of jars, wire, and marbles
A Tony Feher consisting of jars, wire, and marbles
A Robert Indiana <EM>LOVE</em> sculpture welcomes guests into the living room.
A Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture welcomes guests into the living room.
Outside the children's rooms is another George Condo, this one portraying his louche recurring character Rodrigo on his wedding night.
Outside the children's rooms is another George Condo, this one portraying his louche recurring character Rodrigo on his wedding night.
A painting by the Chinese artist Zhou Tiehai reimagining Joe Camel as Christ fills a wall by the kids' rooms
A painting by the Chinese artist Zhou Tiehai reimagining Joe Camel as Christ fills a wall by the kids' rooms
To the right of the Condo is this Gerhard Richter piece, a random assemblage of colored tiles that recalls Gothic stained-glass cathedral windows.
To the right of the Condo is this Gerhard Richter piece, a random assemblage of colored tiles that recalls Gothic stained-glass cathedral windows.
An art library sits at the divide between the living quarters and the gallery.
An art library sits at the divide between the living quarters and the gallery.
Entering the gallery, one meets a powerful selection of work by black artists, including (clockwise on wall) a photo from Hank Willis Thomas's "Strange Fruit" series, a David Hammons body print, a Kara Walker, another Hammons, and a Rashid Johnson. To the right stands Mark Bradford's <em>7-Foot-Tall Black Gay Man</em>.
Entering the gallery, one meets a powerful selection of work by black artists, including (clockwise on wall) a photo from Hank Willis Thomas's "Strange Fruit" series, a David Hammons body print, a Kara Walker, another Hammons, and a Rashid Johnson. To the right stands Mark Bradford's 7-Foot-Tall Black Gay Man.
To the right is a version of Hammon's celebrated "African-American Flags" series.
To the right is a version of Hammon's celebrated "African-American Flags" series.
What Larry refers to as a "small" Glenn Ligon
What Larry refers to as a "small" Glenn Ligon
A Rachel Whiteread sculpture of a bookcase's inverse.
A Rachel Whiteread sculpture of a bookcase's inverse.
From left, a Tracey Emin neon piece, a Huma Bhaba sculpture, and an Amada Ross-Ho piece in which the artist placed photographs and other memorabilia from her personal life on a pegboard, as if they were a craftsman's tools
From left, a Tracey Emin neon piece, a Huma Bhaba sculpture, and an Amada Ross-Ho piece in which the artist placed photographs and other memorabilia from her personal life on a pegboard, as if they were a craftsman's tools
From left, a Theaster Gates piece titled <em>Break Glass in Case of Race Riot</em>, referencing the history of dispersing black protests with a fire hose, and an Adel Abdessamed piece
From left, a Theaster Gates piece titled Break Glass in Case of Race Riot, referencing the history of dispersing black protests with a fire hose, and an Adel Abdessamed piece
A Theaster Gates light piece stemming from his shoe-shine series, and (from right) an Allora & Calzadilla piece built from solar panels, a Rashid Johnson, a Damien Hirst painting with blood and human hair, a wall piece alluding to Chicago's geography (with the Gold Coast rendered in gold), and the Amada Ross-Ho
A Theaster Gates light piece stemming from his shoe-shine series, and (from right) an Allora & Calzadilla piece built from solar panels, a Rashid Johnson, a Damien Hirst painting with blood and human hair, a wall piece alluding to Chicago's geography (with the Gold Coast rendered in gold), and the Amada Ross-Ho
Another view of the works
Another view of the works
Another view of the gallery showing (left from center) a Christian Marclay, a Martin Kippenberger, and a Kara Walker
Another view of the gallery showing (left from center) a Christian Marclay, a Martin Kippenberger, and a Kara Walker
A Carroll Dunham painting displayed next to a Francis Alÿs sculpture of a machine gun loaded with footage of violent rival factions in Mexico that talks about ways to achieve peace
A Carroll Dunham painting displayed next to a Francis Alÿs sculpture of a machine gun loaded with footage of violent rival factions in Mexico that talks about ways to achieve peace
A Petah Coyne sculpture hangs from the ceiling, echoed by a Marlo Pascual photograph of a bouquet by the window; on the wall is a Mel Bochner and a Michel Riedel.
A Petah Coyne sculpture hangs from the ceiling, echoed by a Marlo Pascual photograph of a bouquet by the window; on the wall is a Mel Bochner and a Michel Riedel.
Larry Fields giving the tour
Larry Fields giving the tour
The Riedel and a Wade Guyton inkjet painting
The Riedel and a Wade Guyton inkjet painting
By the elevator, a Condo, a Dunham, and a sculpture by Ugo Rondinone
By the elevator, a Condo, a Dunham, and a sculpture by Ugo Rondinone
A rare version of Alec Soth's most famous photograph—the only one in private hands—will eventually go to a Minneapolis museum, Larry says.
A rare version of Alec Soth's most famous photograph—the only one in private hands—will eventually go to a Minneapolis museum, Larry says.
From left, a Christopher Wool, a Doris Salcedo, and a punning Martin Kippenberger
From left, a Christopher Wool, a Doris Salcedo, and a punning Martin Kippenberger
A Robert Gober sculpture of a stick of butter, expertly realized in beeswax and displayed as a talisman under glass
A Robert Gober sculpture of a stick of butter, expertly realized in beeswax and displayed as a talisman under glass
From right, a Christopher Wool and a Cady Noland
From right, a Christopher Wool and a Cady Noland
Two Richard Aldrich pieces and a Richard Serra paintstick-on-mylar sketch for one of his <em>Torqued Ellipse</em> sculptures.
Two Richard Aldrich pieces and a Richard Serra paintstick-on-mylar sketch for one of his Torqued Ellipse sculptures.
A view of the gallery space, with a Nick Cave commanding the center of the room
A view of the gallery space, with a Nick Cave commanding the center of the room
Three from left: a Trisha Donnelly executed in foam, a Theaster Gates shoe-shine sculpture that was the basis of his breakout performance at the Whitney Museum
Three from left: a Trisha Donnelly executed in foam, a Theaster Gates shoe-shine sculpture that was the basis of his breakout performance at the Whitney Museum
An abstraction by Albert Oehlen and, to the right, a Charlene von Heyl that the artist sees as a self-portrait as a donkey
An abstraction by Albert Oehlen and, to the right, a Charlene von Heyl that the artist sees as a self-portrait as a donkey

