Believe it or not, collecting is often second nature for an NBA player. They start with sports cards, toys and, of course, trophies, before graduating to jerseys signed by their favourite athletes. But after turning pro, decorating your house with another basketball player’s jersey just will not do. The Bronx-based gallerist Set Free Richardson, who has been helping pro ballers dip their toes in the occasionally frigid waters of the art world, walked the stands of Untitled art fair pointing out what he looks for when he advises on purchases. “I like turning people on to a work that’s a ‘one of one’ for them—something that really speaks to them,” he says. “Lots of these guys are young, buying big houses for the first time, and they need to decorate.”
Lots of these guys are buying houses for the first time and they need to decorate
Richardson sees collecting art as a form of self-expression and helps NBA stars find work that speaks to them. “You have your game, and that belongs only to you,” he says. “Why not treat the things you buy the same way? Make it original and be true to yourself.” Richardson says a player’s taste in fashion and music clues him in to what type of art they might like. He notes that young players often gravitate to brightly coloured, large-scale works, and often the key is finding a piece with an emotional hook. His observations appear to ring true as Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons bought two vibrant works by the artist Sylvia Maier from New York’s Malin Gallery at Untitled, priced around $24,000, on the advice of his coach, Darrell Walker.
In the past, Richardson has worked with the likes of Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets and Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers to buy works by KAWS, Marcus Jansen and Kehinde Wiley as well as pieces by emerging artists such as King Saladeen and Jonni Cheatwood.