Collector Carla Shen Describes Her Favorite Works at NADA New York 2018


Collector Carla Shen Describes Her Favorite Works at NADA New York 2018
Carla Shen. Photo courtesy of Shen.

What makes collector Carla Shen most known isn't the fact that she's on the board of the Brooklyn Museum, Greenwood Cemetery, and HOPE Program, or that she graduated cum laude from Yale. It's that she matches her outfits to the art she goes to see. Her Instagram account is filled with hundreds of "who wore it better"-type photos: Carla or the art?

Screenshot of Shen's Instagram account, @carlapshen

Here, Shen picks five of her favorite artworks from NADA New York's online preview, hosted exclusively on Artspace. Shen not only describes why she chose the artworks she did, she also explains how she'd match the artwork to an outfit!

The fair opens next week at the 6,000 square-foot Sklight Clarkson Square, and will run from March 8th to March 10th. Check out the preview to pick your own favorite works.



I was introduced to Alex Bradley Cohen’s work last fall when he had a solo show at Nicelle Beauchene. I immediately was attracted to his intimate, colorful portraits of his friends, who are usually painted seated inside a brightly colored interior. In this piece, Untitled, I’m also drawn to the intensity and juxtaposition of the colors and the composition. I love how the imposing yellow rectangular piece of furniture in the foreground mirrors the shape of the book spines on the shelves in the background.  I’m a huge fan of the painters Marcus Jahmal and Henry Taylor, and I feel a similar connection with Cohen’s work (his use of a flattened and sometimes tilted perspective reminds me of Jahmal’s work, while his portraits themselves remind me of Taylor’s work). I’d love to find a way to match this painting… maybe a multicolor Mara Hoffman dress with a yellow shawl over one shoulder?



LMAKgallery, New York 

I am a sucker for any type of fiber art, and have been trying for years to learn embroidery and weaving (with limited success). Therefore, this series of Liz Collins’s needlepoint works is right up my alley. I recently saw Collins’s textile (and video and furniture) works in "Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon" at the New Museum, and was impressed by her immersive installation Cave of Secrets. While much smaller than any of the pieces in the New Museum show, this work, First Explosion, is a joyful starburst of color, in miniature. I feel like it could be a detail from a Beatriz Milhazes painting or a flower from one of Polly Apfelbaum’s works, two artists whom I adore for their graphic, colorful, and delightful compositions. I’d love to match this piece with a Tom Ford starburst evening gown I still remember from his 2013 collection.


Living Sunset, 2018
LOYAL, Stockholm


I fell in love with Daniel Heidkamp’s work at NADA a few years ago, when I saw one of his large cherry blossom tree paintings in the Half Gallery booth. Since then, I’ve been following his work, and was recently charmed by a collaboration he did with Cynthia Daignault at the Met Museum called Talking Pictures, where the two artists communicated solely by sending photos of paintings each made for the other over a five-month period. This piece, Living Sunset, reminds me of a monoprint of Heidkamp’s that hangs in my daughter’s room, and depicts two children looking out a window onto Ipswich Bay. I often wonder what the kids are feeling—are they bored, content, wishing they were outside or on their iPads? Here too, a figure looks out the window, his back to us, so we can only project our own emotions or feelings onto him. I choose to believe he is taking a moment out of a busy day to revel in the beauty and ephemerality of the sunset. I also love that this diptych references works from three different series by Heidkamp in the background. As for a match, I might be able to re-use the sunset tent dress I wore to match Rudolf Stingel’s large-scale sunset painting in December.




I am usually drawn to bright and vivid colors, but I really love Alice Tippit’s more subdued palette and feminine forms.  There is something so simple, yet sensual about this piece. It reminds me of those visual puzzles where you have to guess the saying the image represents… so this could represent a graphic version of “holding your feet to the fire,” but not quite. I just saw the Tarsila do Amaral show at MoMA, and this piece reminds me of a couple of her more well-known modernist works from the 1920s that depict bodies with oversized biomorphic feet and legs. There’s a gorgeous yellow velvet Monse dress that I’ve had my eye on that would be a great match to this piece.


Untitled, 2017
Creative Growth, Oakland

I wasn’t familiar with Ying Ge Zhou’s work until I saw her watercolors on the Artspace NADA preview.  I am now obsessed with her loosely painted fashion-inspired works.  There’s also a sense of humor in her pieces, and many seem inspired by the colors and women of Toulouse-Lautrec. Ying Ge Zhou works out of Creative Growth, an Oakland-based not-for-profit that serves artists with developmental, mental, and physical disabilities. I’ve discovered so many wonderful artists over the years through Creative Growth, as well as through LAND Gallery, a similar organization based in Brooklyn. I’d love to find a belted puff-sleeved coat to match… and wear lots of red lipstick!



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