If anyone would like an object lesson in how swiftly and thoroughly contemporary art can transform lives, look no further than Larry and Marilyn Fields. Just over a decade ago, Larry, a former commodities trader, ventured with his wife to one of the first editions of Art Basel Miami Beach and became intrigued, and then captivated, by what they saw. In the years since, the two have become among Chicago's most important patrons of new art, collecting certain artists in depth—they are said to have the single biggest holdings of Theaster Gates—and providing key support for the city's art institutions, including underwriting the Larry and Marilyn Fields Curator position at MCA Chicago that is currently held by Naomi Beckwith

Today, collecting has become a primary focus for the Fields, who have expanded their home on North Lake Shore Drive to contain not only refined areas to display art in their living quarters but also an entire conjoined gallery, which they created by buying the next-door apartment and remodeling it as a museum-worthy exhibition space. In this gallery, they display selections from their 500-piece (and growing) collection in rotations that change roughly four times a year, giving pride of place to their exceptionally strong concentration of work by rising-star African-American artists as well as the biggest names in contemporary art: Kapoor, WoolHirst, Condo, Prince, Orozco... it goes on. Lately, the collection has been joined by pieces of cutting-edge and classic design—the result of Marilyn's newfound love of chairs, and furniture auctions. (Art auctions, however, they have avoided thus far, preferring to work directly with artists and galleries.)

This week, in honor of EXPO CHICAGO, the Fields opened their collection's doors for a generous VIP tour organized by NetJets and Artspace, where the couple's son, Adam Fields, is V.P. of partner relations. We were there, camera in hand, to document the proceedings.

To see photographs of Larry and Marilyn Fields's collection, click the slide show above.

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